Review: Suzuki TT Superbikes (PS2)

Review: Suzuki TT Superbikes (PS2)
Developer: Jester Interactive
Distributor: Valcon Games
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 8/4/05

Fans of motorcycle racing haven’t had very many games to play on the PS2 with the exception of the MotoGP series, while fans of other racing games have had numerous titles to keep themselves occupied. At least up until the release of Suzuki TT Superbikes, Jester Interactive’s newest title that has been sitting in development for some time.

However, while Suzuki TT has access to a number of bikes from numerous companies, it contains no professional tracks, unlike its MotoGP competition. Because of this, the developers were forced to find their own track. The setting? A real 37.73 mile TT circuit on the Isle of Mann which is located off the British coastline.

Unfortunately this is the only racetrack in the entire game. As such, it is broken up into sections based on what race or task you are participating in. Perhaps because of this, the developers decided to focus mainly on their physics engine, which is being touted as the most realistic in any motorcycle racing game. But can a realistic physics engine make up for a lack of variety in the courses?


1. STORY/MODES

Well, there’s no story here, so let’s focus on the different game modes instead.

There are three main game modes in Suzuki TT Superbikes. The first is Arcade Mode, which is a generic race on a particular section of track based on the Cup and bike class you choose. Only a few of these will be open when you start the game, and you will need to progress through them to open up more content.

The second major mode is Challenge. Challenge mode consist of a number of races and tasks that must be completed in order to progress. These involve the most basic tasks, completing a section of course within a set time, to full length races against various opponents. The tasks are very similar to the License Tests in Gran Turismo, and you will need to complete them in order to progress.

Finally, you have 2 Player mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. You and a friend pick your bikes and race head to head against each other.

There’s not a lot of variety here, but then there’s only so much you can do with a racing game. The Challenge mode has enough different tasks in it to keep things interesting, but is seriously hindered by repetitive sections of track. The same can be said for Arcade mode.

In the end, there is nothing truly unique or exciting here, but there is enough to keep you busy. It’s just average overall.

Story/Modes Rating: 5/10


2. GRAPHICS

For being a PS2 game, I was pretty disappointed with the overall quality of the graphics. Especially after seeing games like Gran Turismo 4 or Midnight Club 3.

The bikes themselves all look quite good and very similar to their real life counterparts. Curves are smooth and textures are well detailed. The riders on the bikes also look realistic and move and sway with the bikes. If you hit a wall, you’ll see your rider attempt to regain control of the bike in response to your actions.

The racetracks themselves are less than spectacular. Since you are racing consistently on different sections of the same track, everything begins to look identical after a while. The trees, buildings, and roads are adequate, but certainly nothing special. For the most part they suffer from low polygon count and minimal textures. Objects further in the background are almost nonexistent, and details are incredibly sparse. Basically you have a field of green grass and that’s it. Very few trees or other things to look at.

On the bright side, the lack of detail on the racetracks means the game runs incredibly smooth. I could see no instances of slowdown or other frame rate issues. And since most of your attention is focused on your rider, and the immediate section of road ahead, the background areas don’t necessarily need to be well populated.

There are no real effects, so to speak. You’ll see some smoke and dust every now and then when you start off the line or crash into something, but otherwise there is nothing.

Strangely enough, even with the limited graphics and limited variety in the courses, the loading times for the game are insanely long, during which time you are watching a Matrix like series of blocks cascade down the screen. And we’re talking up to ten seconds or so for even the shortest race. Even if you restart a race, you have to wait for the loading screen to go through again. It’s ridiculous.

Overall, when compared to other games in the genre, the graphics here are considerably lacking, with the only real detail found in the bikes and riders themselves.

Graphics Rating: 4/10


3. SOUND

The sound and music is another area where the game is seriously lacking.

For starters, the music is incredibly repetitive. There only seemed to be around 10 or so tracks that continually played throughout the races. These consist of generic rock and roll or techno tracks that really do nothing to add to the game, and only take away based on their overuse. Fortunately you can choose to turn the music off without affecting the other sounds.

The sounds of the bikes themselves are pretty good. I’m not much of a bike aficionado, and I can’t tell the difference between a 125cc engine and a 250cc engine, but you can definitely here it when you pop up to the powerful 1000cc class. Bikes scream coming off the line and get considerably noisier as your speed increases. Hitting the wall or crashing into it head on results in a nice realistic sounding collision.

