You typically know what you’re going to get with yearly sports franchises. It’s rare that they can take a big leap forward, and when they do, it’s often off the backs of years of preparatory work switching to a new game engine or more powerful gaming hardware.
Juggling all manner of two-wheeled racing franchises, Milestone always have their work cut out for themselves trying to evolve how they represent each real world racing formula, but this is a year unlike any other. With the new generation of games console and the old ones to cater to, as well as streaming on Stadia, will Monster Energy AMA Supercross 4 FIM World Championship – The Official Videogame be more of the same, or a leap into the future while you blip off the rev limiter?
If you’re coming into Supercross 4 off the backs of a previous game in the series, then diving into the action will be immediately familiar. Each track found on the racing calendar is set in a stadium with tracks built up and carved out of muddy mounds for 22 riders to race across – a staggering 450 riders are included in the game. The game faithfully recreates the Covid-affected race schedule found in the 2020 season, with the first ten races that ran as expected up until March, but the final seven races occurring back-to-back in Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium after being rearranged to later in the year. Instead of the 17 planned locations and tracks, it’s the 17 tracks that were actually used in 2020 that feature in the game.
Racing requires a deft touch, though it’s got enough leeway to be accessible to newcomers and provide a stiff challenge for those who want it. By default the game sets itself to the Assisted physics that tames some of the power of the bike and makes it easier to handle. The game will also give you joint front and rear braking and automatically handle the rider’s weight transfer and bike’s transmission (though you can override the latter two as you see fit). Turn those assists off and it’s much more challenging to wrangle your bike through turns, deal with the balance of the bike across humps, and ensure that you don’t splat when you land after a big jump.
Really it’s all about flow. The tracks all have humps, bumps and jumps that you’ll need to master, with plenty of long straights leading to hairpins making it relatively easy to grasp the best racing line, but then demanding that you master how to manage your airtime. The less time you spend in the air, the better, so you can get back to powering forward, but it’s easy to overshoot or undershoot a large jump with too much or too little speed, losing momentum down a straight whenever you get it wrong – higher AI difficulty will punish you and race off into the distance. You can quickly flick the analogue sticks in opposite directions to send the bike sideways and bring you down to ground a little quicker – with semi-automatic rider weight, they’ll automatically bring you back to a neutral position when you let go.
A whole new compound has been built for this game, with terrain based off Maine Island, letting you hoon around in this outdoor setting and get to grips with some of the more varied terrain that dirt bike racing can throw at you. It’s a nice environment to just drive around in free roam, exploring on and off the beaten path – though in our pre-release build that led to a few too many “deaths” than I’d like – but you can also hop into races against AI and see how you fare. Sure, you can get the same no-stakes racing by just hopping into a single custom race, but there’s a different atmosphere here that I found rather enjoyable, and one of the tracks is a free-flowing Motorcross-style ride through the environment, rather than an artificial Supercross-style circuit.
A lot of this feels quite familiar, but Supercross 4 does promise some steps forward outside of what we were able to preview here. The career mode has a new structure to it which will start you off in the Supercross Futures, climbing the ladder to reach the 250SX and eventually the 450SX categories. What’s shaking things up this time around is that you will earn skill points through racing, taking part in special events, training and completing special objectives, and then get to funnel those into a new skill tree.
As a cross-gen release, Supercross 4 feels like a relatively conservative entry in this yearly franchise. There will be improvements for those playing on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S in terms of frame rate and fidelity, and the hope that the DualSense controller can offer something transformative to the experience, but it’s really the career that will likely hold the most promise for fans of Supercross, adding more depth to the experience of going through the seasons of racing as you ride for the top spot.