Fabrizio Vagliasindi, Black Bean Games’ strategic marketing coordinator, is clearly a man well-versed in the etiquette of addressing a crowd. During last Tuesday’s presentation in Soho, to exhibit the upcoming SBK X: World Championship, Vagliasindi was the embodiment of impassioned poise. He spoke about how the game had basically been four years in the making, with everyone on the team entirely dedicated to ensuring that it was nothing less than the definitive title of its kind. The title SBK 2010 (as everyone was expecting it to be called) has been scrapped in favour of the decidedly authoritative SBK X.
For all the relaxed and unrehearsed air of cool that he exudes, Vagliasindi can’t contain his excitement when he lets us in on one fact in particular – that they have secured the involvement of powerhouse experimental rock outfit Biffy Clyro for the soundtrack. Their song “Mountains” will play during the game (as will that ‘That Golden Rule’) and the former track is going to be used heavily in all upcoming promotional material. This is part of a collaboration between Black Bean and Warner Music, and although Vagliasindi is clearly a huge personal fan of the Scottish rockers, it does make for a perfect stylistic fit.
Shortly after the presentation, and the game’s latest official trailer airs on a massive screen. Accompanied by the aforementioned Biffy Clyro track, the trailer does something that normally equates to a sizable mistake – it mixes real-world video footage in with gameplay – and yet it works brilliantly. Nobody is ever likely to confuse the in-game stuff with the stock footage, but the energized way in which the footage is edited together, in conjunction with the music and what appears to be a peerless attention to in-game detail, has the desired effect on absolutely everyone. If thought bubbles were visible over the heads of the people in the audience, they’d all say exactly the same thing: I want a go.
The first person to have a go (on that same large screen) was Fabrizio Vagliasindi himself, closely followed in a two-man mini-tournament by Lancashire legend Carl Fogarty, who is still the most successful World Superbike racer in the history of the sport; the announcement of his presence served to create a palpable buzz and impromptu round of applause. Fogarty’s involvement has been “a dream” for as long as the SBK series has existed, and he’ll form part of the game’s Legendary Roster, which is available to all those who buy the game’s snazzy Special Edition, and to everyone else (as DLC) from mid-June.
Fogarty is taken pretty definitively to school in the tournament, as is to be expected from someone who possibly hadn’t ever played the game before (he ends up doing donuts on the tarmac in protest and demanding a rematch on Burnout Paradise) but his constant amazement at it is infectious. “The detail is fantastic,” he remarks at one point, spurring Vagliasindi on to talking in-depth about the game’s intriguing “Evolving Track” physics. During the final sprint to the finish line, Fogarty remarks that the sound is absolutely incredible, and numerous heads nod in agreement. It is.
Our hands-on time with the game revealed that SBK X is not really one game at all, but two. One of the very first menus asks you to decide between three options – Arcade, Simulation or Xbox Live. Arcade is a slightly simplified gateway drug to its sister mode; fluid and easy to pick up, with on-track pointers and reasonably forgiving AI, it makes for a refined and deeply entertaining ride. But Simulation is a completely, entirely different proposition altogether, and appears to be (by far) the game’s single biggest trump card.
In Simulation mode everything is customizable (from suspension, to gears, to chain adjustment), the control scheme pitch-perfect (with, as with everything else, an emphasis on the realism) and much more fiendish AI. It is also absurdly rewarding, and as we snuck our way into first position during the final stretch of a three-lap race, it proved difficult to avoid thrusting a fist into the air. The aforementioned “Evolving Track” dynamic, where the track becomes riddled with rubber and debris as the race progresses, works faultlessly to escalate the degree of challenge on offer.
You can manage every facet of your 8-year career from a chilled-out office environment, 16 players can compete together online, and a Team Championship mode, in which you and your friends can come together to take on other teams, is massively promising. The sheer wealth of content frankly beggars belief, and Black Bean’s goal, to create the only Superbike game you’ll ever need, looks very much like it may about to come to sparkling fruition.
Watch the SBK X Superbike World Championship trailer here…