During a good number of races you can also hear an announcer of sorts calling out the tracks ahead. Information about upcoming turns or changes in the road are delivered in a pretty monotone voice that doesn’t add anything to the game. After a while you’ll start to memorize the track and the announcer becomes more of an annoyance than a help. Fortunately you can also choose to turn this feature off without affecting the sounds of the bikes.

The sounds effects themselves are fine, but the overall sound is seriously hurt by the monotonous music and almost pointless announcer.

Sound Rating: 4/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

So far we have below par sound and below par graphics. But supposedly these aren’t the selling points of the game. And after all, how many times do we see games with fantastic graphics and sound only to be hurt by terrible gameplay and controls? So with that said, how does the, supposedly, most realistic physics engine help the game?

Bottom line, it doesn’t, due to overly sensitive controls and terrible balance. I don’t care how advanced your physics engine is if you can’t create a control scheme to manage it.

The controls themselves are pretty standard for a racing game. Steer with the left analog, accelerate with X and brake with square. You can also change your view with triangle, and shift gears with L1 and R1. There are also a few race sensitive controls such as auto pilot and boost, but only on tracks that allow them to be used.

Now, I will give them some credit… there are three different “difficulty” levels that will help you control your bike (I’ll explain why difficulty is in quotations later on). At the novice level, the game plays more like an arcade game, allowing you to slam on the accelerator without worrying too much about your riders balance or other sped affecting factors. However, move on up to experienced, and you’ll have to compensate for every little thing… accelerate off the line too fast, and you’ll flip. Take a corner without balancing properly, and you’ll find yourself in a quick skid regardless of your speed.

The biggest issue comes in at the higher levels. They advanced physics engine basically means that you have to control every little aspect of your rider and bikes movement. This would be all fine and dandy if you were in an arcade sitting on an actual motorcycle, but when all you have is a controller, you’re in for a real pisser of a time. Push the analog stick just slightly too far and next thing you know you’re doing tailspins. Don’t push it enough and you’ll under steer and hit a wall. Lean forward to far and you might flip, and ditto for leaning too far back. This behavior is especially noticeable when you start a race, as if you don’t control your throttle and your lean, you’ll end up popping a wheelie and tipping over backwards.

One could argue that it just takes practice to master the analog stick and the sensitivity of the controls, and to a certain extent they’d be right. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience to even begin to become adequate with the controls unless you all ready have pinpoint accuracy with the analog stick. However, have you ever tried to use the analog feature on the buttons on your PS2? I’m guessing no. Most of us mash the button all the way down and just expect the game to do what we want it to. However, mash the buttons all the way down here, and you’ll find yourself accelerating or braking way too hard, causing you to flip or crash. Yes, the PS2 buttons are analog… but come on, seriously now… do you really want to deal with that?

For the arcade mode you can choose what difficulty you want to put your steering and controls on. However, when you dive into Challenge mode, the gloves are off. You’d better learn to deal with those overly touchy analog controls or you’ll be getting nowhere.

Control issues aside, there isn’t much else to mention that wasn’t all ready covered in the Story/Modes section above. You are given a bit of customization with your bike, although most of it is aesthetic such as your rider’s appearance, bike color, or exhaust. The few things you can pick that do change how your bike handles are the type of bike, types of wheels and pressure amounts, amount of gas in the tank, and whether to use automatic or manual gear shifting.

Assuming you do manage to become skilled enough to use the controls adequately, you’ll find plenty of solid racing waiting for you, as discussed above in the games various modes. But good luck with that.

Control and Gameplay Score: 3/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

While there are enough different races and tasks to complete in the Challenge mode, and a good number of courses to unlock in the Arcade mode, there really isn’t much reason to come back to the game once you’ve opened everything up.

Of course, this is entirely assuming that you are an expert player and can get first place or a gold rating on everything. I’m guessing most folks will score plenty of bronze and silvers, forcing you to go back and repeat various areas of the game multiple times. So if you are one of those people that just has to unlock everything you’ll find plenty here to keep you playing.

If you play through the game enough and score highly in all the races, you can unlock Mad Sunday mode. Mad Sunday is a nifty little extra that that involves racing 1000cc bikes with boosts through traffic.

Overall the replayability of the game is mostly based in how difficult it can be, and how much of a need you feel to unlock everything. Or you could just enter the cheat codes, but I’ll let you go looking for those if you really want them.

Replayability Score: 5/10


6. BALANCE

Balance? What balance? This game has some of the worst balance I’ve ever seen in a racing game. The computer will kill you. Kill you, bury you, and piss on your grave.

Think I’m kidding?

