MXGP is the officially licensed game of Motocross, featuring all the bikes and riders of the sport. The names were unfamiliar to me as I don’t follow Motorcross but by the time I’d created a custom rider and hit the track I was trying too hard to stay on my bike to worry!
As you would expect from a licensed product, the game has a full suite of modes that enable you to jump straight into a random race, hold a Grand Prix (race weekend), take part in the Motorcross Championship (as your favourite rider) or even start a career with a created rider. There are also online options for a single race, ‘Seasons’ mode or Time Attack, so you are well catered for across the board.
The racing itself is fun with a different take on control – here the left stick controls the bike, with the right stick distributing the rider’s weight. It’s an interesting system but you won’t need to use it much when on the ‘Base’ setting that the game starts you on. Even on the highest level of ‘Pro’ I found it wasn’t really needed for cornering but I definitely had to balance my weight to the front or back going uphill or downhill. If you don’t strike the right balance you will find yourself face down in the mud.
MXGP creates some great crash moments, where your rider will tumble realistically off his vehicle and hit the ground. However I do feel this could be a little bit more refined – on some occasions a very slight knock would see my rider thrown in a very over-the-top pratfall that just didn’t make sense in the context of the crash. Another issue I stumbled across on more occasions than I would’ve liked, was my rider coming off his bike without good reason. This was especially problematic at the edge of the track and caused me a few frustrating moments.
Graphically, the game looks good and you get a nice sense of speed from gameplay. The track deforms as you ride around it, which is a great touch because it can slightly change the racing line in later laps, and even the effect of the wind rustling under the rider’s shirt gives an impression that you are tearing around a racetrack. Unfortunately, on the PS3 version I played, there was some noticeable pop in – I suspect this may be down to the game having to keep track of the deformed race area. It wasn’t a game breaking issue but it did take you out of the moment at times.
As I mentioned above, aside from one off races or championships, the main crux of single player action is the Career mode. This allows you to create your own custom rider and work your way up from MX2 racing to the big time of MX1. This mode will be a big time sink for players because of the way MX rules work – as well as Practice and Qualifying, riders also race the track twice within the weekend (with points awarded for both races).
So, even if you decide to skip the preliminary rounds you’ll still need to get through two races to complete each event. My one complaint about the races was that at times they felt a little too long (especially having to do each course twice) but that’s a personal preference.
The Career mode is good fun though, with you starting out as a wildcard before receiving offers for different teams as the season progresses. You will get team objectives and an additional bonus if you finish ahead of a pre-chosen ‘rival’. The team manager and your agent will often drop you an e-mail to give you updates or set an objective. In addition to this there is also an option to check social media and see what the fans and other riders are saying about you. It’s a nice touch and, along with the post race info on how many fans you’ve gained/lost, lends some depth to the MXGP world.
As well as solo play there is also the option to take on fellow gamers online with a single race or ‘Season’ mode. In a single race you will be battling it out with up to 11 other racers and you will race with whatever number of people are in the lobby. The game also allows players to mix settings in single race, so riders are racing with whatever set up they feel comfortable with. This seems like a smart move as it won’t split the userbase straight out of the gate (excuse the pun).
For Season mode, if you don’t have 12 people in the lobby it will fill the race with AI riders so there are always 12 of you. Points are then distributed accordingly after races. The online was stable, I had one lost connection in 10 races, and there was no slowdown or other visual issues.
As someone who knew nothing about Motocross other than the fact it was people on bikes going around a dirt track, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from MXGP. Milestone have delivered a fun and different racer that uses rider momentum in an interesting way. However your enjoyment and, probably, the longevity of the game will depend on your interest in the sport or the racing game genre.