Review: G1 Jockey
Posted 17 Jul 2007 at 19:39 by Flameboy
|"You'd be hard pressed to find a more detailed representation of a real life sport."|
So chances are if you've clicked onto this review you at least half intrigued in how the world of horse racing translates into videogame form. If you're expecting something akin to the Wii Play cow racing game then perhaps this isn't going to be quite your thing: if, however, you are looking for an incredibly in-depth game with plenty to offer then saddle up and get ready to start racing a fair few furlongs.
G1 Jockey has been a consistently good seller for the past few years on PS2 and Koei will be hoping they can continue this with this version. Of course with the Wii however comes a fresh chance to make that horse riding experience even more authentic.
So let's start with how the Wiimote works. The game is pretty flexible, with three different control schemes; simple, standard and advanced. Simple, unsurprisingly, simply maps the conventional controls across both the nunchuk and remote. Standard is half way between the two others, it uses the remote for whipping your steed but keeps horse controls to the analogue stick. For serious players the only real choice is Advanced which helps the game to live up to the box's claims that you use the remote as your whip and the nunchuk as your reigns. Control of the whip is again on the remote and movement of the horse is assigned to the nunchuk's tilt sensors, shifts to the left and right will cause your horse to move in these directions, tilting forward will cause the horse to push forward and increase speed whilst pulling back will slow them down. It all feels very natural and in Advanced mode buttons presses are kept to a minimum helping to really immerse you in the racing experience. It works perfectly... almost.
There are some slight problems when it comes to carrying out jumps over hedges, requiring you to arc the nunchuk backwards, avoiding tilting with decelerates your horse. Sometimes you find yourself not having a clue quite how far to arc it back, as it can alter from horse to horse and even depends on the height of the jump. This results in some jumps being taken very slowly, costing crucial seconds in the race for first place.
The graphics are passable at best, though with this being a simulator it could perhaps be forgiven. The race view is set from behind the jockey with the horse only viewable from the legs up, the view can be rotated to a number of different views, but annoying actions such as whipping can't be carried out in these alternative views. The jockey models are pretty basic with generic faces and helmets, but jerseys can be customized to any kind of garish pattern. The replays seem to give everything a bit of extra gloss and can be enjoyable to watch, especially if it was a close race. The animation is something that is hard to grasp in the replays, though: all the jockeys and their horses have exactly the same animation routines. When a horse is worn out, rather than it stumbling the standard animation is simply slowed down. A bit of variety wouldn't have gone amiss here, as each horse, despite having different stride patterns, all seem to gallop exactly the same.
One place where this game really falls at the first hurdle is in the presentation. This game has been obviously ported from the Playstation 2 version and despite the overhaul the racing has seen, sadly the same cannot be said for the menus or the story telling mechanics. Wii owners have become accustomed to having pointer based menu systems, but not with G1 Jockey: navigation is achieved with the D-Pad despite the game using a hand shaped point that looks surprisingly like the Wii's own. A sports game isn't the kind of game one would expect to have an in depth story line. The fact that the story is delivered via 2D people cut outs doesn't help matters. Within about 10 minutes of starting the game you find yourself introduced to ten 2D cut outs, none of who anyone will find they care about. The plot revolves around yourself and three other recently graduated jockeys, after seeing a graduation ceremony (do you have to go to university to be a jockey?) the four of you are set about taking the racing world by storm. There are more twists and turns in the plot than in an episode of Lost but there is never any real connection made or empathy with the characters.
The sound leaves you feeling like a teacher has scratched their nails on the blackboard, wiith the music painfully repetitive and the horse racing sounding like the developers got their children to sit clopping together two coconut shells. Couple this with the awful Euro Trance music that accompanies every race and you'll find yourself scrabbling for the mute button. The music doesn't get any better when navigating the game's many menus: perhaps listening to a CD or the radio is best with this game you really won't be missing out on much.
This game has legs, without a doubt. To start with, a huge initial target of thirty wins is set just to win an award for the best amateur newcomer. With numerous cups to compete for and 20+ stables and hundreds of horses to potentially to ride, you can expect to have to play at least several seasons before being able to compete for the top races. This could take anything up to 50+ hours and even when your done winning all the trophies and have completed the story you can still continue trying to win every race, with some race meetings not even offered to you every season. Getting the complete win record will certainly take some time.
The huge number of trophies and awards available to win is also matched by the incredible number of stats that the game stores. Not only does it store your own win ratios for not only your career but also for every single horse and jockey in the game, once a horse has retired it even keeps them on record. The only title that resembles such a large number of stats being tracked is Football Manager which has been notoriously hard to transfer onto consoles owing to its huge memory and storage requirements to keep everything running, so to get this running is an achievement that deserves mentioning.
The game is very much in the vein of a simulation: it will take practice to win races once you hit the race meeting for real. Not only will you have to learn all manner of jargon such as boxed, rear, left lead, right lead, fade (the list goes on) but also how your horse prefers to race. Some horses are better leading, others are better at finishing, some have more stamina: it can initially be hard to work out how to race certain horses and this can be harder by the fact that at the beginning you are constantly shifted from one horse to another by the stables. You are even sometimes given horses that the stable manager knows has no chance of winning and they will delighted with an average final standing, annoyingly though this does little to help your win/loss ratio. This problem however is soon alleviated when the opportunity arises to rear your own horse. This horse can be breed and trained into any style of racehorse you desire through picking out its parents from a bewildering list to the type of training you put it through.
You'd be hard pressed to find a more detailed representation of a real life sport, so if horse racing is your thing then you really are going to be in luck with this. For everyone else this game could be the single most boring game idea ever, but there is something oddly compelling about taking to the track. If you're looking for something to while away the hours then not many games will offer quite as high a gaming time to money ratio. Who knows, maybe the knowledge picked up playing this game will help make a visit to the bookies a winning one for a change?
N-Europe Final Verdict
Competent, but not one for newcomers. Then again, you probably already knew that.
Most in depth sports title on Wii
Innovative motion controls
One of the longest Wii titles out there
It's horse racing...
Yawn inducing story
Steep learning curve