How Milestone Are Finding Their Groove With MXGP3 And Unreal Engine 4

If there’s one word that racing game fans will probably mutter under their breath as Milestone fully unveil MXGP3, it’s “finally!” What the Italian company are doing with their Motocross series is something that’s been a long time coming, not just for the MXGP series, but for their games as a whole. They’re ditching their creaky old game engine and fully embracing Unreal Engine 4. Finally!

Just in terms of graphics, this is a major step forward for MXGP3, but it’s also a huge step forward for Milestone as a whole, who have been stuck in the rut of their own in house engine’s inadequacies for quite some time – the newly announced Gravel will also be using Unreal Engine 4. UE4 throws everything that went before out the window, and while there’s still plenty of their own code and tech that’s been rolled into UE4 to make it better suited to a racing game, it’s now built on the foundations of an engine that’s at the forefront of development on current consoles. It looks pretty damn good, in other words.

They’ve taken the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over, partly out of necessity, but also desire to do better. Out go all the old assets, in come new laser scanning techniques and drone photography to recreate all eighteen tracks from the Motocross Championship. Out go the old bike physics and models, in come consultations with drivers to get the handling right, while sound has been made more authentic than ever.

Of course, it’s nothing if the racing isn’t fun, and MXGP3 straddles the divide between simulation and arcade. Certainly, the bikes are easy to race with, leaning more towards the accessible side of things, but in order to be genuinely fast, you need to get to grips with how to pick a racing line, the more hardcore edge to the game physics, and simply being a little bit lucky.

The biggest thing to adapt to is how the tracks evolve over the course of a race. They hardly start off flat and smooth, taking you over hills, bumps and through tight corners, but they noticeably deteriorate and deform as the race goes on. What starts off as a relatively flat and even surface becomes rutted with tyre grooves, and as more bikes follow the same line, that rut gets deeper and deeper. Learning how that allows you to lean harder into a corner and hold the racing line for yourself will be pretty important.

It’s actually pretty tough to get a good start, capitalise on the mistakes of the AI drivers and stay near the front. The first few corners are always packed with other bikes and even a slight knock can put you at a bad angle for an upcoming jump or worse, getting knocked off your bike. You can give as good as you get, of course, but in the few races I played, I always found myself struggling near the back of the race, trying to sneak my way back up the order.

If there’s one complaint I have, it’s that the game can look a little stiff as you play. There’s a certain lack of fluidity to the driver motions and the bikes bounce and jerk while encountering the many, many bumps on the muddy surface. It hopefully won’t take much for Milestone to make this look and feel a little more natural, but it’s still rather fun to play regardless.

The full game’s career will let you learn your trade in the lower MX2 category, signing new contracts and hopping from team to team, in order to get into the top tier of the sport. Through all of this, you’ll be able to create you own particular driver, with everything from picking your race suit and boots through to changing the suspension on your chosen bike. Those bikes? They now include the oft requested 2-Stroke bikes, with ten different models in the game, their own particular engine sounds, and physics.

It’s just another point in a long list of major improvements for MXGP3. It’s been a long time coming, and Milestone really do seem to be taking that next big step forward, not just for the MXGP games, but for their entire business.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice preview, thank you. I am looking forward to this. As you state, a change in game engine is long overdue.

  2. I always enjoy Milestone games. They get plenty of flack and yes their engine was on its last legs probably but the main game content and design is there so I’m hoping this will do us all a big Milestone love in.

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