Milestone are no stranger to the world of two wheeled racing, developers of Moto GP 13 and a number of SBK games, they certainly have experience in the field. And now their latest game MXGP has arrived, and despite us having next to no knowledge of the Motocross scene, we have to say, it’s quite exceptional.
The first thing that will hit you with MXGP is the painfully catchy theme. It’s not a great song by any means, but it will burrow its way into your soul until you’re unable to get it out of your mind. A guitar rock theme that pretty much repeats the same beat over and over again, there’s no escape as it encompasses almost every menu. Once in race though, all music is left at the door and you’re down to the drone of the engine.
There’s a variety of modes on offer, Instant Race, Grand Prix, Championship, Time Attack and Multiplayer. The variety of single player time however will be spent in the Career Mode. Creating your own custom rider (mostly) you’ll have to fight your way up through the MX2 before hitting the grand heights of MX1. The whole career (in fact the entire menus) are presented well, with Career mode taking place inside an office you’re able to customise your riding gear, check e-mails and social media feeds and check to see if you’ve made the cover of the MXGP Magazine. Sadly the presentation doesn’t last into the actual racing.
Admittedly there’s not a lot you can do with what is essentially a dirt track, but the real graphical faux pas are the riders themselves. They appear to not have a single bone in their body. Pre and post-race scene celebrations are bizarre with arm joints bending in strange ways, and when crashes occur riders will just flop about on the floor. Ragdoll physics in the very worst sense. That’s probably our biggest disappointment, maybe games like Trials have done something to our brains, but when there’s a crash, we want to feel the impact. There’s none of that in MXGP, just a little tumble followed by a quick track reset a couple of seconds later. Your body even turning into a ghost as while your bike remains solid and can be hit by other riders, they’ll just pass through your lifeless body. But what it loses in the looks department, it makes up for in the gameplay.
Bikes are controlled with both sticks, so the left is for standard turning and the right is for leaning the rider, allowing for tighter turns. Turning too much however and you’re likely to go head over heels. The best part about this control scheme is the variations on how truly realistic you want it. The “base” default as it is known is the simplest to use, where accidents can happen, but it is generally more difficult to fall. As you change to more advanced handling models then you’ll need real skill to stay with the pack. It makes the game easy to pick up for newcomers, but also adding some depth for those who want the most serious of motocross simulations. It makes each race a delight to play.
There is also a very noticeable difference when moving up from MX2 to the MX1 class. While MX2 was no walk in the park, we definitely held our own in the higher difficulties. When taking to the track for the first MX1 event, a quick acceleration and we found ourselves pulling a wheelie by accident before flying backwards. It was almost like we were playing Trials HD again. Even by yourself there’s a lot of fun to be had with MXGP.
A major concern you could have with racing of the two wheeled variety is with the computer AI. When all it takes is a clip of the back wheel to send you flying, super aggressive AI could sap all the enjoyment out of it, turning the game into Road Rash minus the weapons. Good news then, as while you will no doubt be on the other end of an opponent’s bike, they don’t go out of their way to knock you off. Chances are, if you come off, it’ll be your own fault.
Unfortunately due to us getting the game early we couldn’t populate a full game, but that didn’t become necessary as even with only two other players the game populates the rest of the places with AI riders. The menus like the rest of the game are well presented and the game was incredibly smooth online allowing you to take on single races or create multi-round championships. Hopefully MXGP can attract a large enough audience because this is definitely one we hope to still be playing months down the line.
MXGP manages to balance the line between welcoming novices and challenging veterans. It may not be the prettiest game, but look beneath the surface and there’s a great single player and online experience waiting to be had.