The PSP is such a hard handheld to love. On one hand it's got the power to deliver games that look head and shoulders above games on other handheld systems, but it doesn't have the modern control options to work in tandem with the games that are technically possible. The one genre that the system has no trouble with, though, is racing. Right from day one the system impressed with Ridge Racer and WipEout Pure, with the lack of two analogue sticks not being a significant problem when it comes to racing around a track. Namco obviously realised this and released MotoGP for the handheld, and although it's not a perfect portable game, it's another respectable racer that the PSP can add to its collection.
MotoGP for the PSP gives you the 2005 and 2006 season data, and lets you play in a number of game modes, the most important of which being the Season mode. Here you'll race through each round of the real MotoGP season, choosing whether to practice and enter qualification, and then race for points in the championship standings. The game itself is neither completely a simulation nor an arcade racer, but certainly isn't for casual players. It takes an awful lot of concentration to make sure you stay on the track, and while settings can be changed to ease the difficulty, it's never easy. There's a small amount of bike tweaking that can be done, but it's only for transmission, handling, acceleration and brakes.
Outside of the Season mode you can race on each track in the Arcade mode - successful races will unlock bonuses which can be viewed on the Rewards screen. A Time Trial mode is there for players who want to hone their skills on specific tracks, and is complete with a ghost rider option if you want to gradually chip off fractions of a second from your best time.
As is the case with the Ridge Racer games on the PSP, multiplayer is available, but it's just local wireless play, not online play. This is a disappointment as it seriously reduces your chances of ever finding anyone to play against, unless you happen to have some friends who are also interested in the game. Up to eight players are supported, and it would have been great to offer at least a cut down version of the game to play with the PSP's Game Share feature, but it's sadly not an option.
On the track the visuals are a clear downgrade from the series on the PlayStation 2, but they're certainly comparable and things move at a nice smooth frame rate even when the screen if full with other riders. The music seems to be the typical selection of rock tunes, but it's fairly inoffensive and fades into the background of your mind when you're concentrating hard on every corner. Load times aren't too bad either, although they are disguised somewhat by a race information screen that can't be skipped.
MotoGP is a real no frills game for the PSP, but it offers a solid racing experience and is different to the majority of racing games available for the system. It's technically impressive and offers plenty of stats to track and bonuses to unlock, and multiplayer is there if you can find anyone to play with. It's certainly a game that PSP-owning bike racing fans should consider adding to their collection.