I’ll admit, I lived a sheltered life. I never embraced consoles and – despite buying every one of them – never got into bike simulations too heavily. When I decided to add bikes to RSC (every bike and track in MotoGP 21 is now indexed) and started to research the genre more deeply it became apparent very quickly who the major player was; Milestone are pretty much the only developer to have, for decades, released fully-licensed simulations of whole-championships where you can race out an entire season, be it Supercross, Superbike, or MotoGP.
A lifetime spent perfecting my racing line driving pretend race cars doesn’t easily transition. Bikes are hard, and the learning process for the braking, placement in the turn and gentle squeezing of the throttle on exits required a lot of time and patience. But there is ultimately something very satisfying in overcoming that challenge, even if you have to slowly ramp up to it by turning off the plentiful supply of rider-aids and using replay flashback features (a lot).
The level of simulation in the Milestone MotoGP franchise is more in-depth than I initially realized with most of the bike internals properly modeled. In both MotoGP 20 and 21 I was very easily able to confirm fuel-affected handling where the traction from slow speed was better with heavy fuel, acceleration better with low fuel and needing to lean a little less in the turns as the fuel tank emptied.
The tire model seems acceptable. It simulates wear and you can certainly feel the difference when one side is more worn than the other. Tire compounds seem to do what they should, with greater falloff on laptime the softer the tire, while harder tires are more consistent especially when ridden aggressively.
While it is certainly possible to ride in a way that feels like the bike is on rails and then randomly throwing you off occasionally, I’ve learned that when this happened to me it was due to my use of soft tires I was treating poorly along with combined or assisted braking. By taking control of the front and rear brakes independently, for example, I was able to take weight off the rear tire and flick the rear of the bike more easily on entry into the turns. This suited my riding style, and I think it’s a huge positive when a simulation requires this type of learning to get the best out of your own technique.
I didn’t struggle at all when putting the power down mid-turn, although others might. It requires a lot of small counter-adjustments in the steering when you’re right on the limit, and the bike will feel as if it’s lolling between slip and grip until you reduce your lean exiting the turns.
Importantly, the bikes differ and can either punish or reward a particular riding technique. While the Yamaha might have more responsive handling it could struggle for straight-line speed against the Honda. Your gameplay experience, even how much fun you have, can be related to riding a bike that doesn’t suit you. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, becomes whether you can adapt and use the bike you’ve selected to its fullest.
For me the physics are very ‘believable’ to how a bike would react in any given situation. I get a reasonable enough experience in MotoGP 21 with all the aids off to say that Milestone intended to create a simulation grade experience and have done a decent job of it, but at the same time it is also correct to say that the ‘rider eyes’ view along with the lack of a controller that can adequately allow you to feel and control the shifting weight of the rider makes it somewhat difficult to consider this – or any current bike sim – an all-time classic in terms of physics.
As I mentioned above, the ‘rider eyes’ view in MotoGP 21 presents a bit of a problem in that I find it almost impossible to use. While the lack of such a view would be worse, it wouldn’t be by a lot.
The nature of this view means that the constantly adjusting position of the rider alters the view. Milestone have created animations that move the rider from one position to another but any small input into the controllers causes the animation to instantly stop, reverse and generally jerk around in a way that would be compensated for in the eyes and brain of a real rider. That movement bothers me, and the on-bike view (fourth image below – similar to that seen in other bike titles) isn’t much better, leading me to commit the sim racer sin of suggesting the chase cam (sorry).
I tested with a standard XBOX Wireless Controller. The software does support binding controls, but I found the default configuration to be well thought-out.
The AI can be difficult to navigate in the first couple of laps as they can trip over each other in the larger braking zones, but overall they’ll give a reasonable experience and are forgiving of the occasional contact. They’ll give a decent race, season or career-long experience.
I do suggest making use of the rewind/flashback feature when the AI do something stupid. It’s about having fun, after all.
Milestone do an impressive job on the content with all the 2021 MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 bikes digitally reproduced and MotoE planned as a future update. The 2021 full schedule and 2021 official (COVID-affected) schedule tracks are available, along with three historic tracks.
Ducati Desmosedici GP20
Ducati Desmosedici GP21
Boscoscuro (Speed Up) B-21
MV Agusta F2
Gas Gas RC250GP
The track list includes:
Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, Argentina
Chang International Circuit, Thailand
Circuit de Catalunya, Spain
Circuit de la Sarthe (Le Mans), France
Circuit of the Americas, United States
Circuit Valencia Ricardo Tormo, Spain
Circuito de Jerez, Spain
Donington Park, United Kingdom (historic version)
Kymi Ring, Finland
Laguna Seca, United States (historic version)
Losail International Circuit, Qatar
Masaryk Brno Circuit, Czech Republic (historic version)
Motorland Aragón, Spain
Mugello Circuit, Italy
Phillip Island, Australia
Portimao Algarve Circuit, Portugal
Red Bull Ring, Austria
Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
Silverstone Circuit, United Kingdom
TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands
Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
MotoGP 21 has a really nice selection of historic content.
