Release Date: Out Now!
Publisher: Black Bean Games
Bikes can be hard to get right in games. Much of bike riding comes from feeling the road beneath your wheels so you know when to use the throttle, or to touch the back brake. However, SBK is back to try to prove that bikes can indeed be done in games, and the result is a definite, if slight, improvement over last years outing.
The on-track improvements are not that obvious at first glance; while there is a slight graphics upgrade it’s hardly substantial with riders looking a tad more fluid in their movements and trackside detail is also slightly sharper, but most players will most likely never notice the differences. It seems as though the SBK has stalled on the graphical front. It’s certainly not a great looking game, instead the graphics merely suffice and do their job.
The bikes handling has also had a subtle upgrade; they now feel weightier during turns and handle with even greater realism, depending on which of the three simulation levels you choose. Like the graphical upgrade the handling improvements will most likely not be noticed by many players, but these minor tweaks have easily set SBK as the best game in the bike racing genre, though competition is hardly fierce.
SBK is also now greatly accessible to any level of player. The Arcade mode is gone and replaced by three levels of simulation with the lowest allowing anyone to pick up the controller and hammer around the track while still maintaning just enough realism to keep it feeling believable. Ramp it up the middle level and there is a brilliant balance between realism and driving aids allowing you the freedom to make minor mistakes without paying too heavy a price. The final level is for those after the full simulation, and it doesn’t disappoint; be too heavy-handed with the throttle and off you go. Try to hit the front brakes mid-corner and down you go. Still, for a good player there is still room to slide the bike and drive like a nutter. However, despite the different simulation levels being well-balanced, it’s disappointing to see that assists can no longer be turned off and on at will, taking away a considerable degree of customisation of how you want your handling to be. It’s a baffling decision on the developers part.
The games career mode is still the main meat of the game offering you a chance to progress through an eight year-long riding career which will see you start off in Superstock racing and work your way through Supersport before finally reaching the SBK level. At the beginning of your career you create your rider using disappointingly limited tools; you choose a riding style, face and helmet and then off you go. You can choose whether to take part in an entire race weekend or just the race itself if you wish, and during session you can chat to your engineer who’ll give you advice or, and this is a great feature, allow you to describe what you don’t like about the bike and then let him set it up. During races you gain Reputation points based on your performance such as your finishing position and riding style, and these points then determine your contract offers for new teams. Again, little has changed in the career mode, bar your little room and assistant being taken away. The big flaw is over an eight year career it can become rather tiresome as you complete race after race to get to the big bikes.
Still, career mode has a new rival with SBK 2011’s best new feature: SBK Tour. This new mode brings up a map of the world and allows you to pick a country to travel to, where you’ll then take part in a series of challenges such as completing a lap under a certain time while performing X amount of wheelies, or staying within ten feet of the racing line. This mode adds a new lease of life to the game as the objectives prove to be both entertaining and challenging, and also serves as training of a sort. It’s also a fairly substantial mode that will last you a good while.
If all the other content doesn’t get you then the Legends should. You can ride as some of the big names from the last decade such as Carl Foggerty and Troy Bayliss, as well as ride their beautiful bikes that took them to such legendary heights. You can relive classic battles or make your own on track. It’s thrilling stuff, and the developers have smartly allowed you to run entire championships using the Legends, though you can’t race them in the career mode due rule changes in modern SBK. You unlock these Legends and their machines by racing through the SBK Tour mode and there is a good number of them to be unlocked and played as.
While SBK 2011 may be more of the same it offers just enough changes and new features to keep things feeling fresh. The handling feels more natural, the online is still fun and the new SBK Tour offers some good challenge. SBK 2011 remains the best of the two-wheeled games.
+ Improved handling and physics
+ SBK Tour is a great addition.
+ Recreating those classic battles.
– Little in the way of graphical upgrade.
– Menus and general presentation feel outdated.
– No customisable assists.
Little improvement has been made over SBK X. Trackside detail is still lacking.
Little music is to be had here, but the bikes sound decent enough, though could do with a little more snarl.
The bikes handle incredibly well and feel natural. The new SBK Tour also adds some great variety.
Career mode and SBK Tour combined make for a sizable package and will last you a considerable time, plus the online modes.
SBK 2011 is a refinement rather than a revolution, but a refinement that ensures it remains the best of the bike racing games.