As far as sporting gaming titles go, it’s little surprise that horse racing has been down at the bottom of the "to do" list. Yet thanks to some fantastic customer support in the Far East, the G1 Jockey series has managed to go from strength to strength, ultimately bringing this first in the series on the latest batch of consoles.
Essentially G1 Jockey Wii 2008 is set out like almost any other sporting title containing a career option. Your aim is to not only race your way to victory and become a horse racing legend, but train your thoroughbreds between races too.
The included career mode is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. The usual options appear first of all, allowing you to set your name, sex, appearance (which mysteriously still allows you to select a female look despite choosing the male sex in the previous option), the affiliate that you’ll be racing for, and design the colours that you’ll sport on the track.
So far, so very usual. The story goes that you’ve been eager to become a jockey for years, and you’re just coming to the end of "horse racing school". What proceeds is the kind of simplistic basic story that simply goes on far too long. It’s all incredibly tedious, and it’ll only take you a few minutes before you begin skim reading.
What is most annoying however is the chosen musical stylings. Here we have the kind of tunes that you’d expect to hear during Oprah during the early- to mid-90s. Incredibly irritating after 30 seconds, and certainly not the kind of stuff to gee you up for a hectic time on the track.
Thankfully it’s not long before you’re given four trial races. Now you can concentrate on pure unadulterated racing, and the game does start to pick up. As soon as the gates open, your strategic mind needs to be completely focused on the dials at the bottom of the screen, all while making sure you’re not about to crash into one of the other racers and tumble off your stallion. It certainly gets the blood pumping during the latter stages of a race. Real adrenaline filled gameplay.
The middle circle shows what kind of state your horse is in. Keeping it in the green is optimum until the closing stages, giving your horse the greatest level of confidence leading into the final rush for the finishing post. To the left and right are the stamina levels for each leading leg.
There are various control methods to choose from, with the "Advanced" option the one most will wish to use. After tilting the Nunchuk forward to burst out of the gates it all starts to get a little complex. Bouncing the Nunchuk forward in time with the horse (and vibration of the Remote handily enough) will push your horse on, making them go faster, but using up more stamina and potentially pushing them so hard that they’ll start to lose confidence. Thankfully it only takes a swift tilt backwards of the Nunchuk to slow your stallion down.
Now if all that sounds a little complex to start with - and it certainly is in practice - you still need to think about steering, changing your lead leg, and the various whipping and driving techniques. Which, in all honesty will cause even the most experienced of gamers to find themselves struggling at the hectic points in their first few races.
The big selling point however is the Wii Balance Board functionality. Now instead of tilting the Nunchuk forward to drive, you need to rapidly bend and straighten your knees in order to go forward. To jump you need to jerkily straighten your legs to initiate your horse upwards, and turning involves shifting your weight to your left and right legs.
All this is fun, but incredibly tiring. A few races is all you’ll last before you head back to the standard Remote and Nunchuk controls. If you’re eager for a workout then it’s certainly a true test of your stamina, but expect to struggle during the longer races thanks to the constant movement combined with the tactical thought you’ll consistently need.
Unfortunately the graphics aren’t any better than the previous PS2 iterations. The textures in particular are horrifyingly lacking in detail. And the less said about the terrible “falling off” viewpoint when you bump into another horse the better.
G1 Jockey 2008 is actually quite a lot of fun. The racing, though complex, can be incredibly exciting particularly when you win by a nose at the last. And the career mode is lengthy and depth filled enough to keep you hooked for as long as you wish.
It’s just a shame that the poor graphics, dull story, terrible music, and overly complex control system (the included basic system sucks all the fun out of racing) conspire to drag this one right back down into the doldrums. Give it a try, but don’t expect too much.