Look, I’m not the best at racing games. I don’t even play them that often. But I can tell when the computer has an unfair advantage. Unless you have perfected your use of the controls down to a science, the computer will consistently beat you. It never makes mistakes, it never crashes, and your only hope of getting into first is to take the corners faster than it does and hope you don’t slam into something. And if you do crash? Might as well restart the race now, because it will take you at least 5 to 10 seconds to get back on your bike and back up to racing speed. And in the odd event that you do manage to get into first place? At best you’ll be beating your second place opponent by only a few seconds. Yes, that is an eternity in racing time, but in a video game, it’s just annoying.

I admit, a lot of this could just be me. I was never able to really master the controls, and I only had so much time to really play the game before having to get a review done. But sweet jeebus people… I play games to have fun! Not to get my ass kicked from the get go because I’m still getting familiar with the controls. That’s why most games scale their difficulty. You know, to let a novice break in?

Speaking of novice… yes, the Novice mode gives you quite a bit of computer help, but don’t expect the other bikes to go any easier on you. They are still perfect in almost everything they do. Hence the word difficulty in quotations up above.

Seriously, if you happen to be a masochist, you’ll love this game. But if not, prepare to be frustrated beyond belief.

Balance Score: 1/10


7. ORIGINALITY

Well, it’s a racing game. Although the lack of other dedicated motorcycle racing games does help the score out a little bit here. MotoGP is the only real competition, and the appearance of motorcycles in Midnight Club 3 doesn’t really count just because it is focused mainly on cars.

There is a real lack of originality in the modes though. For the most part it’s either generic racing or various tasks and tests ala Gran Turismo. And the lack of any real interesting tracks doesn’t help matters. Yes, the Isle of Mann course is unique (correct me if I am wrong, but I believe this is the first time it’s been used), but it’s also incredibly repetitive.

The bottom line? It’s just another racer. Although this time with motorcycles.

Originality Score: 3/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

I ask again… are you masochistic? Then boy oh boy will you have some fun here! As for everyone else? Unless you are a diehard racing or motorcycle fan, don’t expect to stay hooked very long.

This is mostly due to the insane balance issues. Sure, it might be fun to race around a motorcycle as opposed to a car, but when the controls are so touchy, when the slightest mistake will send you careening into a wall, and when the computer never seems to make a mistake… well, I think you can tell where I am going.

Only expect to be addicted to this game if you belong to one of the groups I mentioned. Otherwise, expect to be doing a lot of throwing around of the controller.

Addictiveness: 2/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Like motorcycles? Like racing games? Like pain? If you answered yes to at least two of these questions, than this game might be for you. Although preferably you answered yes to all three, otherwise the above balance issues will kick in and seriously turn you off.

I honestly don’t think the average gamer is going to get much out of this game. It’s way too difficult out of the gate and requires way too much of a time investment to master the controls. Diehard motorcycle enthusiasts will certainly be the excited, and will probably enjoy and appreciate the physics engine the most. But everyone else has been warned.

On the bright side, the game is only fifteen bucks brand new, so at least it isn’t costing you too much. Although for that same fifteen bucks, I could point you towards a number of PlayStation Greatest Hits titles that would be more worth your time and money.

Appeal Factor Score: 3/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

What can I say? I honestly hated this game. It frustrated me to no end, and actually caused me to throw my controller down in disgust after a measly twenty minutes. Sure, I joke around about throwing my controller all the time, but I actually did so with this game. At least it wasn’t at the television.

There are a few little extras to unlock through the course of the game. In addition to new bikes, track sections, and suits for your driver, there are also some gallery images and a few videos. Nothing overly impressive, but it’s a nice little addition. As mentioned earlier, there are also a few built in cheat codes that you can use to unlock various things, but I’ll leave it to you to find them, and to decide whether or not to use them.

Overall, Suzuki TT Superbikes is a below average racing experience that suffers from overly touchy controls, terrible balance, and mediocre graphics and sound. Any enjoyment this game might contain for the casual gamer is destroyed by the early difficulty, and only the most diehard of motorcycle race fans should even bother giving this one a go. It may only be $15, but definitely give it a rental first if you really want to try it. Otherwise, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Miscellaneous Score: 3/10


THE SCORES

Story/Modes: 5
Graphics: 4
Sound: 4
Gameplay/Control: 3
Replayability: 5
Balance: 1
Originality: 3
Addictiveness: 2
Appeal Factor: 3
Miscellaneous: 3
Overall: 33
Final Score: 3.5 (Bad)