It's like this with motorcycles: The sight of them makes your heart leap within you, and the act of riding them transfixes your very soul with a joy so keen that you feel filled with an angelic living light. Or, alternately, your friend's uncle Ernie died on one and you think they should be illegal. They're that kind of thing.
Well, the folks at Polyphony Digital think Uncle Ernie was an idiot who should have worn a helmet and was probably drunk. They're the folks who made Tourist Trophy, which is both a motorcycle-racing simulator and a love song to the road-going sport bike by the people who made Gran Turismo, the most beautiful, full-featured, and some say best, auto-racing title out there. There are 100-plus motorcycles to unlock as you progress through this game, and they all handle, accelerate, and brake differently, which is a tough programming act to pull off. Commendable as that is, there's a lot of mileage on this game's engine already. It might have been re-tuned for two-wheeled use, but it's still Gran Turismo where the tracks, the menus, and even the bad jazz music is concerned. Does that ruin the game? Absolutely not, if you love motorcycles. This is the best and most realistic two-wheeled racing on the PS2.
Beyond the game: Want to do it in real life? Don't be like Uncle Ernie: Do it right and contact the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (msf-usa.org) for an introductory class near you. Want to sit safe at home and watch others doing it right? Netflix Faster, a documentary about Gran Prix motorcycle racing, and one of the best sports films ever made.
Worth playing for: The high-quality, high-gloss racing from the classic Gran Turismo series, but with the added dynamic of two-wheeled heroism. And there are no dumb-ass rolling-Wurlitzer cruisers in this game!
Frustration sets in when: You get the decade-old racetracks and progression system from the venerable Gran Turismo series, just on two wheels. Plus there are goddamn scooters in this game!
Final judgment: Lovely, well-executed, and extremely polished motorcycles, racing through rather familiar territory.