Tourist Trophy hit the shelves with little fanfare, a shame for such a high quality racing game. Polyphony Digital, the top-notch developers responsible for the Gran Turismo series, have created their first racing simulator on two wheels. Calling it ‘GT with motorcycles’ isn’t far off, but luckily the realistic model translates very well across the two mediums.
Tourist Trophy offers players a vast array of real world motorcycles – over 100 from a dozen different manufactures. Dirt bikes to cruisers, crotch rockets to scooters, if it has two wheels, you can probably race it. Players will see a huge difference in every attribute – acceleration, handling, breaking, etc. – when jumping from a 250cc bike to a 1300cc sport bike, however the small jumps between bikes at the same cc level do not seem to change the riding experience. The lack of many detectable differences between like bikes makes the motorcycle selection seem smaller than it actually is. However, learning to ride is going to be a challenge for everyone, including GT veterans. A robust License Mode will teach players all there is to know: taking turns at speed, breaking into tight turns, smooth acceleration out of turns, coalition avoidance – you name it. Unfortunately, learning the ins and outs of the vast range of motorcycles can take a lot of time. Players are going to have to be patient if they want to effectively compete against the extremely smart opponent AI. Once players have gotten the hang of the very precise – if a little touchy – controls they can truly enjoy the 37 courses provided. A handful of real world tracks, including some historical trails, dot the lineup of courses, along with some GT classics that have been tweaked for motorcycle gameplay. All the tracks feature challenging corners, blistering straight-aways, and surprisingly plentiful opportunities for passing.
Physics is the life blood of any simulation, and Tourist Trophy is fantastic 99% of the time. Tire type, road conditions, speed, braking, lean angle, all effect the bike handling beautifully. Mastery of the physics system will be rewarded with acceptable lap times. But failure to learn is quickly punished with a crash. This is where the 1% of bad physics leaks into Tourist Trophy. Bikes flop over lifelessly and slid to a stop, even on rough ground where they should flip and tumble. The graceful and articulate riders on the bike turn into stiff Barbie dolls when they hit the ground. Such lackluster crashes really take away from the feeling of danger during a race. Crashes become more of an annoyance than a worthwhile part of the game.
The legendary level of customization found in the GT series follows smoothly into Tourist Trophy. An unlockable list of real world accessories is available to customize the rider’s appearance – helmets, gloves, boots, and riding suits. The riding experience is also customizable. An incredibly intricate Riding Form customization allows players to tweak everything from seat position and head pitch, to arm and leg angles, to full body lean. This, coupled with bike modifications, allows for a totally personalized riding look and style. To see just how good player’s personal style looks players can access Photo Mode. By turning on the Best Shot Photo mode, pictures will automatically be taken as riders race through a pack of opponents or just practice alone. These photos can be saved to memory cards to show off to friends, or printed through a PS2-connected printer. The automatic photos come through with some pretty dramatic shots from interesting angles, but it comes up with just as many duds. It’s an interesting, though questionable idea.
Tourist Trophy strives for realism in sound as well. Each motorcycle sounds like their real world counterparts. With a nice sound system players will feel the high-speed scream of Ducati superbikes or the rumble of a Buell sportster by Harley Davidson. All the sounds really push the excitement to extremes – the deafening echo of speeding trough a tunnel, the battling engine whines during a high speed pass, the frantic down shifting into a corner. Sound is a high point for Tourist Trophy. Players should expect beautiful graphics from the makers of the GT series. They will not be disappointed. The rider exhibits smooth and realistic movement on the motorcycle. All the bikes are very detailed and realistic. The detailed tracks and environments are, at first, enough to grab a player’s attention from racing, to the point of crashing. Everything about this game looks great, from the menus to the skid marks.
Tourist Trophy is a immensely deep and exciting racing game, as expected from Polyphony Digital. Its depth with be too much for casual race game fans, but the many lovers of the GT series will be excited to hit the tracks on two wheels. The few blemishes on this racing gem are easily overshadowed by the rest of the game’s high quality production. Tourist Trophy’s bigger siblings tend to takeover the spotlight, but this game deserves a look from racing fans.