The most redeeming feature of Monster Energy AMA Supercross 3 FIM World Championship – The Official Videogame is that the title is eleven words long. When you’re trying to hit a word count for a review – I like to aim for around 1,000 words – it’s quite handy when there’s frankly very little to say about the latest instalment in the arena-based motorcycle racing franchise.
Supercross 3 represents the US-based world championship, a mecca for all things indoor dirt bike racing. As mentioned in our preview, it features all the recognisable tracks, bikes and riders. In the main career mode, you create your own male or – new for 2020 – female rider to compete against the very best in the sport.
Somewhat predictably, you start out from the bottom in either 250 East or 250 West championships before working your way up to become 450 world champion. In last year’s game, MEAMAS2FIMWCTOVG, there was an event calendar where you could not only see upcoming championship races, but break up the series by partaking in challenges and cutscenes to gain additional XP. The head-to-head challenges were sometimes more than a bit broken, and remain so to this day. For the sequel, it seems developer Milestone’s solution for this was to simply remove the event calendar entirely. Great.
One or two additional Team Day races do crop up, but these are simply regular races that happens to be outside as opposed to in an arena. Once you’ve done one, there simply isn’t enough incentive to do another. This means that the career is perfunctory, and nothing more.
It’s a shame, when there was previously a clear effort to spice things up a bit, if not the execution. Challenges to test your riding ability do exist, but they are siloed away in a separate mode, and mini-events like these could have been a fun distraction in the career. It’s a backward step in my view.
The way the motorbikes behave this year has been tweaked. A key skill to arenacross and supercross racing is the speed you take over the lumps, bumps and jumps littered around the track. You need to build a rhythm, learn which to take flat-out, which to back off a little for, which hairpins to take a wide line around and when to scrub in the air. Oh, and then you need to make a perfect landing. In the 2019 game, get your timing in tune and it would feel as if you were being powered by a bungee cord. Satisfying, but not entirely authentic. For Supercross 3, landings now have a heightened sense of weight and you rise to the top of a crest at a slightly slower pace.
On the whole, the bikes are well behaved and relatively easy to get stuck in with. You can also ramp up the challenge by dialling down rider assists and switching the physics to ‘advanced’. There is a lack of ultimate precision though, which shows up during tighter turns and on the more heavily rutted ground.
Judging the turn-in point is often difficult, sometimes resulting in the clipping of an inside barrier and flipping off your bike in a crumpled mess. I had found it challenging to effectively use scrubs too. This is where you use the analogue sticks just before taking off over a big jumps to momentarily flick the bike to one side in order to stall airflow and help you get back on the ground quicker. Sometimes it feels like pot luck if you achieve success with these, whereas in previous Milestone games it felt like a skill you had to refine over time. A bit more finesse to the controls would go a long way.
Other frustrations include the aimless behaviour of your fellow competitors, with the AI sometimes sitting still on a corner for lap after lap. They are ghosted so don’t cause a crash, but this is one new addition that isn’t welcome.
The track editor also returns for this year with the new addition of sand and keeps the convoluted way of finishing your design. During track editing, sometimes you can use the d-pad to select items, other times not and I’m not sure why. Once again, even pre-release, the top user-created tracks are all ‘XP Grind 27’ or ‘Trophies R Us’. I wish there was an element of developer curation to the selections.
Head online and performance is jittery despite new dedicated servers. Your riding appears smooth, but on-track rivals constantly bob up and down on the pegs with the excitement of a five-year-old waiting for Santa. It’s strange and something Milestone can hopefully patch out.
There are some fun new online modes, namely Knock-Out, Treasure Hunt and Checkpoint, but the longevity of these will hinge on the sustainability of a community, and right now the performance isn’t good enough to draw you back in. The rest of the racing game genre seems to have moved on in this regard with clever matchmaking, weekly challenges or eSports, all of which are missing here.
All of these niggles mix with an uninspiring career to mask the genuine improvements. Namely, the atmosphere. Images of real races are used in the menus, your customised rider appears pre-race, while enthusiastic commentators hype up the action. Customised riders are now more involved in the pre and post-race presentation, there are more trinkets such as tattoos for you to splash in-game credits on, the soundtrack is mildly less irritating that previous iterations – thank goodnes the promotional rap song isn’t used for menu music – and the menu colours are slick.
Menu colours. Yes, I’m talking about the colour of the menus. It’s got to this point, Milestone. With a large sense of inevitability, the biggest issue with Supercross 3 is the lack of significant changes. I’m sure you will enjoy nailing jumps on a rain-soaked track with fully deformable mud. It looks and feels great. There’s no doubt that many hours have been put in by the Milestone team to make this game an improvement, but in the grand scheme of things, there isn’t enough here to differentiate it from previous titles.