Milestone's even laid on a nice 3D office for you to manage your campaign through, with lots of room on the shelves for trinkets, and a hot secretary to take your calls. Also, as the game is being made in Italy, you'll be able unlock a range of trophies you can use when you head off to punch the president in the face. (This last bit probably isn't true, so you'll have to stick with the scale model of Milan Cathedral you're already using.)
As for the arcade side, Milestone has rebuilt the physics engine from the ground up, and it shows. There's a streamlined career mode available - transition between leagues is notably quicker, apparently - and the controls have been redesigned for simplicity, with a single brake replacing front and rear options, and a tuck button - essentially a speed boost which comes with reduced manoeuvrability - replacing the more complex business of weight distribution.
Milestone's currently deciding whether to allow the evolving track into this portion of the game, but even without it it's a pleasure to play: it's much harder to fall off - although I managed it - and the more direct handling makes the tilty-turny pleasures of bike racing far more accessible. That said, it's not simply an easier version of the sim campaign - rather, it feels like an entirely different kind of challenge, replacing tactics with a welcome twitchiness.
Graphically, it can be clear at times that Milestone is working with a relatively small budget, but it's working extremely hard. Along with 3D crowds and trees, SBK X has much improved skyboxes - vivid and dramatic vistas to race beneath. On the open spaces of Portimao with the rain tipping down and the clouds gathering, it's a very stylish game, while effects like motion blur isolate racers from the background nicely, making the moment-to-moment experience much easier to read.
A first-person view - currently only included in the sim campaign - brings the sharper turns of Monza to life in a brilliantly queasy manner, and if you can handle racing from this perspective, you'll certainly feel a genuine sense of the sport's delightful dangers coming across. The developer is also promising never to dip below 30 frames per second.
With 14 tracks, at least 80 bikes, and online multiplayer topping out at 16 players, Milestone is offering a generous chunk of game across its two distinct modes. If you'd expected another largely incremental update to the series in the manner of previous instalments, then SBK X may well be a pleasant surprise - the fruits of a small team thinking big; of a somewhat niche sport itching to net itself a wider audience.
SBK X is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in Q2 2010.