It’s been a decade since the WorldSBK championship has received an official video game, excluding mobile devices, and with that wait comes an expectation.
As it transpires, Italian game developer Milestone is back at the helm with the new SBK 22 for PC, PlayStation and Xbox, just as it was with the last endorsed title – 2012’s SBK Generations.
That game was a swansong of the series virtually, coming after 2010’s SBK X, which is seen as the zenith for many loyalists.
However, in the intervening years, the Milanese studio has been working on yearly MotoGP releases instead and that means there are two distinct perspectives to view SBK from.
The first is being able to stand up on its own two wheels for fans of Superbike racing. The second is doing enough to differentiate itself from April’s MotoGP 22 release, warranting a separate purchase for motorcycle gaming enthusiasts.
I’ll cut to the chase with the second criterion. No, it does not.
I’m all for game companies utilising the same underlying technology between games. It reduces production times, cuts costs and when enacted successfully, helps the platform develop for the benefit of several individual titles.
If SBK 22 rode differently and added in some different features to its contemporaries, then I think that would be just enough to warrant a dedicated release.
However, while its Unreal Engine-utilising visuals deliver crisp looks, a snazzy photo mode and the engine sounds have been rightly updated, on track, the riding experience is all too familiar.
Motorcycle Grand Prix racing utilises purpose-built prototype machines, whereas the Superbike World Championship makes do with racing modified versions of road-going vehicles. I would prefer a greater contrast in terms of inertia, feedback, braking performance and the sensation of speed.
Putting aside the aesthetics of each motorbike, the noises, fresh menu graphics and the official riders from the 2022 season, you’d be hard-pressed to notice any gameplay changes between the two releases, even back-to-back.
This is similar to donning a fake moustache and calling yourself Tom Selleck. Being someone different requires more than dubious facial hair choices.
Cross-platform online and split-screen multiplayer are both missing in comparison to the GP games too, and they also add in some form of classic mode – most recently the 2009 season in the form of a playable documentary.
But in SBK 22 you only have the career, online lobbies without a ranking system, individual races, custom championship and time trial.
Look at it from a WorldSBK fan perspective, however, and the spec sheet is a little more palatable.
What you have here is a game that is visually impressive, has this season’s top-class personalities and venues plus a riding system that is both approachable yet a challenge to master should you switch off the assist systems.
I really enjoy riding around the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Autódromo de Most and Circuito San Juan Villicum venues. While not laser scanned, these solid reinterpretations that deliver a fresh perspective for motorcycle gamers.
Where you’ll likely spend most of your time, the career mode, is reasonably in-depth. You must allocate team personnel and resource points towards new part evolution, plus there’s the option of joining a fictional privateer team, allowing for livery customisation or negotiating a deal for your rider at an authentic squad.
However, even if you’re a seasoned Jonathan Rea fan who hasn’t played a MotoGP game, some obvious elements are lacking.
Namely, support classes – in this case Supersport World Championship and Supersport 300 World Championship – are completely absent. While the career does have part development, the people management aspect is humdrum. A lack of pitstops and changeable weather conditions are immersion breakers.
Smaller details are conspicuous by their absence, such as any form of commentary or even a post-race podium animation. This robs the game of any character, a little spark that will make the presentation more relatable.
Worse, the computer-controlled rivals require significant rebalancing. Depending on the difficulty level, you are set with a goal of achieving a free practice lap time that seems almost impossible. But come the race, you just fly past your competitors down the straight to an easy victory.
It’s a stripped-down, back-to-basics, approach that feels behind the times. The one saving grace is the price, released at just £32.99/$39.99, digitally, close to half the cost of its contemporaries.
SBK 22 is a derivative attempt at a real-world sanctioned WorldSBK release, let’s hope next year it can be improved upon to form its own sense of identity.
|Release date||15th September 2022|
|Available platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S|
|Best played with||Gamepad|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.