IIt’s fair to say that there is no shortage of quality racing games on the market today. games like Forza Horizon or NETWORK bring a more arcadey driving ecosystem, while games like Codemasters are venerable F1 Series tend more towards simulation, both in driving and in structure. The world of superbike racing games is a bit more sparse, and developer Milestone is at the forefront of bike games across series HORSE RIDING and MotoGP. For the Superbike World Championship SBK 22 takes a more simulation-oriented approach and lets you race with the real drivers and on some of the real tracks in the sport. Often though SBK 22 doesn’t strike the right balance between simulation and fun. While it’s satisfying to hit a corner perfectly or overtake an annoying rival, it’s just as frustrating due to its steep learning curve and lack of modes. For fans of sports, SBK 22 will give you what you’re looking for, but beyond that it doesn’t hold its weight in a genre filled with stronger competitors.
SBK 22 is another motorcycle racing contribution from Milestone, reviving a SBK Series that has been dormant for almost a decade since 2012 SBK generations. However, Milestone continued to be busy with its other cycle racing series, and SBK 22 sometimes feels like just another entry without too much differentiation. sure, SBK 22 is the official game of the Superbike World Championship, just like that F1 Playing gives you access to all of the sport’s greatest drivers and many of its tracks, and the main mode is a career mode that allows you to manage your own team going into the championship.
“For fans of the sport, SBK 22 will give you what you’re looking for, but beyond that it doesn’t hold its weight in a genre filled with stronger competitors.”
The career mode actually takes a lot of inspiration from F1‘s career mode in many ways. You are responsible for managing your team, controlling every aspect off the track, from research and development to team member contracts, team colors and designs. In fact, there really isn’t much here that isn’t ripped from F1, even down to the user interface, but unfortunately much less deep than its counterpart. Within R&D there aren’t too many upgrade decisions to be made as there is a clearly linear path within each department and the contracts themselves usually boil down to choosing between two or three options that offer contrasting risk and reward variations. There’s also very little storyline or continuity, so it’s less of a career story and more of a traditional franchise mode.
On the racetrack, however, things get a little more interesting. Each race weekend can have up to 8 sessions, including multiple practice laps alongside the Tissot Superpole and the races themselves. These are designed to help you get to know the tracks in detail, just like the real drivers do. You can change your rider’s bike stance and, to a certain extent, choose how much of your bike you want to control, as well as customize tire types and the amount of fuel put into the bike. All of this will help you improve your driving skills slightly, but the most important thing is the ability to successfully navigate the track. Turning is an art of speed, angle and weight distribution, and knowing where each turn is, how to approach it, and how to exit it is essential to any success in any race. It really doesn’t get old seeing your driver seemingly parallel the ground to successfully take a tight turn.
“Turning is an art of speed, angle and weight distribution, and knowing where each turn is, how to approach it and how to exit it is vital to success in any race. It really doesn’t get old to see your driver seemingly parallel the ground to successfully take a tight turn.
Unfortunately, getting to this point becomes less of a learning exercise and more of a frustrating drudgery. Making tight and accurate turns is one of the most important aspects of the sport, and the game does very little to help you get better at it. It’s certainly possible to play through each track dozens of times to memorize each segment, but the time it takes is far too long to appreciate how tedious the task can become. Until you’re a master of the craft, you’ll probably use some form of driver assistance, but they’re woefully unhelpful. The camera angle has an awkward habit of masking upcoming turns, and the automatic braking and ideal trajectory lines are far from perfect. It took me hours of banging my teeth, falling repeatedly, and frequently finishing last to notice even a hint of improvement, and there’s very little support the game will offer you. I was constantly using the rewind function, which made each round more of a guessing game than a game of skill. Two-minute rounds usually doubled when you factored in rewind time, and once I started finding more success, it was more of a sense of relief than satisfaction.
You’ll definitely get a better feel for each track over time, but really only because there’s not much to learn. There are only 12 tracks and after a while they start to mix as they all look and feel the same for the most part, with a few twists here and there. The tracks themselves are certainly beautiful alongside the rest of the game. There is some great lighting on the track that changes depending on the time of day and the weather, although this also sometimes affects your view of the track. The bikes themselves sound fantastic too, and Milestone has certainly made the most of their recent work on the physics. Your ability to convert changes based on your speed and trajectory into a turn, allowing you to focus on finding the sweet spot between accelerating into a turn and making sure you don’t fall, although the falls can be entertaining .
“You definitely get a better feel for each track over time, but really only because there isn’t much to learn. There are only 12 tracks and after a while they start to mix as they all mostly look and feel the same with a few twists here and there.”
I spent most of my time in SBK 22 in career mode, mostly because there’s not much else to see. During my review time, there was no access to SBK 22‘s multiplayer modes, although these appear like your standard online races and championships. Other than that, the only other game mode is the standard Quick Race Exhibitions. It’s a surprisingly small catalog of modes for a game that looks like it might stall some other ways of playing. The career mode itself isn’t exactly superficial, nor would I recommend putting your time into another mode, but it quickly gets to a point where you’ve seen everything the game has to offer.
SBK 22 is an interesting return for a franchise that’s been gone for so many years, as it seems to combine the gameplay of Milestone’s other motorcycle racing games with the simulation focus and structure of other racers on the market, particularly the F1 Series. Unfortunately, this sets everything SBK 22 in a strange, unbaked place. The lack of content outside of the mediocre career mode means there isn’t much content to see. Its gameplay is very rewarding in very specific moments of success, but the time to get there can be frustratingly long and slow. It’s a beautiful game and one that’s a lot more fun when you’re that much better, but for those who aren’t superfans of the sport, there are other games on the market that might better suit your tastes without the same learning curve and boredom. It’s not a bad game by any means, but the lack of in-depth content and steep learning curve make it difficult to recommend to the casual racing fan.
This game has been reviewed on the PlayStation 5.