As far as officially licensed racing games go, the team over at Milestone seem to have a bit of a penchant for creating rather brilliant racing experiences. In 2018 alone, we saw no less than five games come from the creative minds at Milestone, with bike racers featuring prominently. With the new year well under way, Milestone have returned once more, this time with the highly anticipated sequel to last year’s new and exciting racing I.P. – Monster Energy Supercross 2 on Xbox One.
Much like last year’s title, Monster Energy Supercross 2 – The Official Videogame focuses on the official Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, with the second title bringing the focus purely to the official 2018 season.
Having played a lot of the first game, my feelings coming into the sequel were a bit hit and miss, and whilst I was keen to get stuck in, the early issues suffered in last year’s title were still fresh in the mind. Fortunately, it seems this year’s entry has fixed those early teething issues and what we are left with is an enjoyable and engaging Supercross experience for fans of all things racing.
From the initial menu, players have a few different options to jump in with. First up is Single Player and it is this which houses the options for Single Event, Time Attack, Career, Championship and Compound. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory for any frequent racing fan with only Compound – the vast area which allows players to stick in some non-restricted practice – the unusual entry here, but even that is becoming more frequent in recent bike and rally racers.
The main mode of interest is the Career mode – the usual go to mode in most racing titles. For anyone looking for more than a one-off race or a quick Championship thrill, this is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time with the game. The goal of Career mode is pretty standard in terms of racing games; players work their way up from a fresh-faced newbie making their debut in the Supercross racing scene all the way to becoming the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion.
Your first port of call though won’t see you jump straight into the big league with the 450SX bikes, as before progressing to that, you’ll need to master the tracks and bikes in either the 250SX East or 250SX West Championships first, pleasing and fulfilling sponsors along the way.
There are three main focus points to the career this time around – Fame, Rivalry and Experience. Raising your fame, establishing rivalries and gaining vital experience is the key to progression, and the best way to do that is by performing out on the track.
To help you along the way though you’ll need to make the most of your resources, which will mean choosing from a range of official sponsors and ensuring you satisfy their requirements, as well as making the most of your Pre-Race schedule.
Before each race, players are taken to a six-day schedule planner. Within this plan, you’ll find a collection of Rest Days, Free Days and Bonus Days, and it’s up to you to use these effectively to help boost your fame and rivalries to the limit. On either of the Free or Bonus days – as they have no difference besides the name – players can choose to participate in Training or Challenges sessions. Alternatively, they can be used as an opportunity to squeeze in a Promotional Day or a Media Day, both of which will raise your fame and gain a little extra income between races.
Sadly, the Promotional and Media opportunities are very limited to the point that beyond a screen that either shows a media presence asking your rider questions, your rider sat in a press conference or posing with his bike, there is nothing to be getting involved in here. This is a real shame as it would have been a great opportunity for the developers to include a engaging Q+A opportunity here, letting the player answer from a number of options, but alas, such opportunities have been sorely missed, making this no more than a quick fan or cash grab opportunity in the build up to each race.
The actual Race Day on the other hand is a different kettle of fish and it’s clear from the moment your first take to the seat of your impressive two-wheeled dirt racing beast that the focus of this game has clearly been emphasised with the actual in-race gameplay.
From the sounds, to the visuals and every corner to every straight from which you send your bike hurtling through at full-throttle, there is very little that fails to impress in this sequel. The first thing that immersed me into the gameplay this time around though was the sound. Now, the original was no slump when it came to creating a believable and lifelike audio experience, but from the very start of each race and the moment you pull on the throttle, the pure sound of the engine and the bike pinging off the limiter is enough to let you know you’re about to experience the thrill of a Supercross race. Then the gate drops and it’s off to the first corner in search of the holeshot as mud flicks across the bikes from the back wheel of your opponents and the race becomes a living, breathing experience.
That first corner though is where I also noticed one of my few gripes with the game besides the lazily implemented Promotional and Media Days I mentioned before. This gripe is also one I had with the first title that arrived last year too, just this time, the reason is the complete opposite.
What I’m talking about is in regards the collision system – or lack of, to say the least. Whilst last year’s title raised irritation due to the most inconsistent and unexpected collision system we’ve seen in a Supercross game yet, this time round Milestone seem to have done the opposite and made it near impossible for riders to notice a collision has even occurred. Now this isn’t going to be deemed as a bad thing from all, and I’m sure just as many will prefer being able to grind against the other riders and make contact without immediately faceplanting the floor, however for me, I can’t help but feel the team at Milestone already mastered the perfect collision system with MXGP3 back in 2017. Since that point it seems to have gone downhill, to either the point of being too sensitive or barely existing at all.
Even landing directly on top of an opponent in Monster Energy Supercross 2 will merely result in sliding down the side of them as if they were simply an awkwardly placed landing at the end of a jump, and while I don’t want to see what we had last year – with bikes and riders flying off in all sorts of odd directions, disobeying the forces of physics entirely – it would be nice to see more realism in this department.
If you put that issue to the side though, it seems that the actual Race Weekend provides, by far, one of the best Supercross experiences out there. The competition is always right on your tail – provided you are playing above the Very Easy difficulty level – the game is full of official tracks, all of which have been recreated with all the finer details intact, and the general feel of each race is just as you’d expect if you were to put a real performance supercross bike through its paces.
What’s more is the visuals only improve on what was already an impressive appearance last time out and with official sponsors and rider gear, this is only something that ramps up the overall experience ten-fold.
Away from the racing though and another thing that plays an important role in Monster Energy Supercross 2 are the customisation options, and with over 3000 different objects that can be utilised to create the ultimate bike of your dreams, as well as a host of new customisation options for your rider, this game is one that has gone all out to make the whole experience feel a lot more personal. This ensures that the money earnt from each race becomes a valued currency as you look into creating the perfect racing machine.
Yet another positive is the returning and improved upon Track Editor. Last time out, this wasn’t the easiest feature to use and with awkward layouts, things became heavily complicated, leaving many to resort to simplistic tracks that were no fun to play. Now though, we see this simplified and with new features coming into the mix as well as fairly difficult tracks capable of being created in just mere minutes, this is a feature that will certainly keep players coming back for more, long after mastering the title of Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion.
One thing that many will notice though is that besides the Career Mode that takes you through the official 2018 season, and the added enticement that the Online Multiplayer modes bring – from which players can only enjoy a basic Quick Match or your typical Custom/Private match – there isn’t much here that isn’t already catered for in other off-road bike racers; especially the MXGP series.
That’s a shame too as whilst Monster Energy Supercross 2 on Xbox One is an improved racing experience, it still feels very much like Milestone have simply provided us with more of the same that we’ve already seen in their MXGP series, whilst cashing in on the Monster Energy branding.
If it brings a decent racing experience though then there will be many that are happy to see more of what is possibly the start of yearly additions to this new-found series. However, with limited changes found here to what can be found in their previously established bike racing series, it’s hard to see how Monster Energy can keep players coming back for the long haul, leaving us to wonder if instead it should simply be incorporated as a major DLC expansion to MXGP rather than a separate series altogether.
Overall though and if you’re a fan of off-road racing, love bikes and can’t take your eyes off the excitement of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championships when it lights up the TV, then this is a game you’ll find plenty of enjoyment in. With Monster also providing branding usage rights to the MXGP series, it is however hard to see much of a difference from the two set of games, and when it comes with a full triple-A price tag, there will be many that will want to stick to the former instead of splashing out on yet another overly similar racing game.