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Tourist Trophy Game Review

Friday, March 24, 2006
Tourist Trophy Creative Director Takamasa Shichisawa and former World Superbike Champion Doug Polen go head-to-head in the virtual world during the press introduction for Sony s latest racing title.
Tourist Trophy Creative Director Takamasa Shichisawa and former World Superbike Champion Doug Polen go head-to-head in the virtual world during the press introduction for Sony's latest racing title.
What's the difference between playing Polyphony Digital's latest simulator-based video game, Tourist Trophy, and actually riding a motorcycle at Infineon Raceway? Not much.

Playing Tourist Trophy on Sony's Playstation 2 is the answer to the desirable delusional condition riders finds themselves in after riding on the track while they explain the thrill of the event to their friends using hand gestures and pseudo-cycle sounds as they try in vain to describe the experience from the remnants of the ride that still clings to the synapses in their muddled little minds. Everyone does it. Everyone enjoys it. Sony has captured it in a video game.

The sensation of cresting the hill at Turn Six at Infineon and plummeting down the carousel is comprised of many factors, including the wind in your face, the sound and feeling of your knee puck grinding into the tarmac and the sinking feeling in your stomach as the g-forces tug on your innards. The scenery blows by in a blur as you glance at the tach and the growl of the V-Twin powering the Ducati 999 you're riding beats the symphony of speed that not nearly enough people on this planet have had the right to experience. Wouldn't it be great to transform that into a video game? Thanks to Polyphony Digital and the effort of Creative Director Takamasa Shichisawa riding fans around the world finally have a game to call their own.

One of the great features in Tourist Trophy are the incredible machines. They look every bit as cool as they are in real life and believe it or not  Sony actually managed to squeeze some of the bike s personality in the game as well.
One of the great features in Tourist Trophy are the incredible machines. They look every bit as cool as they are in real life and believe it or not, Sony actually managed to squeeze some of the bike's personality in the game as well.
Unfortunately, a video game simply can't provide all the physical sensations of riding, so the payoff is in the cerebral satisfaction that comes from playing it. This is where Tourist Trophy hits the simulation jackpot. Polyphony didn't have to go far to come up with the graphics engine for this new game because it is based off the highly successful Gran Tourismo model. Make no mistake, however, this is not a re-hashed version of GT4; this game was created to satisfy the void of a Real Riding Simulator in the racing video game market. In Gran Tourismo you control the car, but in Tourist Trophy you control the rider and then subsequently the bike. This takes a bit of getting used to when you first try to learn the controls, but in the end it makes the game so much fun.

The gameplay is very fluid and the player input is transmitted to the player-character movement, making the feeling of this game one of the best - and most realistic - I've ever played. Just like the feel of driving a car that you need to acquire in Gran Tourismo, coming to grips with the feel of riding a motorcycle is a key component of Tourist Trophy. Learning how to judge your speed, braking points, the radius of the turn and line-selection are all keys to a successful lap. You cannot just blast into a turn at 180 mph, grab the brakes to the apex and ride it out. You will crash - just like in reality. You will not, however, bleed or be airlifted to the hospital.

During the introduction at Infineon Raceway the journalists from the gaming world actually got a chance to ride two up on the twisty track - Just so they would have a point of reference to compare the game to.
During the introduction at Infineon Raceway the journalists from the gaming world actually got a chance to ride two up on the twisty track - Just so they would have a point of reference to compare the game to.
"Since the inception of Gran Turismo, it has been a labor of love for us to offer players the most authentic racing experience possible and we are excited to build upon this foundation with Tourist Trophy for Playstation 2," explains Sony's Kazunori Yamauchi, creator of Gran Turismo. "With a motorcycle racing background, our development team for Tourist Trophy follows Gran Turismo standards in realism, taking into account the various parameters of individual motorcycles, riding style, environments and how they react to the players moves."

From the extremely accurate track configurations from around the world to the virtual plethora of bike choices to choose from, Tourist Trophy has all the makings of a cult icon to rival its predecessor Gran Tourismo. At the time of this event there were 35 tracks and 80 different motorcycles available in the game, with more due to be included if all the licensing is squared away.

I have no doubt that the motorcyclists of the world will be hooked if they get a chance to play TT. In the short period of time we were afforded during the games introduction at Infineon Raceway, it was clear the game has what it takes to be a success. The only problem with having only a single day to play is that it was difficult to get familiarized with the controls to be able to fully comprehend everything the game has to offer.

For example, TT offers both an Arcade and Challenge Mode, but I only had the opportunity to play the first. In Arcade you can quick play a head-to-head or single-rider race on any available bike and track. This was the proving ground for this review. In Challenge Mode you can play a career which includes getting licensed to race at different levels, proving your mettle on the track and unlocking more bikes and other game secrets as your skills improve. While I didn't get to experience the Challenge Mode, there's no doubt that it will be a great feature considering how entertaining it was merely playing in Arcade Mode. This will make or break the game in the eyes of hard-core gamers and riders alike. But wait, there's more.

Customizing your rider is almost as much fun as playing the game. TT offers a vast selection of the latest riding gear on the market.
Customizing your rider is almost as much fun as playing the game. TT offers a vast selection of the latest riding gear on the market.
Besides the endless array of bikes and tracks at your disposal, the game also includes an amazing assortment of real motorcycle riding gear, from helmets to leathers, customizable by color and able to create personalized signage on your leathers to choose from. If that's not enough, you can even choose your player's riding style, ranging from an aggressive Rossi-esque hanging off the bike and scraping your elbow on the ground, to the perpendicular wobbler-style often seen in the C-group of your favorite track day. Either way it's very cool and your on-screen character's style affects the performance in the game.

The bad news is there are still things to complain about, despite Polyphony Digital and Sony's best efforts. You can still ride off the track leaned over quite a ways and get back on without crashing - but then, it is a video game. There's some particularly frustrating navigation issues as well. Granted, we journos are not always the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, but I've played a lot of games in my time and I had to ask for help from the pro gamers from G4 just to figure out how to get the game into 2-Player mode. Once I was enlightened, it was fine, so I'll chalk it up to my own ignorance rather than throwing Sony under the bus - but I had to mention it.

At what point in your miserable life will you ever get a chance to ride a ZX-6R past the Ferris Wheel at Suzuka
At what point in your miserable life will you ever get a chance to ride a ZX-6R past the Ferris Wheel at Suzuka?
My final bone of contention is in regards to making 'the save'. We've all done it. It would be a great feature if they could've made the game slow down when you're about to get high-sided, allowing you to rapidly tap L1-L2, or something along those lines, in order to help your rider make some type of miraculous save worthy of instant replay. Or when you go off the course and into the sand trap, it would be cool to tap A-B incessantly in order to keep the bike upright - because you don't always have to crash. That, my friends, would have made this the greatest game ever. But then what would they have left to do for an encore in the next version?

Overall, I give Tourist Trophy my personal vote of approval. If you or a loved one enjoy riding or are a video game addict, then Tourist Trophy needs to find a place in your collection. If not, we'll come to your house and bust your thumbs because were sick of hearing that there's no good motorcycle games out there. It's here, and it's called Tourist Trophy.

Share your thoughts on our product review of Sony's Tourist Trophy in the MCUSA Forum.

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