Motorbike enthusiasts have had it rough on Switch, which is why the news that Milestone is bringing its officially-licensed motorcycle racing series to Nintendo’s hybrid console has been greeted with such enthusiasm by faithful followers of two-wheel racing. But does this version finish on the podium, or should we all just take Rossi’s advice and stay at home and work on the garden?
The great thing about this being the first title in the series to burn rubber on the Switch is that we don’t need to compare MotoGP 18 to previously released versions – it doesn't matter if it has more or less features than last year’s edition because if you’re into the real motorsport and only have a Switch, this is your only choice to virtually emulate it in the comfort of your living room (or any other place you take your Switch to).
Like most of Milestone’s line-up on the Switch, it’s all about making concessions to keep this Unreal-powered racer running at a steady 30 fps. This version locks the maximum number of bikers on the track to sixteen; a worthy sacrifice because despite lower resolution assets around the track and frame drops during cutscenes, when you're on the tarmac things run steady and as smooth as those 30 fps allow, both in docked and portable mode.
Content-wise, we can’t really fault this offering. Every rider and team present in the MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 and even the Rookies Cup 2018 season are present and correct, along with the 19 race tracks from the ongoing tournament - including legendary European tracks like Silverstone and Le Mans. Good tutorials and precise controls allow you to move from basic rookie skills to advanced pro manoeuvrers while racing options let you enjoy quick runs with fully customizable options including the weather, or entire seasons with your favourite racer. You can also fully customize your own personal MotoGP avatar.
Like other Milestone racing games you can turn on and off all sorts of driving aids (including the ever popular/controversial ‘Rewind’ feature). The less of these you use, the bigger the XP reward multiplier you'll get at the end of each race, which in turn allows you to level up your racer profile. But even with lots of practice, disabling some of these will greatly impact your ability to keep your bike standing, with frustration settling in at a steady pace.
The graphics and overall presentation are quite good, even with the lower resolution assets; you could easily fool someone into believing they were watching a proper MotoGP broadcast if you just let a race replay run unattended. It is easier to play with the third person camera, but if you want to experience the proper intensity of motor racing you will probably prefer the first person view. Music is nonintrusive and since you will be spending most of the time hearing motorbike engines revving up and down, we are glad to report that they sound the part. Loading times - which, in the past, have been an issue with Milestone games - are also quite acceptable this time
Sadly the biggest sacrifice is the all-to-familiar repeat offender in Milestone’s Switch offerings: neither online nor split-screen racing thrills are anywhere to be found in this version, but at least the game does support between two to eight players via wireless play between consoles. While it is certainly far more exciting to play against human opponents than the by-the-book AI racers, finding seven other players with seven Switches and seven copies of MotoGP 18 might turn into a yellow flag situation.
MotoGP 18 is your one and only option if you want to experience the thrills of MotoGP racing on your Nintendo Switch. As long as you fully understand and accept the visual and technical concessions being made for the freedom of portable play, this is overall a very competent package; it's just a shame that there's no online or split-screen multiplayer, which seems like a major oversight to us; local play between Switch system is possible, but could prove to be a logistical nightmare. It's also worth noting that this isn't for racing novices; the aids take away the challenge but turning them off makes things brutally realistic. Don’t expect to make it to the end of the races as easily as Valentino Rossi makes it look on TV; aim to fall on the grass, they say it’s softer.