SBK-08 Superbike World Championship
- Publisher: Black Bean
- Developer: Milestone
Back in June, when I previewed Black Bean's wannabe MotoGP rival, I opined that "there's clearly a lot of work to be done before SBK '08 is ready to mount a serious challenge for the console biking trophy". The finished result probably still isn't going to be enough to convince the serious biker to jump the fence, but there's enough here to suggest that ditching the simulation angle and going hell for leather on an arcade bike game could well be the answer in 2009.
You get the expected raft of gameplay options, from simple Instant Action to a meatier Career mode. Similarly, all the usual suspects are available in the track selection. The environmental graphics don't do a particularly good job of recreating the buzz of Monza on race day, but the tracks themselves are decent enough to pass muster.
All the stats and riders are as up to date as they can be, and for those who like to monkey about with a spanner there's an impressive amount of technical options to drill into, to the extent that you can even make your rider's weight a factor in balancing the perfect racing bike. It's just a shame that the engine itself doesn't quite live up to these lofty expectations. The physics are good but never exceptional and, as I mentioned in the Baja review, simulations have a much lower tolerance for imperfection.
Where the game really finds its niche is when you switch off all the technical data, and play it as a straight arcade racer. It's still just realistic enough that corners and chicanes require a deft touch to get past, but the sense of speed and danger is suddenly much more thrilling. Crashes, in particular, are vastly improved from the rather timid preview build I played in the summer, and it's possible to shimmy through some ferocious pile-ups to take pole position.
Given the option of a good bike simulation and a great arcade bike game, I'd actually prefer to see SBK head further down the latter path for future instalments. Heresy, perhaps, but on the evidence here I'd even be open to the idea of Black Bean being tasked with reviving Road Rash for the HD generation.