If you’ve yet to hear of Italian developer Milestone, chances are you aren’t that much of a fan of racing games. Having proven themselves time and time again with the many WRC, SBK and MotoGP iterations over the years, it’s fair to say that if Milestone are behind it, then it’s in capable and experienced hands.
This time however, they have taken a crack at bringing us the popular and beloved sport of AMA Supercross through a fresh experience in the form of Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame.
One of the most notable changes about Monster Energy Supercross over the previous Milestone bike racers is the shift in game engine. This time around the experience has been built in Unreal Engine 4, the popular engine known for its capacity to bring stunning visuals, and it doesn’t take long to see the move was a good decision. The visuals within the game are absolutely incredible, from the bikes to the riders, and the tracks to the settings – all of which are officially licensed of course – there is plenty of eye candy to ensure everything looks the part. That’s not to mention those playing on an Xbox One X will find the game coming with enhancements which make things standout further still.
On initial start-up players are thrust into the action through the boots of recently retired AMA Supercross Champion and Motocross superstar, Ryan Dungey. This race is nothing major, with the real purpose being to introduce the controls whilst letting you get a feel for the track, which just happens to be none other than the famous Anaheim Stadium, California.
The controls are pretty simple, as tends to be the case with most racers, with the only real noteworthy differences being the brakes, with ‘A’ controlling the rear brake and LT controlling the front. The shift in rider weight which is actioned via the right stick, with steering tied to the left. There is a rewind feature present for those who like the ease of fixing a mistake, but if you enjoy the challenge of maintaining a positive balance whilst whipping the bike around corners, this is something you’ll tend to shy away from.
After the opening prologue-esque race you will receive your first Prestige Points. These are an important part of the game and earning Prestige Points is vital for unlocking new content. Most actions out on the track, such as jumps, drifts, holeshots, wheelies and all sorts of racing related actions, earn you a decent amount of them come the end of the race. At Prestige Level 2 – which is inevitable after the opening race – the Career Mode is unlocked, whilst Level 4 opens up the exciting Track Editor feature. From there on out, the majority of the unlocks come down to outfits and rider gear which can be bought with money earnt from each race.
After getting past the opening race, players can jump into a number of different single player options from the main menu, as well as some limited online options for multiplayer. As with most adventures, it is the single player affair that is most interesting, and you’ll find four options of Single Event, Time Attack, Career and Championship to choose from.
Career mode is a pretty simplistic affair. You start off by creating a custom rider, albeit with little options available to create one with, before signing for one of six teams – Honda, Husqvarna, KTM, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. For me it was all about the KTM and their exciting KTM 450 SX-F bikes. That said, it doesn’t really matter which team you choose to start with as none of the bikes possess any real differences other than their visual appearance, which is a shame.
Whilst it was the 450 series I was looking forward to most of all, it is the 250SX class you will be forced to master first, with players required to race their way through both the 250 East and 250 West AMA Championships to prove their worth before being able to compete for the 450SX AMA Championship afterwards.
Before each career race, you’ll find yourself in the career hub. Here players can choose to go to the next race, customise their bike or rider with different accessories and bike parts that have been unlocked – none of which make any real difference and feel completely un-needed – choose from the sponsors available, look at other championship results and fine tune the race options such as race length, qualifying, A.I difficulty and so on. There is also a section for in-game social media messages that showcase information on player progress through the career as well as sponsorship objectives and fan reactions to your results.
Unfortunately, nothing is really all to in-depth when it comes to the career mode, with social media messages proving to be the basic stuff we’ve seen from games over the past few years with congratulations upon wins, and the odd predictable comment here and there. The sponsors meanwhile only provide a different brand plastered over your bike and a slightly different race position expectation.
Surprisingly, even the racing side of the career is overly basic. Your only goal is to progress through each race and aim to win the championship. If you do it, then that’s great, but there is no real end in sight though and so anyone who doesn’t get there first time around will have multiple opportunities to go again.
Now that may not sound like the worst thing in the world to most people, but when the developers of the game are the same guys who have been in charge of near every notable bike racing release in recent years, it would be nice to see them come up with something a little more exciting than simply racing to a championship win. Where are the career goals? Why not implement some kind of story to the whole thing and utilise the official branding to the fullest? These were the things that were going through my head after I’d finished up with the career. With only repetition keeping things going, it feels rather disappointing.
