PS3 Review: SBK 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship



Right off the bat SBK 2011 positions itself as a game for “real bikers” – one for true superbike fans. But like wandering into the wrong pub and feeling a dozen steely ‘We don’t like your kind around here’ glances cast in your direction, the game doesn’t make it easy for newcomers to fit right in. If you’re new to the series and more used to arcade-style racers, you’ll have to work to earn a comfortable place amongst SBK 2011′s tougher, heavier and more realistic mechanics with nary a tutorial track to be found to ease you in. If you can conquer the steep learning curve, though, Milestone and Black Bean’s latest superbike sim is a thrilling, rewarding racer that’s tweaked to perfection where it counts.

Once you’ve created a rider and given him an appropriately daft name, it’s time to jump into the game proper with a fantastic choice of fun and varied modes. SBK Tour mode allows you to jump continents, take to their respective racetracks and complete a lap while nailing a variety of challenges (hit a time limit, don’t stray too far outside the racing line, maintain a certain speed like you were Keanu taking a bus ride). You can jump into a Quick Race, tackle Time Attack modes, pick from the roster of riders you’ve unlocked (the entire 2011 SBK line-up and 17 legends) and take them through a Championship or race against up to 16 opponents online in Quick Matches and Championships, but the meat and potatoes of the game is in the Career mode. There you’ll start out as a daisy-fresh rookie working your way from the Superstock 1000 Team to the Superbike class, gaining more prestigious team offers as you win races, climb the ranks and earn more Reputation Points.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
After starting the game up and choosing the career mode, you’ll be dumped into the pit – the central hub where you’ll spend all your time off the track. Your time in the race pit is split up into sessions: A free practice session, a qualifying round, another free practice, a warm-up and, finally, the big race event. Each session lasts an hour in real time, allowing you (final race excluded) plenty of time to hit the track, get a feel for the route and how the bike handles and try to better your qualifying times. There’s plenty of opportunity to tweak your bike to your liking, too. The range of adjustments to tyres, brakes, steering, suspension and so on should be more than enough to please those who like to tinker with their engine and fine-tune things to suit them.

Newcomers might find the choice of tweaks a little daunting and the helpful tips a little on the technical side, but thankfully there’s an engineer on hand to walk you through. Don’t know what you need to adjust to achieve the changes in handling you want? A visit to the engineer in the pit offers the chance to talk to him, with a more simple-to-grasp FAQ-style dialogue tree to pick through. Let him know if you’re having trouble making turns or walk him through how you want your bike to handle and he’ll make all the necessary adjustments for you, at a cost of some pit time. It’s a simple, intuitive system that does wonders for ushering newcomers in.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
Once you hit the track the wonderfully realistic performance and handling quickly becomes apparent; there’s sizeable and appropriate weight and heft to these bikes that requires particular finesse to maneuver the powerful beasts around corners with elegant precision. Tackling turns too aggressively can result in the rear tyre pulling out from under you and sending the bike spinning out, while you’ll need to learn how to effectively juggle the front and rear brakes and the throttle and position your weight to really navigate the twists and bends of each track with the speed and fluidity of a pro.

It’s here where things get a little less welcoming for those new to the series. While there’s a comprehensive list of difficulty options to toy with, from coloured guidelines on the track to switching off racer injury, bike damage and tyre wear or dialling down the simulation level (which, when cranked up, can double as added challenge for series faithfuls), there’s no simple tutorial track to ease you into the mechanics and say, “Here’s how to control that bike in our game.” Instead it’s a very trial-and-error approach to riding, and you might spend more time on the ground looking up than speeding past opponents if you’re more used to arcade-style racers, at least until you get your sea legs. Still, it’s a learning curve that has peaks beyond the initial valley, and the thrilling satisfaction that comes with finally nailing corners, bagging a first place trophy and climbing your way up the ranks is an incredibly rewarding one that feels earned and only magnified by the excellent, realistic handing.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
Graphically the game isn’t quite a powerhouse, but it’s attractive nonetheless. The bike models and tracks are suitably detailed, the textures are sharp, if a little flat, and the weather effects are well handled with not a jot of frame rate issues anywhere. The menu system and the pit design are smooth, stylish and intuitive. The sound design is excellent when it comes to the races themselves, with the roar of the bikes sounding appropriately aggressive, the only downside is that the soundtrack’s selection of generic alterna-rock is limited and quickly grows repetitive to the point where you’ll likely switch it off in the options entirely. The standard replay modes are accounted for to relive your victories, along with a fun photo mode if you feel like snapping a shot from the replay and sharing it online, though it’s an odd choice to have the coloured virtual Drive Path show up in your pictures if you have it activated.

Though it’s certainly a game that offers no hand-holding and poses a steep initial learning curve for those new to the series, SBK 2011 undoubtedly rewards that investment with some of the most satisfying, realistic handling and thrilling, rewarding gameplay you’ll find in a motorbike racing game. Long-time fans will be even more pleased and with SBK 2011 boasting the series’ most detailed graphics, refined bike handling and most diverse variety of game modes so far, there’s a tonne to speed through in what’s surely the best SBK entry to date.

Rating:





SBK 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship is available to buy on PS3 and Xbox 360 in the UK now.
Click here to order the game from Amazon.co.uk

  • Shakey

    Great review, thanks.

  • frankie

    bought this game today for $35 at EB graphics are still average not as polished as moto gp 10/11 but the racing itself is a nice improvment over previous sbk games,evolving track is a great addition also.for $35 i think this was a steal.