Officially announced last June, SBK 22 has recently become available and is bringing the WorldSBK championship back to the gaming world. The Milestone studio, at the origin of the title, marks at the same time a return to the sources. Long before taking care of the MotoGP license, the studio has indeed released no less than ten games on the Superbike championship. Ten years after the release of SBK Generations, we were eager to see if SBK 22 had any real qualities to show off, or if we would only be dealing with a MotoGP skin.
Back to basics
Building on its experience over the past few years as a key studio in the genre, Milestone has therefore set out to bring the SBK championship up to date. All the drivers, motorcycles, teams and circuits of the 2022 calendar are available in the game, allowing players to explore tracks like Donington, Estoril or even Laguna Seca.
In addition to the forces present, it is also the race format specific to Superbike which is faithfully offered. A weekend revolves around several very specific sessions.
If we find the classic free practice, the qualifications are done on the other hand via a superpole and a dedicated race in order to define our place on the starting grid; Two separate races ensue which differ from the F1 model followed by the MotoGP championship.
This format with three starts offers more tension in the game and the more condensed races require an increased investment of time and concentration. This is all the more true since the ANNA AI is also involved here. The races are therefore rather competitive, but we always regret that our opponents make few mistakes.
Unfortunately, out of the roster and out of this clean racing format, SBK 22 still feels pretty warm. From the menu to the different game modes, everything is almost identical to the latest MotoGP games. The career takes place in exactly the same conditions, with the management of the personnel and the development of the machine over the tests. Our performances make it possible to attract more prestigious teams, while it is also possible to create your own structure with the usual customization options.
If we easily understand that the MotoGP and SBK championships can work in the same way, we would still have appreciated that an additional effort in the staging as well as in certain specificities of the category was made.
A historical mode retracing in particular the great moments in the history of the SBK championship, like the NINE mode of MotoGP 22, for example, would have been welcome.
The multiplayer and its 22-player lounges will allow players to get away with it in good conditions. The game is cross-gen, which means that Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S players can play together seamlessly while enjoying gameplay that is accessible to as many people as possible.
The Superbike for all
In reality, the WorldSBK championship requires the use of production motorcycles, and not factory prototypes, as is the case in MotoGP, which inevitably has an impact on the riding. If MotoGP players will not be disoriented by the gameplay of SBK 22, there are nevertheless differences in the behavior of the motorcycles. In general, the machines seem a little lighter and less jittery. They are a little more permissive, and fans will surely be delighted to be able to play with more “accessible” motorcycles, which can be found on the market.
This more affordable aspect of the discipline could allow neophytes to find a game that is a little easier to learn, which also offers many tutorials in order to easily understand piloting techniques.
We generally find the same aids as in MotoGP 22, as well as the dynamic setting of electronics such as TCS and anti wheeling during races. Braking and overshooting always require dexterity while changing angles are easier to tackle. At the level of the feeling controller in hand, we regret once again that the Xbox controllers do not offer more precise vibrations, in particular to evaluate the grip. The most expert will still be able to enjoy a more demanding experience with the management of fuel consumption and tire wear during events.
Note, however, that the option to run and get back on the bike after a crash, introduced in MotoGP 21, is not available in SBK 22.
A cross-gen game at heart
Visually speaking, the game is not really surprising and here we find the touch specific to Milestone games. The circuits and their surroundings are quite empty, while the riders and motorcycles are neat. It generally lacks life and what we highlighted in our MotoGP 22 test is also valid for SBK. If the title runs at 60 FPS in a stable way on Xbox Series X, it’s time for the studio to move up a gear by offering games that take advantage of Unreal Engine 5 technologies.
This observation is generally the same for the sound environment which remains quite poor apart from the suitable sound of the motorcycles. There are a few additions here and there such as noise during contact or track exits, but it is now important for Milestone to review its requirements in terms of sound.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that the game is available at a reduced rate. Indeed, SBK 22 is sold for 39.99 €, well below the price of each new opus of the MotoGP license. This price placement is important since it may be able to attract players who are not necessarily connoisseurs of motorcycle sport, wanting to enjoy a complete game at a lower cost. On our side, we hope that this timid episode is only a first attempt before the return of more ambitious SBK games.
Tested on Xbox Series X.