Here we are again. It’s time review yet another racing video game by developers Milestone, this time Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 2. Between 27th February 2018 and 8th February 2019, the Italian team has released a whopping six full video games. Meanwhile, someone like Polyphony Digital has released one game this entire console generation. The studio output is truly remarkable but somewhat predictably, quality can be rather unremarkable.
Recently, they released the maligned MotoGP 18, the polished but terminally dull Ride 3 and the rather impressive sim-like MXGP Pro. For the uninitiated, it can be confusing where the Monster Energy Supercross series fits into all of this, especially considering this looks to be so similar on face value to MXGP. Both games are off-road bike racing based on real life championships.
The main difference between the two is that MXGP is held on outdoor courses around the world, whereas Monster Energy Supercross is held at indoor arenas in America – as usual, the term ‘world championship’ is being bent to their will. The former’s circuits are longer and more open, the latter’s tighter and more compact, but the same methodology of across across a muddy, bumpy, surface on 250cc or 450cc bikes remains the same. To summarise, these two games could be identical apart from a new rider list, bike liveries, box art and track layouts.
To Milestone’s credit, they do try to differentiate the two games to an extent. The handling and difficulty curve of Supercross 2 is much more forgiving, for starters. This is not pitched as a simulator, but an authentic feeling experience for those who aren’t looking for the last word in realism. It strikes a balance between being able to lower difficulty settings enough so you can ease your way in, but also a challenge if you want it to be.
There is also a feature reserved exclusively for this game: a track editor. You can create your own circuits, upload them to the world and also play other user’s creations. It’s a far cry from the customisability of LittleBigPlanet or Trackmania Turbo, but there are still plenty of options to chose from in terms of corner radius, jump height and straight length. The tutorial is simply a few slides of text, but even so, you get to grips with things relatively quickly. Sadly, there is little incentive to play user-created tracks and the most popular are designed to simply grind prestige points.
Aside from the creativity, the core of the game is the career mode. Sadly, this is uninspiring. There are two 250cc championships for your to race through, followed by the final 450cc series. As you win more races, you gain EXP and cash in the form of SX Credits. The EXP helps you advance through prestige levels and the money is used to buy new rider goggles or bike upgrades.
What’s new this year are activities for your custom created rider between races. These are a mix of sponsor events, meeting fans, speaking to the press, training or challenges against rivals. Only the challenges and training see you actually riding the bike, the others amounting to a 10 second cutscene of your character signing an autograph or being photographed. That’s it. You watch a quick video that is exactly the same each time and are rewarded some reputation points.
The challenges, on the other hand, see you racing around the Compound – a fictional open-world map layout set on an American farm which you can play outside of the career, but probably won’t as there’s no need to. The track layout variants here are different and you either have to set a quicker lap than your competitor or beat them in a race. The more career challenges you do, the more layouts you unlock for the Compound. Sadly, the events get repetitive quickly and some are simply broken, finishing as soon as they start, the game thinking you have crossed the finishing line. I’d much rather these utilised the user-generated tracks instead.
There is online multiplayer, but even after several patches I often found the game to freeze on the loading screen or witness behaviour from other online players more jittery than a teenager after necking a can of the titular energy drink. Being smooth is not this game’s forte.
On the face of it, Supercross 2 has all the boxes ticked. It looks much better than the 2018 Supercross game, there is multiplayer, a long career and track creation. There’s tick after tick on the features list, but that is the big problem with this game. Video games are meant to be fun, a distraction from the real world, make you feel like a world champion even though you have a run-of-the-mill services job. This simply isn’t special enough. There is nothing that will overly frustrate you, nothing that provides a sense of achievement and nothing that will make you jump for joy. It’s just a thing that exists, but I’m not really sure why.