Falling is a part of living. When you’re a toddler, you keep doing it until you get walking down pat. The same goes for riding a bike. It took me a while to learn both, not sure why. Funnily, I only started thinking about dabbling with motorcycles during last year’s holidays, and sure enough I fell a bunch of times before getting the hang of it, down to really bruising my hands, arms, legs, and feet when I crashed into a wall during a riding lesson.
In games, the feeling of falling is usually portrayed without a lot of consequence. Less realistic ones only take off a few seconds of your time when you mess up, and you don’t really are penalized for anything. When it gets down to trying to go for a more realistic vibe, though, things get a little dicier, even more when you’re trying to simulate something like riding a motorcycle realistically like the TT Isle of Man series.
TT Isle of Man 2 is the latest entry that takes place in the small island of Man, located between England and Ireland, but you’re still able to race in these other locations as well. Before playing this game, I had no prior experience with the series, so getting into it proved to be entertaining, given its reverential look at such a specific (and small) part of the world. All in all, the ambiance that’s built around Man makes TT 2 quite a unique experience, especially when instead of racing you decide to leisurely ride around.
The isle of Man is incredibly traditional when it comes to racing, with a 100+ history involving people racing around the island. The game itself does a good job in introducing you to that by giving you plenty of options to race, with a pretty involved career mode that has you starting out as a rookie that’s picked up by one of the local teams and scratching your way up to the top of the game. Like other similar racing games, TT 2 features a number of customization options for your ride that start with which team you end up going with, along with the make and model of the bike you’ll be riding.
It doesn’t all boil down to looks or performance. Depending on the team you settle up with, you’ll be required to fill in a number of objectives that serve as the measure of whether or not you can advance to a bigger league, as well as the unlocks you get along the way. Among these are perks that are earned as you race and can be activated before every event. The events are part of the calendar and have to be done in order for time to move, with some occurrences of overlapping events that vary in difficulty and rewards. When that happens, you have to pick which one you’d like to do and forgo the others.
The riding in TT 2 is the deciding factor whether or not you’re likely to enjoy it. At first, it feels very demanding, but thanks to a number of customization options for controls depending on the skill level you end up going for, your experience is likely to vary a lot. But even sticking with normal to easy can prove to be a challenge as the controls in this game don’t behave like most racers you might have played before. I came into this during a long on-and-off session I’ve been having with Grand Theft Auto V, and the two couldn’t be more different when it comes to handling bikes.
If you try to tear down and floor the accelerator as soon as you’re given control in any occasion, you’re bound to flip your bike and meet the pavement, just like real life. Regardless of the difficulty you go with, that’s a constant. The further you go down the realism options, the closer riding in the game comes to the complications of real life riding, down to having separate braking controls, gear shifting, and having to mind your weight distribution atop your ride.
Along with the control realism comes a decent graphical presentation that isn’t exactly a beauty to behold, but is serviceable. The landscape of the island and its neighboring countries is portrayed quite well all throughout the game, and the same goes for the various bike models that you’ll be riding on. I honestly could’ve done with more variety when it came for music and sound effects, but you take what you get when you’re barreling down the road at 300 km/h and can barely concentrate on keeping yourself from being scraped off with a shovel after wiping out.
All in all, I would have to say that playing Isle of Man 2 is unique enough of a time that you’re likely to want to come back to it from time to time. Falling and consequently failing is annoying as ever and is positively ennerving in this due to its adherence to realism, but it’s ultimately a rewarding experience. I for one would’ve loved to see even more of a dive into the mechanics of bike racing like Polyphony’s criminally underrated Tourist Trophy and its license trials and motorcycle minutia, but I believe that Isle of Man 2 has enough going on for it in its somewhat uncrowded genre that makes it worth checking out.