MXGP is a frustrating package – for everything it does right, it does something else wrong. It’s a game that will make you shake your head at the developers over at Milestone, because the foundation is there, and it’s good, yet they ultimately fail to deliver.
What Milestone have tried to create in MXGP is an authentic and realistic simulation of motocross. The game lets you play in the way that you want, featuring 3 different physics options, you’ll be able to choose whether you want the most realistic gameplay experience (Pro), a more basic experience (Base), or something in the middle of those two (Medium).
Starting my first race up on the most basic of the settings, I set out to beat my opponents, crashing at every turn, flying off the track, and probably killing my own rider several times over the course of the first lap. This was the moment I realized that this wasn’t just the kind of game you pick up and play.
And so, defeated, I consulted the tutorial videos. At first, I found them standard fare, however as I gradually improved in the game over the hours that I played, and as I upped the difficulty and the physics settings, I came to realize that the tutorial system is quite lacking.
Motocross technique is actually quite complicated. Playing other racing games like Forza Motorsport/Gran Turismo, you could do alright by just making sure your steering, braking, and acceleration is sharp and precise, however in MXGP, you’ll find yourself shifting the weight of the rider while also steering the motorcycle, all the while making sure your rider lands properly from jumps (all of which are somewhat unique, leaving you to calculate the kind of jumping style that won’t send you headfirst into the mud).
The tutorial videos only cover the basics of the game, not going into enough detail to be valid at the higher levels of realism, leaving you somewhat stranded in your quest for improvement. This is a big dent in the machine, as simulators that strive to be realistic also need to teach the playerbase how to play, especially the part of that playerbase that isn’t very familiar with the field it tackles. Those that have never watched/practiced motocross would definitely find themselves frustrated and broken on the higher levels of physics, simply not knowing what they were doing wrong.
Starting off on the Base setting, it only took a race or two to get a grip on the terrain and leave my rivals to follow my tracks in the mud. As I played more, I upped the difficulty levels and the physics, and once again, I found myself challenged. I never quite reached the Pro level, where you’ll have to manually change gears etc, but the physics system of MXGP is definitely one of its strong sides. And while it can be hard to find the sweetspot on the Medium and Pro settings, rounding a corner perfectly or pulling off a sweet jump is a very satisfying experience.
The visuals really aren’t anything to call home about. For a simulator, they are quite unimpressive, and the lighting is downright shoddy. For a game that strives to be realistic and true to the real world equivalent, it disappoints in every aspect of the visual department, and looks dated. The graphics options on the PC version are as poor as the visuals themselves, featuring very limited settings to tamper with. On a platform where customization is key, this really isn’t good, though I’ve seen worse setting menus (Though those have usually come from “My First Indie Game” projects that somehow got through Steam Greenlight)
MXGP features lots of real-life riders and 1:1 scale real-world tracks, of which there are 14. This is obviously something that any fan of the sport will greatly appreciate. All the tracks feel unique from each other, though one can’t say the same about the riders, as they offer little else than competition or a superficial appearance change.
Another thing that MXGP can really improve upon is its selection of modes. You’ve got the Instant Race (which is exactly what it sounds like), The Grand Prix (which is also exactly what it sounds like), Championship (you know the drill), Career Mode, Time Attack, and its multiplayer component. A completely standard and deflated selection, which left me somewhat bored after the Career mode outstayed its welcome.
The career mode fiddles around with some decent ideas, but the overall execution of these are lacking. You’ll be going from race to race, beating rider challenges (A random rider will challenge you before the race, and it’ll be your extra objective to beat the guy), progressing through the world of motocross. The races are enjoyable enough, since the gameplay is quite decent, however the career is, frankly, just not very interesting, and I found myself looking elsewhere for entertainment after a couple of hours (which was more than enough).
The whole presentation is just a bit dull. It’s a shame, because the gameplay is quite exciting once you get into the higher levels of difficulty and you find a match for your ability.
The online component had some of the excitement and fun which the career was missing. You and 11 other riders (most of which will try to deliberately make you crash, because victory is sweeter than mud, apparently) will battle it out in the trenches, while the leaderboards keeps track of your failures!
And you’re going to have some failures, because the online crowd has gotten quite good at MXGP, and my modest skillset was not anywhere near a match for most of my competition, leaving me with mediocre results. So be prepared for a real challenge in the multiplayer, which I found to be the most challenging and also most satisfying part of the game (Actually winning a race after 10 consecutive overwhelming defeats was quite brilliant)
Overall, MXGP is a very authentic rendition of motocross, however, it is lacking in several areas, some of which are important to the enjoyment of a simulator. The platform is solid, though, and the gameplay itself is enjoyable (though you will need to adjust yourself to it before really being able to get it right), however at this pricepoint, it can be a tough sell if you aren’t a fan of the sport. But if you’re interested in motocross, there is definitely a decent game in MXGP.
MXGP was reviewed on the PC platform, and the review copy was provided by the publisher.
If you're into motocross, there is definitely some fun to be had with MXGP. It's just a shame it keeps getting in the way of itself, and at this pricepoint, it is hard to recommend it to anyone but fans of the sport.