MotoGP 800 4-Stroke:
Ducati Desmosedici (2007)
Honda RC212V (2007, 2010, 2011)
Suzuki GSV-R (2007)
Yamaha YZR-M1 (2007, 2009, 2010)
MotoGP 990 4-Stroke:
Aprilia RS Cube (2004)
Ducati Desmosedici (2003, 2004, 2006)
Honda RC211V (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006)
Kawazaki ZX-RR (2005)
Suzuki GSV-R (2004)
Yamaha YZR-M1 (2002, 2004, 2006)
MotoGP 500 2-Stroke:
Aprilia RSW-2 500 (2000)
Cagiva C592 (1992)
Cagiva C594 (1994)
Honda NSR500 (1992, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001)
Suzuki RGV R 500 (1993, 1995, 2000)
Yamaha YZR 500 (1993, 1997, 2000, 2001)
My personal favorites are the two-stroke 500cc bikes directly above (some screens below), they’re just way more fun than anything else in the title.
On PC I find the visuals in MotoGP 21 quite pleasing, if inconsistent. There seems to be some variation in texture quality and lighting, with blown-out lighting in sunny conditions due to the default bloom settings. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tracks are made by different teams who aren’t working to exactly the same specifications.
An annoyance, and not new with this title, is that HDR defaults to ON with my system. I haven’t bothered to check if I am the only person with this issue, but all recent Milestone titles I’ve had to make turning off HDR my first duty. I don’t use HDR at all, anywhere. I don’t own a HDR monitor.
I run any games that will run at 60fps with any consistency in 4K, and MotoGP 21 manages that with my RTX 3080 graphics card. I turn off anti-aliasing entirely at this 3840×2160 resolution because it gets rid of a blur-blob around the wheels and at the edges of the bikes, and still looks good on my monitor. The software also works on super widescreen 3840×1080, handling an uncommon 32:9 aspect ratio with ease.
Once you get things set and are satisfied MotoGP 21 does have moments of genuine beauty, but reaching those settings did take me a bit of time and patience.
There are plenty of ways to customize yourself in the surprisingly deep in-game painting suite, but it can be a little confusing to use at first. You can import and build absolutely unique designs to your rider, but it seems some teams have limited your access on their bikes as a part of their licensing agreement.
Unfortunately I think this feature is a little lost on me. I generally want to pick my real-life bike and real-life rider and run a season as them (sorry again).
The main challenge in MotoGP 21, the career option, is a demanding and lengthy gameplay option that really does have a lot of depth – maybe too much depth. You go through various customization options, research upgrades, pay staff and a number of other team management duties before finally arriving at race weekends where you begin to wonder whether the time you’ve spent since the last round was truly worthwhile. Suffice to say much like the My Team option in F1 2020 I started to feel like it was largely pointless, because while I can see it’s actually a solid feature, it never felt varied in any way. I got bored and ended up just wanting to race instead of gobbling up development tokens because ‘grinding’ for them just isn’t fun for me.
You do have the option to start your career in MotoGP, Moto2 or Moto3. You can join a selection of factory teams or create your own. You can also create junior teams in Moto2 and Moto3 once you have built sufficient reputation.
This review, maybe MotoGP 21 itself, is a sandwich. I started off by telling you how much I appreciate the physics and riding experience, how great the content list is, and I’m going to end by telling you again how much I appreciate the physics, riding experience and content. The filling? The grindy bits? We’ll just scrape that off.
The fact is if you want to run a complete 2021 MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 or (in an upcoming update) MotoE championship using either the 2021 full calendar or 2021 official calendar there is currently no better way than starting up Milestone’s MotoGP 21 and running a season (single championship mode is found behind ‘quick modes’ in the menu). The career-long duties didn’t grab me, but the race-long battles did, so I highly suggest if the career doesn’t seem like fun to you then increase the race length you’re running to compensate. You’ll end up having battles you never knew you could as the tire wear and bike handling I mentioned will challenge you in ways that clicking ‘advance to next week’ never could.
Eat the sandwich. It’s a good sandwich.
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
NVIDIA RTX 3080 FE
32GB DDR4 RAM @ 3000 MHz
XBOX Wireless Controller (used wired)
Multiplayer untested. All review screenshots taken on above system. Steam Key provided for fair review by Milestone. Purchase on Steam (price varies by location).