MUD: FIM Motocross World Championship (which will now be referred to as MUD, for my sanity’s sake) is a tale of two games. On one hand we have an arcade Motocross experience that lets you turbo-boost by guzzling energy drinks, and allows you to burst off the line Mario Kart style if you hit the gas at just the right time.
On the other hand, however, this is a game that has an official licence and real-world riders jostling for position on tracks that appear to degrade as the race goes on. Has Milestone managed to balance these contrasting play-styles?
The more serious among you will want to dive right into the Official Mode, where you can expect to enter officially licensed MX1 and MX2 competitions featuring a roster of 84 real riders, 32 teams and eight bike manufacturers. Then there’s the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations.
Cornering is a tricky skill to master, but has the obvious pay off.
In terms of handling, MUD tries to straddle the line between arcade and realism. Whilst you don’t have to worry about independently operating front and rear brakes, there’s a knack to finding the perfect racing line and sliding the bike round it. As one might expect the tracks undulate, as well as being covered in ruts caused by bike tyres. This means just keeping straight is a task in itself, as you constantly battle with the bike which wants to go in a totally different direction to where you do.
Managing the bike’s throttle is also a key task. You can’t just open it up fully and hope for the best, as the first rut you hit will send you spinning. It takes constant adjustment and becomes almost instinctive as you feel the change in the track’s surface. Knowing when to hit the gas and when to hold back is very important.
Again, throttle control is needed when it comes to cornering. Slamming on the brakes as a corner approaches is a big no-no; instead the bike needs to drift round without the revs dropping too much.
When it comes to the opponent AI, they do provide a decent challenge, although there does seem to be a bit of rubber-banding going on.
For those wanting something a little less official, there’s the World Tour mode. This allows you to unlock and play as “Heroes”; fictional characters with names such as Lars “Shredder” Keller, who can have their stats and kit upgraded after earning money in a set of 15 different levels. These levels will see you take part in Checkpoint Races, Head to Head Races, Elimination Cups, Trick Battles, and Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations.
It’s a substantial mode, and apart from the Trick Battle it all plays very well. I have a couple of issues with the Trick Battle. Firstly, there were occasions where my button presses were just flat out ignored. There’s never a feeling of responsiveness, thus trying to time tricks becomes redundant as you never quite know whether your inputs will be recognised.
Near collisions like this are no concern in multiplayer, with the game's ghosting system.
Graphically, MUD is unlikely to set your pulses racing. It’s by no means the worst looking game I’ve ever seen, but the backgrounds are quite sparse, and the tracks are uninspiring, although there’s not much you can do with a big length of mud and dust. I’m also not a fan of some of the character artwork used in the World Tour.
What I really don’t like, however, is the music. The shouty, angry guitar wailing made me actually reach for the mute button, instead choosing to listen to songs on my iPod. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.
When you’re done with the single player modes, MUD offers up solid, if rather basic, online racing. As with most racing games, going up against human opponents is much more satisfying than racing against the computer. As the narrow tracks would more than likely turn into one big pile-up with twelve people racing at once, I found that the game makes your opponents almost transparent, and you can actually pass through them rather than crash.
It‘s all a bit disconcerting at first, as when I overshot a corner I prepared to rebound off another player, only to pass straight through him and into a wall! What I can’t fault is the total lack of lag; MUD’s online section runs as smooth as silk.
- Lots of official content.
- Substantial World Tour mode.
- Good handling model.
- Smooth online experience.
- Never looks that great.
- Music sounds so dated.
- Trick Battle feels broken.
- AI rubber-banding.
Whilst never breaking any new ground, MUD offers a good chunk of challenging content, coupled with an official licence and solid online mode. It won’t convert those who have never played Motocross before, and it does have a few issues, but fans will find lots to like.