Experiencing Arenacross in real life, in the name of research

It’s all very well me reviewing multiple off-road motorcycle racing games for the TheSixthAxis, including Monster Energy Supercross 3 which came out earlier this week, but until now I’d never witnessed such an event in person.

While the latest video game focusses on the FIM World Championship held in America – yet another ‘world series’ that covers only the USA – there are events in Europe that capture the same essence. Namely, the Arenacross tour, currently working its way across the UK and Ireland.

Proclaimed as ‘Europe’s maddest indoor motocross tour’, we were invited by Koch Media to attend one of the recent Birmingham dates. Now TSA could get a real-world flavour for this in-door action sport.

A selection of professional riders on dirt bikes from the likes of KTM, Honda, Suzuki, Husqvarna and Yamaha did battle on a purpose-built temporary indoor mud track that included tight turns and a large jump. Through various heat rounds, including a tense one vs. one sudden-death round, tension built to the main event ‘Super Final’. Meanwhile, between the main races there were events for the youth squad – competing from as young as eight-years-old – and freestyle motocross stunt shows.

The whole event was lavished in pyrotechnics, from sparklers coming out the rear of the stunt bikes to extravagant flamethrowers during large jumps. There were two hosts commentating on the races and also hyping-up the crowd during prize-givings, plus laser lights and no shortage pumping beats to amp up the atmosphere. Oh, and a stunning beat-boxing performance in the middle which impersonated motorbike sounds.

There’s clearly been a concerted effort to bring more of this razzamatazz to Milestone’s Monster Energy Supercross 3 video game, and in this respect, the series has taken a step forward. Visiting this event also gave me a great appreciation for the hard work that goes into keeping a crowd entertained in and around the races. It feels like less of a sport and more of a show at times. You get the feeling Arenacross is designed to appeal to a youth audience, with shorter attention spans, focussing on action instead of punditry or strategy. I thought it was epic. Plus, there were Minstrels on tap.

The racing is fast and frenetic. No single round lasts more than 15 minutes. Some of the battles were intense, with plenty of close-calls, overtaking and the odd incident. The stunt-riders are simply out of their minds as each tried to out-Travis Pastrana one another.

Now that the Monster Energy Supercross games have an improved atmosphere, dialling in a further sense of that on track excitement needs to be of the utmost importance. Whether that is including an element of stunt riding between career championship rounds or a more visceral damage model I’m not sure, but I think they would be a good start. Because in real life, the sport is an adrenaline-fueled rush.

Thanks to Koch Media for organising and providing accommodation and event hospitality. Be sure to also check out our review of Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 3, and the game is out now for PS4, Xbox One and PC, with Stadia on the way at a later date.

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