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SBK X: Superbike World Championship Review

Friday, February 25, 2011
Couch racers unite and lay down some virtual rubber with SBK X.
The 2011 World Superbike season is upon us and Deep Silver’s SBK X brings the global racing experience to your video game console. After a Europe-only release earlier this year the popular superbike racing series has made the jump across the pond to give American players a taste of the action and offer some closure to players whose favorite rider didn’t bring home the championship. It’s time to ditch that “get in shape” New Year’s resolution and get your couch potato racer muscles in shape for 2011.

Right out of the box SBK X offers many game modes familiar to sportbike fans like Arcade, simulation, and online. Arcade mode features Superstock, Supersport and Superbike classes, as well as a large selection of teams and riders to pick from. There is a bit of a learning curve but it isn’t too sharp that a casual player wouldn’t get in to it after a bit of trial and error. Take some time to learn the controls and everything seems to flow well. Modifiers are available to increase the difficulty for veteran players and tone things down for the less experienced.

Story mode offers a simple character creation and the racing action moves the player’s career to the next level. It doesn’t stray too far from the Arcade mode style, with different levels unlocked based on reputation points earned during racing. The races are set up with objectives that can range from a specified finish position to finishing ahead of a rival in order to gather points. Players don’t get any bike adjustment, so riders have to play the cards they’re dealt. The controls worked pretty well for me and offer a big allowance for mistakes (plenty of
Weather conditions can change from practice to qualifing sessions in career mode. Quickly adapting your settings to take advantage of the weather conditions is key.
1000cc slides through corners). The difficulty level of each challenge varies from race to race and some put you pretty far back with a limited number of laps and/or a damaged bike.

Where SBK X really shines is its career mode. It offers a full racing experience that’s about as true to being a real professional as a video game can deliver. Most games simulate what it's like to run the team, while some let you make your racer and just race with a few bike mods here and there. Some go too far and end up more RPG than racer; while others don’t do quite enough and come off like arcade mode but with your name on the rider’s back. SBK X took the time to get it right by not only allowing players to create their own custom rider down to his face, height, weight and but even his riding style (do you go for the Spies “Elbowz” style, Biaggi's neutral Corsair style or the Baylisstic?). There’s an explanation of the styles to give you an idea of advantages and disadvantages of each style.

Players will start from the ground level and develop their racer from wet behind the ears newbie to a seasoned veteran racer all from the comfort of your home. No passport required!
Moving past creating your rider, it’s on to selecting a team and seeing what offers they’re going to give for the season (how long the contract is and where they would like to see you in the standings). When it comes to the racing you are given the opportunity to run through the various practices and qualifying. While in most games I’d skip these, there’s a lot to gain in SBK X by not skipping them. You can dial in the bike to get it just right to dominate the track and help you get that top spot. Just like a real race every track will be slightly different and weather conditions will vary from day to day. If you’re having trouble getting your bike to perform you can talk to the engineer and they’ll guide you through a variety of issues and apply changes to the bike. Time management is a key piece of the experience because the practices don’t last forever. If you have bike damage turned on, you’ll have to spend time repairing your bike if you crash it during practice, which easily eats up your testing time. A few races will even give you the opportunity to develop new technology for your team. Career mode offers multiple rider slots, so you can try a few different paths or even let a friend play his own career without messing up yours.

SBK X looks good and offers a wide variety of modes to keep casual and veteran riders entertained. Complaints are pretty minor and are mainly aimed at the music / menu noises; both of which can easily be turned off. Overall SBK X does a great job bringing the racing experience to us couch racers and at a very reasonable price point at $39.99 for PS3 / Xbox 360 and $29.99 for PC. Considering all that SBK X has to offer it should be a welcome addition to any motorcycle racer’s video game collection.
SBK X: Superbike World Championship (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC)
MSRP: $39.99 for Xbox 360 and PS3; $29.99 for PC
ESRB Rating: Everyone
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