Moto Racer 3 isn't quite as enjoyable or as polished as it could have been.
Released six years ago by Electronic Arts, the original Moto Racer capably blended the two distinct disciplines of superbike and motocross into one explosive package and proved to be one of the first truly satisfying PC motorcycle racing games ever produced. 1999's Moto Racer 2 offered numerous new perks and even more options, yet it failed to deliver an appreciably better ride at a time when motorcycle racing was really beginning to take off with the likes of Microsoft's Motocross Madness. Now, with Moto Racer 3, returning developer Delphine Software and new publisher Infogrames have upped the ante considerably by somehow squeezing almost every conceivable form of two-wheeled competition on a single disc. From speed-drenched blacktop racing to dirt-encrusted supercross and motocross, trick-crazy freestyle, painstaking trials, and even a certifiably suicidal "traffic" mode, the game seemingly covers all the bases. Unfortunately, it also feels awkward and incomplete. In attempting to be all things to all PC motorcycle enthusiasts, Moto Racer 3 isn't quite as enjoyable or as polished as it could have been.
The game's presentation is just as inconsistent. Its racing environments are clean and colorful with generous decaling, signage, track textures, and offtrack periphery. Its bikes are believable and nicely rounded where they should be, and the mounted riders move about in their seats to mimic their real-life counterparts. Smoke and mud pour from tortured tires, airplanes and blimps roam through the skies, and oddly out-of-place cheerleaders flaunt their pom-poms. Yet especially when compared with recent graphical showpieces like EA Sports' Superbike 2001, Moto Racer 3 seems all too average. Superbike's wonderfully realistic source-sensitive lighting is sorely missed, as is its intricate level of motorcycle detail. Riders in Moto Racer 3 do not gun the throttle or offer gloved fists to offending competitors, and machinery does not break apart or exhibit damage after a crash. Granted, precious few motorcycle games have ever represented their machines in less-than-showroom condition, yet the potential for carnage would definitely have been appreciated. In-game audio is only fair, with the highlight being the loud and whiny whirr of your own motor. Competitor engines do not scream with the anger they would on a real track, and mechanical and environmental effects are virtually nonexistent.
The first-person perspective comes complete with a reflective windscreen.
The most damaging graphical problem is the game's frame rate, which often chugged and sputtered on our Athlon XP 1600+/GeForce 2 test computer. Reducing the resolution from the preferred 1024x768 to 800x600 and removing antialiasing markedly improved the situation, although by doing so, we lost much of the clarity and graphic detail we would have otherwise enjoyed. And even then, the game slowed noticeably at the slightest hint of tire smoke and exhibited clipping in the speed mode.
Riding a Moto Racer 3 bike is, in a word, interesting. The only motorcycle game to offer such a diversity of disciplines, it demands that you learn how to control your mount through dirt and on pavement when entering and exiting jumps and while perched perilously on tiny obstacles. And clearly, some modes are superior to others. Speed mode, for example, is a high-velocity blast speckled with seemingly talented AI competitors who race smartly and go out of their way to avoid bumping incidents. Learning your way around the game's surprisingly intricate and effective garage facility is almost mandatory when you increase the difficulty level and opponent speed, yet there's no denying that this mode is generally geared toward arcade simplicity rather than simulation complexity. There's also no denying that a trio of tracks is far too few.
Wandering through the roadblocks and traffic of Paris is equally stimulating, although the streets are frightfully thin and the hurried motorists frightfully dim-witted. As a result, you may end up crashing so frequently that you may want to forever curb your city racing. Freestyle's big bag of tricks is intriguing not only for its serious aerial potential but also because it demonstrates just how realistically your bike's suspension system compresses and extends. Sadly, Delphine has positioned the default trick-producing keyboard hotkeys in such a manner that the really high-scoring stunts are inordinately difficult to perform without first growing 10-inch fingers. Thankfully, tricks can also be initiated through the joystick, although you wouldn't know it by checking the printed manual.
Moto Racer's supercross/motocross mode is a stomach-churning good time.
The trials segment, where you'll vainly attempt to balance and meticulously inch your bike over various obstacles, will more than likely seem like a curious sideshow to anyone who can't control their patience. Conversely, high-flying supercoss/motocross is a howl. Its assortment of venues is once again limited to three, but there's a lot of variety here nonetheless and enough challenge to force several additional trips to the game's exceedingly valuable garage. And certainly, you'd better learn the particulars of front-to-rear weight shifting if you ever plan to succeed over these wildly undulating circuits.
Moto Racer 3 successfully combines five extremely unique motorcycle disciplines into one convenient package and delivers a substantial helping of thrills and spills. However, it is not nearly as deep as it initially appears or as sophisticated as a third installment should be. Nor does it offer an online matchmaking service or dedicated server for multiplayer competition, relying instead on eight-player LAN and old-school Internet TCP/IP connections, whereby you must know your partner's locations beforehand. For these reasons, Moto Racer 3 may hold more appeal for motorcycle newcomers and younger audiences than seasoned veterans.