What Ferrari is to cars, Ducati is to motorcycles. The legendary Italian motorcycle manufacturer celebrates its 90th anniversary of its founding this year. To celebrate, the Italian marque joined forces with Italian racing game developer Milestone to produce a motorcycle racing game that explores the history of Ducati through some of it famous models through the years.
If you’ve played Ride, which we reviewed on the blog, you would be very familiar with the game. The core of the game is Ride. It’s like a standalone expansion to Ride featuring over three-dozen Ducati models from the last 60 years of Ducati bike production (Ducati started life as an electronics component manufacturer). For example, most of the graphics and mechanics of Ride carryover to Ducati – 90th Anniversary along with most of the tracks with the addition of Misano.
The majority of your gameplay will be in the Historic Tour mode. This progresses you from one decade to the next from the 1950s to the 2000s with unlocking Ducati’s more recent racing machines as the final stage of the tour. You progress between decades by earning trophies (through podium finishes or completing challenges) which will unlock the next decade and the associated bikes.
There is an interesting and likely unintended challenge with this game and format. Because Milestone has only 39 bikes and they’re divided between decades and categories inside them, you have a lot of one or two-model races. The AI tends to be pretty competitive with itself so your first race in Historic Tour is a pack of 16 single-cylinder bikes that looks more like the Daytona 500 than a motorcycle race on a road course. It makes things exciting because you can vault to the front of the pack or fall to the back with a single move. Of course, the latter is more likely to happen because a pack that tight often badly punishes a mistake.
A funny little deletion from Ride that exacerbates this pack racing problem is the complete lack of customization in the game. There are only a handful of bikes with colour options and even then you might have two or three colours to choose from. There are no bike upgrades in the game. The riders all wear the same gear. What you’re left with is a series of races where clones will run identical bikes in a sixteen-strong pack. I wonder if this was a licensing condition because it makes no sense to have all sorts of customization options in the base game and drop them for this game.
I should mention that there have been some improvements to what we’re used to from Ride. The AI is much more balanced so that medium AI aren’t leaving you in the dust. Medium is a pretty decent challenge now, if a bit on the easy side. The loading times have been reduced immensely from Ride so that you don’t have time to read the informational blurb about your bike. Considering that I could make and eat a sandwich during Ride’s load screens, I’ll take this. And I think that the textures have been cleaned up a bit. We’re not talking about current-gen quality graphics but they’re an improvement on Ride’s last-gen graphics. That being said, Ride 2 is coming soon and I would expect a bigger jump than AI, textures and load times when that’s launched.
There are the usual issues with a Milestone game. I’m just going to copy and past the part about online multiplayer from the Ride review because nothing’s changed:
Notice that I’ve gone all this way without mentioning the online portion of the game. As per usual with Milestone, they’re doing their own thing rather than doing online multiplayer through Steam. There’s nobody playing online because nobody wants to register through Milestone. Run multiplayer through Steam! It shouldn’t be that hard.
I could also copy and paste the part about the music being somewhere between effectively non-existent and nothing to write home about and the bike audio being muffled and underwhelming. Milestone’s rewind system continues to be annoying because that any time you rewind, you can’t rewind again until the rewind video (for lack of a better descriptor) completely fills up again which differs from every other rewind system which doesn’t need 10 seconds of buffering to be used. The classic Milestone launcher is used rather than in-game graphics changes which is the least of their issues with graphics. The framerate is more consistent than Ride but it is prone to random stuttering/lagging and moving the camera perspective can cause a massive instant framerate drop.
If I can be perfectly blunt, this could have been DLC for Ride. This probably should have been DLC for Ride. Stacking Ducati’s best and most historic models against the rest of the world would have been fun, especially if they could have added a Ducati vs. The World game mode separate of World Tour in Ride. There’s nothing wrong with the game as is but there would be a lot more value for money if we could have played on more tracks and against more varied opponents. Granted, if Milestone had branded this with Ride and as a standalone expansion rather than as a new game or a “spin-off,” it would be going over a lot better with fans.
Despite my criticisms, Ducati – 90th Anniversary isn’t a bad game. It might be a little lazy and hurt from bad branding but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game. It’s perfectly competent at its core but they’ve stripped a lot away from it by simplifying progression and eliminating customization. It’s like your typical EA Sports game that loses all of its features when it jumps to the next console generation.
If you already have Ride, you really don’t gain anything by also buying Ducati – 90th Anniversary unless you’re a massive Ducati fan. If you don’t have Ride and want a decent motorcycle racing game, it’s not too bad value for money. D90’s biggest issue is that it suffers from the comparison to Ride. Hopefully Ride 2 compares favourably.
Ducati – 90th Anniversary was reviewed on PC but is also available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Review code for the game was provided by Square Enix (North American publisher for this game). Your impressions of the game may differ based on platform played on, PC specs and whether one manufacturer is enough to base a racing game on.