Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Reviewed On: PC (release date, March 26th)
Developer: Kylotonn Racing Games
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Review code provided free of charge by the publisher.
The Isle of Man TT is absolutely insane, a relic of a bygone era where racing was raw and dangerous. It’s 37.73 miles of public road weaving through several towns and then up the Snaefell Mountain that gets shut down so that a bunch of lunatics on beautiful motorcycles can scream around the epic track, taking the 274 corners at horrifying speeds while blasting between houses, barely missing pavements and even leaping into the air. It’s simply amazing to watch, a yearly spectacle that has given birth to legends like John McGuiness, Michael Dunlop, and Guy Martin.
The entire length of the legendary Isle of Man TT course has been recreated in superb detail thanks to laser scanning technology, meaning this is likely as close as you’ll ever get to racing on the Isle of Man without taking part yourself. Despite working on a presumably small budget the developers have managed to create a lovely looking game, and when you aren’t going fast enough to rip time and space you can admire the scenery, whipping past corner SPAR shops and ignoring drive safely signposts as you go. A couple of rough areas are noticeable when you look them, but for the most part, this is a beautiful game and an impressive feat for a small developer. With one notable exception; animations. Simply put, they’re pretty bad. The riders themselves move awkwardly around the bike, never coming even semi-close to the grace of a real racer. And let us not speak of the pitstop crew whose stares could probably open gateways to Hell. It’s an indication of the game as a whole; impressive, but with some serious flaws.
One of those flaws is a feeling of sparseness. The developers have augmented the Isle of Man circuit – and the many races that stem from it since not all of them are full loops of the track – with a small selection of wholly fictional courses as well, including races in Scotland and Wales. They can’t compare to the Isle of Man, of course, but they’re pretty damn good in their own right. Still, it’s not a massive selection of places to go racing, though given the small developer and the momentous task of building the entirety of the Isle of Man it’s an understandably small selection Only the Superbike and Supersport classes of bike are represented, though sidecars are coming in a free update, across a rather slim roster of motorcycles. Likewise, while there are some recognizable names like John McGuiness, others such as Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop are missing, presumably because the developers could not get or could not afford the licensing.
The career mode is a straightforward affair that makes use of a clunky interface. You’ll accept race invitations and hopefully secure wins in order to keep your bank balance above zero or risk losing the game, but the rider A.I. tends to be slow and completely unaware that you even exist, which led to me getting rammed by an opponent quite a number of times. They don’t present much of a challenge, in other words, unless they’re actively attempting to kill you, which makes you glad that many of the races use the Isle of Man staggered start system where its just you, the bike and the clock to worry about with only the occasional rider getting in the way.
The thing is it’s very hard to give a flying f*** about all of these problems when you’re bombing through a small village at absurd speeds, reveling in the handling and the loving recreation of a track all motorbike lovers know. The handling isn’t entirely simulation as there’s a little bit of a forgiving edge to how fast you can go, but with the assists off make no mistake that this game feels real and can be savage in its willingness to slam you into scenery, largely because public roads tend to be bumpy as hell and even touching the brake when going over one can send you careening into the local supermarket. Or pub, if you’re lucky.
Yet when it comes to failing miserably at cornering and plowing into trees the game has an almost arcade way of handling it. There’s no damage system in place so no matter how hard you dent the bike it’ll be fine, a bit of a disappointment as repair bills being deducted from your winnings could have made the career more interesting, and then you’re just popped straight back onto the track with a relatively small loss of time.
As for the handling itself, it’s satisfying, with a wealth of aids meaning you can fine-tune it to your liking. Usually, I’d advocate turning everything off to appreciate the nuances, but I have to admit I found myself using a few on their lowest settings while getting the hang of things. A little too hard on the brake or throttle and you’re going to crash. Indeed, the TT course forces you to use engine breaking more than anything else, while also teaching you that to finish first you first have to finish. The bikes feel powerful and grippy, yet temperamental as you would expect of anything with so much power and only two wheels. Meanwhile, the lifting off the front wheel, losses of grip and other little things are communicated as well as imaginable via a controller’s vibration. The truth is even more than cars it’s hard to really translate a bike to a controller, but this game does one of, if not the, best job of it so far.
My only real complaint is that by default I found the Xbox One controller on PC to be a little too sensitive on the throttle, brake, and steering. You get used to it, but it never feels quite right, and there are no options in-game for adjusting it which is a big mistake on the developer’s behalf.
It’s the sense of speed where the developers have really nailed it. Once you find a straight, or as straight as the Isle of Man ever gets, and open the throttle the scenery becomes a blur, the noise ratchets up and the bushes, trees, and embankments form a terrifying tunnel effect. It’s just…wow. It’s the best sense of speed in a game I’ve ever played, I think.
There are a few other areas that don’t quite get things right, though. Take, for example, how there’s no helmet camera such as those found in the MotoGP games, a big oversight for a game that otherwise aims to replicate the thrill of almost killing yourself every few seconds. The only two onboard views either eradicate the bike entirely in favor of having the camera roughly where the headlights would be or having you sitting just behind the windshield, where it’s a little funny to note that the handlebars never seem to move when leaning into a bend.
It’s also worth noting that there is no VR support, which I have to say would have been amazing. However, VR is still a relatively niche market and the development costs may simply have been too much for a small team working on an equally niche game, so its lack of inclusion is understandable. Maybe it will get added in the future if the game does well.
Of course, you do get full multiplayer support across all of the tracks, and racing the entire Isle of Man with up to other people is a blast. Sadly there is no championship modes or anything like that, so it’s one race at a time. There’s offline Hotseat support for up to eight people, too, which is a really nice addition that we don’t often see these days. It’s nice to get in a few beers and enjoy bombing round the Isle of Man with friends, all competing for the best time.
For some reason, the PC version isn’t launching until March 26th, several weeks after the console version. I can at least say that on my GTX 1080 with 16GB of RAM, a Ryzen 5 CPU and a resolution of 1440p it ran smoothly, easily maintaining above 60FPS except for one or two small drops. A few console reports on the Steam forums do indicate some potential problems on those platforms, though, so keep an eye on that.
Quite simply put this is one hell of a game despite its fair share of flaws. The Isle of Man being recreated so brilliantly is the key selling point here, and part of me would recommend it to any bike fan for that alone, but underneath that is a solid racer that lacks some content and has a so-so career mode, meaning you’ll not only be able to admire the faithful digital adaption of one of the greatest races ever, but enjoy the two-wheeled mayhem as well. This one is getting a recommendation from me.