Gaming Today Reviews Ducati World Championship

0727ducati2.jpgThe powder blue sky and wispy clouds above floated pastorally by. I could see the hard black pavement ahead and the brightly colored riders – my competitors – arrayed around me as we waited for the signal to start our circuit. I revved the engine and the Ducati M2 Monster between my legs hummed and purred in anticipation.
I couldn’t hear the drone of the crowds as the starting light flickered and we all gunned our bikes in a race for position off the starting block.

That was what I expected when I jumped into my first race in Ducati World Championship and I wasn’t disappointed.

Then I drove as fast as I could, pushing the motorcycle to its maximum revolutions as we neared the first turn. I’d had problems before with motorcycle sims like MotoGP. Reality and motorcycle racing it seemed were my enemy – a slight dip, slight slip of the tire on loose gravel and I was sure to spill out leaving blood and leather behind in a screeching, spiraling slide toward the sidewall of the track.

Surprisingly, that first turn didn’t leave me laying flat on the ground, my competition laughing internally as they held a perfect corner. You’d think this would be a good thing, a representation of skill from a player who lacked the knack in other similar games but no, it was a false sense of accomplishment for me as I turned and leaned the bike closer and closer to the grated asphalt. Ducati World Championship had fooled me. I wasn’t a good driver, I hadn’t fought hard and long, wrestling with detailed physics, inertia and a gentle application of brakes to arrive as a champion in my first race – no I had gotten one over on reality because the game let me.

I’m not a hardcore racer, someone who needs every rivulet of water, every speck of dirt on a racetrack or vehicle to be modeled with physics and the precision of reality, but even I knew it had been too easy and was left a bit unfulfilled.

Ducati World Championship
Publisher: Strategy First
Price: $19.99
Rated: E 10+
ducati_11.jpgPresentation (6)
Ducati World Championship is a budget title and a racing game. These two factors usually set gamer expectations low enough, especially on the PC – a platform no longer graced by many of the sophisticated racing arcade or simulation games. That said, the bold red menus and basic animations along with the hard rock soundtrack initially at least was unobtrusive and simple to navigate. The opening animated videos, featuring a race queen walking the pit on the Ducati race track didn’t load properly the first time I ran the game and no one will ever confuse these cinematics with work by other developers like Square-Enix or 2K Boston.

The game comes in a plastic shell case with a single DVD disk. It’s box art is generic but fitting for a motorcycle racing sim. There is no real need to read the included manual (which includes a few hints that it was either rushed in the writing or translated from another language because of awkward or improper grammar) since the game is simple enough to pick up and play.

Players who find the game likable will discover the title features a good selection of Ducati branded bikes (This is a licensed game after all). There are a number of unlockable extras in the title that you earn by completing races including the right to choose your own Race Queen – an attractive model who adds a little beauty to the whole racing scene.

0727ducati1.jpgGraphics (6)
Upon launching Ducati World Championship and diving into my first Career Race I noticed surprisingly that the game did not look as bad as I feared it might. I’d expected a very poor graphic impact after going through the process of creating my custom racer and noticing how basic and bad my 3D representation was. Changing faces on the avatar applied a crude bitmap under the biker helmet – leaving me with no sense of character and very limited customization features for my character. The environments of the track and the weather effects however were a bit different. Details like sand kicked into the camera upon a hot start, the subtle graduation of the sky toward a low sitting sun approaching sunset and the overall feel of the race tracks and its environments were fairly well rendered – though the game suffered a light bit from the dreaded “bloom lighting disease” at times. No one would confuse Ducati World Championship with the last few Xbox 360 or PS2 MotoGP titles for its graphical fidelity but as a budget PC it is pleasantly rendered.

Sound (4)
What do you expect of a racing game? The roars of the motorcycles, the buzz as a foe closes and passes you? The occasional bone crunching sound of impact as you lose traction and slide across the ground until impacting the barrier? Well Ducati manages to do an adequate job with most of these. The developers could have spent a bit more time with audio tuning and positional audio but regardless the game sounds like you’d imagine racing on a motorcycle circuit would.

The major drawback for me and probably for many players though will be the licensed soundtrack that the game sports. I am personally a big fan of the Italian Goth Rock group Lacuna Coil whose music constitutes the entire soundtrack but it didn’t take me long to grow frustrated with the way the game continued to play the same tracks over and over from the beginning. There are ten licensed tracks in toto and I know in the hours I spent playing the game, working my way through the various game modes it took far too long to actually hear them all and when I heard the newer tracks I’d begun to dislike the style totally by that point. Players who dislike the band can turn the sound off for the music though so the torture need not be mandatory.

Gameplay (5)ducati_02.jpg
Motorcycle racing sims have a reputation among race fans of being bloody difficult. Even arcade oriented titles tend to have a very steep learning curve to them when it comes to mastering the art of cornering. I spent the first two hours of Ducati World Championship blasting around tracks with very little application of brake. This is unnatural and while initially it makes the game approachable for those put off by complex racing simulation it became a bit dull to play. To its credit, Ducati offers three primary levels of difficulty to suit gamer tastes: Arcade, normal and simulation. Once I’d grown tired of the default I switched through the other two and noticed slight changes to the way the game handled the physics and control of the bikes but these differences did not feel different enough to me.

Racing enthusiasts expect certain gear head features like tweaking gears, tires, breaks and suspension. While Ducati offers some level of customizations and configuration it is likely not as deep as someone familiar with the actual sport would expect.

Controlling the game using only the keyboard may not be the most elegant method and the game does offer gamepad support but I think there is a basic reason the racing genre has preferred the console market since the early 90′s.

Replay Value (6)
The game features 70 licensed Ducati brand bikes in an amazing number of tournaments, special events and timed races. If you find the game fun then there are plenty of reasons to play through the game’s 5 game modes. However there is no compelling reason or major difference between the various game modes – including multiplayer split screen. There is no online gameplay so unless you like sharing a keyboard or racing AI controlled opponents then multiplayer won’t add much to your game experience.

Overall (5)
Ducati World Championship is a fair budget title. It does most everything adequately and does not stand out except by its mere existence on a platform unused to modern racing simulations. Graphically it’s inoffensive, gameplay wise it’s fair but a bit too simple and easy for any experienced MotoGP fan.

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