That pretty much covers all the optional extras, but why haven't I mentioned the new riding physics? Well, if I'm being totally honest, it's taken many hours to make up my mind on a dramatically different riding model, because when I first took The Doctor's Yamaha out for a spin I thought the game was defective.
In MotoGP 09/10, we were given brake callipers from the year 2050, apparently designed to prevent shuttles re-entering the atmosphere – the stopping times were unrealistic, and like the rest of the riding model it was arcade-centric. For MotoGP 10/11, Monumental has ditched the space-age technology for a braking system that demands your undivided attention.
The first time I applied the front at Mugello, I was still doing 100mph as I cascaded onto the gravel. Then after a confused smile and a quick restart, the same thing happened again. Realising that I must be doing something wrong, I tried applying the brake well before the superimposed Riding Line went red. I then completed my first turn of the season. Get in!
Unfortunately the rest of the lap went far from smoothly as I struggled to adjust to much stiffer leaning, which led to constant oversteer – and this was with the braking, weight transfer and traction control assists turned on.
But I persevered, and as I gradually acclimatised and turned off a few assists, I began to appreciate MotoGP 10/11 a lot more. Like most racing sims, it isn't a game that gives you like-for-like control of the motorcycle. (If it did, then every time you grabbed the front mid-corner your rider would be leaving the track in an ambulance.) Instead, Monumental wants you to focus on riding the best lap you can, and as your skills gradually improve so will your respect for the riding model.
There's also a tangible distinction between classes. The 125cc bikes are characterised by their extreme flickability, while the new Moto2 motorcycles are a more natural compromise between power and weight, and the presiding GP machines steal the show with a look, sound and feel that exudes authenticity.
The days when MotoGP stood for a confused sim with arcade tendencies are over, because MotoGP 10/11 has made the jump to hardcore sim. Many will argue that the braking distances have gone from one extreme to the next, but in terms of precise motorcycle physics – where the bike reacts to a multitude of invisible forces – this is perhaps the most accurate two-wheeled simulation ever.
I'd say that SBK X conveys a better sense of feedback between bike and road, whereas MotoGP 10/11 has the edge in terms of comprehensive physics. If pushed, I'd probably go for SBK X, but it's a decision that's now down to personal preference rather than one game being better than the other. Whether SBK 2011 can change this remains to be seen.
Fancy physics wouldn't mean anything if the online functionality wasn't up to standard, and although I only found one biker to race against at the time of writing, the connection stability suggests Monumental has this base covered. With a number of important little touch-ups – like not having to close a 20-player lobby just to change the racing class – it's clear Monumental has listened to player feedback.
MotoGP 10/11 marks the series' evolution into a simulation with depth. It's a game with a steep learning curve and there are no shortcuts to mastery – much like motorbikes themselves – but with patience and perseverance the rewards for dedication are great. So whether you're a gamer, biker or both, MotoGP 10/11 complements the new season in style.