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MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology 3

MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology 3 crosses finish line to mass applause

This is one of those reviews where you can probably guess the ending. It doesn't require the detective skills of Jonathan Creek to work out we're going to like this a hell of a lot, seeing as the first MotoGP on Xbox is the greatest bike racer of all time. MotoGP 2 we liked a little less, partly because of its lack of new stuff and also thanks to tweaked bike handling that made it slightly tougher to control. So this one, the third one with loads of new stuff and re-tweaked handling, really ought to be just about perfect.

And it is! The big change here is the inclusion of countryside tracks alongside the regular MotoGP courses. Now you can race down real roads, flying over bumps and watching things like pretty windmills and magic castles scroll into view. The sensation of speed in the MotoGP series has always been fantastic - when you're hammering down a narrow cliff-side lane in MotoGP 3 it's even better.

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The game has everything from the real-world MotoGP series - all the licensed tracks, the bikes and names of the racers. That's great, but not particularly exciting - after all, that was all in MotoGP 2 as well. There are two real stars of MotoGP 3, the online racing and those oh-so-stunning Extreme courses.

These new tracks dump all over the old flat, featureless MotoGP courses and invigorate what could have been a very tired old sequel. With their imaginations running wild, the developers of MotoGP 3 have created 16 of these new 'Extreme' courses, based on what looks like our wildest dreams and taking in winding English lanes, the nightmarish speed of the German autobahn, and a load of fantasy courses lined by trees, quaint villages and all kinds of gorgeous scenery.

We don't know what technical stuff developer Climax is doing here, but whatever it is doing it's doing it better than anyone else. The new Extreme tracks are utterly beautiful. Hi-res, sharp, phenomenally smooth thanks to the 60-frames-a-second update and just... well, imagine a Burnout 3: Takedown level of graphics, only with more backgrounds, more detail and a greater viewing distance.

And, of course, you're getting the legendary, ultra-hardcore MotoGP handling to play with. If you're new to MotoGP you'll suffer miserably at first. This game isn't like other racers. You don't just turn around corners and you can't adjust your line as you're turning, thanks to the importance of banking into bends.

You have to plan ahead. You have to start turning and leaning before the corner, stylishly sweeping your bike from side to side through chicanes or, most likely if you've never played a MotoGP game before, trundling off to the side through gravel traps, losing all your speed, and backflipping over the handlebars in a life-threatening manner.

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MotoGP 3 further piles on the misery for newcomers - and experienced veterans of the last two games - by lumbering you with a rubbish, bottom-of-the-range old rustbucket of a motorbike when you first enter the main Career and Extreme sections. Yep, even us, with our hundreds and hundreds of hours of crushing victories on Xbox Live, struggled at first, thanks to the useless lump of a bike you start with that hardly brakes, turns or accelerates again once you've fallen off. It's a rubbish introduction to what's such an amazing game, but there you go.

Do well in a GP race or Extreme event and you're given a stingy five upgrade points, which make your awful beginner's bike ever-so-slightly and almost unnoticeably better. Do this a few times, though, and you start to see what a complete work of genius MotoGP 3 really is.

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