SBK X Superbike World Championship

Traction and reaction.

Last year I felt sorry for American bikers. Not only did crippling noise and emission regulations result in their YZFs having less top-end compared to our pokier (and probably shinier) European counterparts, but for some reason nobody bothered to publish SBK-09 stateside.

This seems a shame. Partly, of course, because the SBK 2009 Riders Championship was won by an American. But mostly it's because the US missed out on a solid racing sim from Milestone which, despite being rough around the edges, still impressed with its two-wheeled realism.

Let's hope they get SBK X this year, then, because from a simulation perspective this is Milestone's most well-rounded racer to date.

Having had my fill of arcade physics after months of MotoGP 09/10, the first port of call is the Simulation mode, where Arcade elements have been stripped out entirely and replaced with more streamlined Simulation Settings that can be set to low, medium or full, with additional options for automatic gears and rider weight.

This results in a mode that doesn't try to please everyone but instead focuses on realism. In terms of racking the simulation up and taking Noriyuki's 200bhp 1198R out for an entire 14-track season - perhaps finally bagging the unluckiest rider in history a well-deserved Riders Championship - Milestone has made tweaks but kept the formula impressively realistic.

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Wet tracks now dry out faster across the most-travelled riding line, and the build-up of rubber helps with traction.

Visually the bikes communicate a believable sense of traction that suggests their 160kg frames are gripping the track via an area that's roughly the size of a DVD case.

With the simulation set to full, the art of braking before a corner, turning in, following the apex and then slowly twisting the throttle as you shoot onto the straight - before trying to repeat a similar yet different manoeuvre a few lengths down the track - is made all the more convincing by believable consequences.

If you're over-ambitious, with the bike lent right over, you'll have a fraction of a second to react before suffering an embarrassing lowside. If you lock the rear wheel by braking aggressively mid-corner, only to release it with the bike practically sideways, well, you've only got yourself to blame as your rider is catapulted skyward.

Nonetheless, when you quickly shift the rider's weight down to control a spinning back wheel on the verge of losing traction, that sense of elation, as you push the bike to its limits in a gamble that pays off spectacularly, is what makes Milestone's approach to motorcycle physics a cut above the competition.

That's not to say it's perfect. When titling the left analogue stick it often feels like the onscreen rider isn't leaning the bike fast enough. But considering the limitations of the controller interface - and the difficultly of replicating a system that in real-life requires full-body movement - the degree of immersion and authenticity is impressive, something which can also be said for the extra content and features.

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The engine sounds in SBK X are loud and authentic. They also help to drown out Biffy Clyro, just in case indie rock isn't your kind of thing.

Traditionally SBK games have been about the Superbike class, with teams like Ducati Xerox and Suzuki Alstare lending their blisteringly fast designs to the realms of virtual racing. But for SBK X players can also compete in the Supersport and Superstock classes.

So in addition to 16 highly modified widow-makers, we get a further selection of 38 race bikes, including the Supersport Triumph 675, and Superstock spec Gixxers, R1s and Fireblades which, save for light modifications, represent what can be bought for real money. At least by those of us who don't play videogames for a living.

This substantial class injection also comes with a more in-depth Career mode which - in addition to Quick Race, Championship, Race Weekend and Time Attack modes - adds considerable longevity for those who plan to get their money's worth.

Rather than pick from the race roster - which, incidentally, has a few 2010 inconsistencies like Michele Pirro riding a Yamaha when he should be on a Honda - you can create a custom rider by tweaking some basic details and choosing from a limited selection of faces.

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