Outside of this main mode, players have the option of Single Event, Time Attack and Championship.
Single Event is simply what you’d expect, a one-off event for players to get stuck into on the track of your choosing. Time Attack meanwhile allows players to take on a track in an attempt to set the fastest times, whilst also providing a good option to master the tracks along with the corners and jumps they bring.
Championship mode on the other hand allows players to take a punt at the current AMA Supercross Championship in full, with Official Championship and Custom Championship available.
If you’re looking for more of a human opposition, there is of course the multiplayer option available and players can either jump into a private race set up or use the quick match feature to jump into a Single Event or Online Championship experience.
Whilst the online lobbies struggle to be fully populated, the option to have A.I. fill the empty spaces on the starting line do a great job of ensuring races feel a little less empty. However, the online multiplayer isn’t in anyway the perfect experience and thanks to a bug that allows some players to jump the starting line completely before the barriers have fallen, before pressing on for a 20 second head start over the rest of the racers, the online does need an overhaul. You see, these jump starts prove extremely dissatisfying, especially when it is followed up by a faultless race, meaning the chance to catch up is next to impossible. Of course, there’s every chance that it will be fixed in the coming weeks and if that’s the case then the multiplayer will be a great place to enjoy some competitive racing, but then the entire experience could do with a few changes before it becomes proper Supercross masterclass.
Although the game modes on offer are hardly impressive, the gameplay itself does offer plenty of enjoyment. Racing is fun and fast, the different weather types give the tracks an entirely unique feel and racing in the wet is probably one of the most intense things to do, especially when you could find yourself bailing at the next jump if you land just slightly off. But despite the gameplay bringing a mostly impressive and realistic experience, there are a couple of things that really undermine it.
The biggest one of all has to be with the collision system. For the most part, the physics within the game are on point. The driver’s outfits can be seen shaking as the wind passes over them, the weight of the bikes feels fantastic, and each jump brings great realism as you land and watch your tyre tear through the dirt and your suspension bounce. However, should you find yourself landing on top of another rider, which is something that can happen a lot at the start of a race as you head for the holeshot, there’s every chance you will find yourself either knocked off your bike when really you probably shouldn’t have been, or you’ll be crowd surfing the other racers until they move out the way. Despite all these, no one ever seems to fall when hit with a clear collision.
It’s a really odd thing to see in a game that is made with realism in mind, and it isn’t a one-time thing either, with most races often seeing you spending the first few corners either on top of the other riders, or with someone on top of you. Collisions are indeed a thing within Monster Energy Supercross though, and there will be times in which a bad landing or a shunt can see riders come flying off their bikes. But during the times you’d expect a pile-up from the mess in front of you, you’ll often see something bizarre happen instead – and this really takes away from the realism of the experience.
Another bug bear is found in the overly excessive loading times. Whether you’re about to head into a single player event, an online race or even just initially booting the game up, the loading times for Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame are tiresome. Waiting for a race to load brings the gift of the dated loading bar across the bottom of the screen, and it’s not a quick experience, even with the extra power of an Xbox One X powering proceedings.
If you can look past the online bug giving away advantages, the loading times taking centre stage and the awkward failure to recognise a clear collision, then Monster Energy Supercross isn’t all too bad. Sure you have some dull options in terms of game modes, and things could certainly be much better in that department, but if you’re simply here for the racing, then there is some fun to be had.
On the positive side though, there is one thing that has been included that makes a difference over the competition. The Track Editor. Here players can let loose and create some truly wild tracks with plenty of options for curves, whoops and jumps to ensure you have the chance to create anything you can think of. Although getting the placements right for each part can be a little tricky – especially if you’re going for a rather extravagant track – it’s nice to see an option that allows for countless tracks to be brought to the game.
Overall and Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame may not be quite as fulfilling as it was expected to be, but it is still a capable racer that has enough in the tank to provide at least a couple of hours enjoyment at a time. Unfortunately, with the game modes failing to provide anything majorly exciting, this is unlikely to be one that will last too long in the memory once the online community have moved on. With the right fixes though, it can at least provide a good experience for fans of Supercross.