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Superbike 2000

When Electronic Arts released Superbike World Championship last year, motorcycle racing fans were the beneficiaries of an instant classic. Created for EA by Italy-based developer Milestone, World Championship was a true labor of love that set a new high-water mark for motorcycle racing games. Despite the sim's remarkable quality and gameplay depth, it was received with deafening silence in North America, where it managed to sell only a paltry 7,700 copies. Hoping to reverse the game's disastrous start, EA Sports and Milestone have reinvented the two-wheel racing sim with Superbike 2000, the second chapter in this extraordinary bike racing series. Featuring some of the most incredible graphics of any racing game, an amazing variety of options, and impressive AI, Superbike 2000 could be one of the best games on the track. Unfortunately, it's hampered by some questionable control, which takes the punch out of this contender.

Extreme Eye Candy

At first glance, SBK 2000 is an absolute stunner. Supporting resolutions as high as 1,280 by 1,024, the game's Direct3D-enhanced track, bike, and rider visuals are easily the most exquisite that I've ever seen in a PC racer. Thirteen licensed international circuits from the 1999 Superbike season are featured in the game, and each of them has been re-created in exhausting detail, redefining photorealism. Enhanced with real-time lighting, shading, and weather effects, venues such as Laguna Seca, Monza, and Hockenheim are so perfectly rendered in SBK 2000 that I felt I was watching a high-definition television broadcast at times. A feature-rich, VCR-style replay screen is also included to let you review each race from a number of different camera angles.

The individual bike treatments are equally impressive. Four 750cc machines from Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki, as well as a 996cc Ducati and a 997cc Aprilia have been faithfully and painstakingly drawn right down to its fully animated suspension movements. The riders are also gorgeously rendered. Twenty real-world Superbike personalities appear in SBK 2000, including reigning champ Carl Fogarty and Americans Eric and Ben Bostrom. Every conceivable rider movement, from hand throttle operation to spectacular tumbling routines following wipeouts, is beautifully choreographed and thoroughly convincing. Motion-capture technology simply doesn't get any better than this.

Physical Handicaps

Unfortunately, these impressive rider wipeouts are sights that you will witness far too often if you crank up the game's realism options too high. Perhaps in an effort to provide more challenge with SBK 2000 than was offered in the original sim (which, admittedly, wasn't terribly difficult to beat), Milestone has created a monstrously difficult riding model that is a little too challenging. I found that with all of the rider aids disabled, the bikes were all but uncontrollable because of curiously unfriendly physics that constantly conspired to yank the bike out from underneath me.

 

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