After playing the third instalment of Monster Energy Supercross last year, I am suddenly the expert of all things dirt bike in TXH Towers. But in reality, I’m probably just the least clueless out of the group. However, with Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4’s ‘improvements’ I find myself with less of a clue this year than last year.
Featuring the locations from the Covid-19-hit 2020 season of Monster Energy Supercross, the 4th iteration includes all 11 locations and 17 tracks from the past year. It has been expanded to include – for the first time – over 100 different riders including fan favourite Ken Roczen finally. Along with the roster additions, there are now 20 different teams to choose from and over 110 official brands to customise your rides with.
On the gameplay side, all your favourite modes return including the track editor with a host of new options, online multiplayer, the compound and career modes.
The compound is one of a few areas to receive a massive overhaul in Monster Energy Supercross 4. It is less a compound and more your own personal island now, such is the size of that overhaul. Comprised itself of five different tracks, the area is inspired by the Maine Island landscape so expect hilly and rocky terrain to drive round. Despite this larger area, it is still quite restrictive at times; an out of bounds barrier will appear if you get too close to anything you aren’t supposed to be exploring. Touch it and it will instantly reset your rider no matter what you were doing beforehand. That, and many of the peaks of the hills are off-limits too, though these don’t have any barriers warning you of that.
It is still an impressive area to explore though, and you can be rewarded for doing so. Twenty collectibles are dotted around the area, with a special bonus for those that can find all 20.
Career mode has also received a massive overhaul, though it is not necessarily all the better for it. There are plenty of good ideas and tweaks, but with more than a few teething problems.
To give you much more control over your user generated rider, there is now a skill tree added. It covers all the bases such as braking, cornering, balance, resilience and more. Ability points are rewarded each time you hit a milestone in the ‘also new for this instalment’ Journal. This keeps track of all your stats and offers rewards accordingly.
The training modules from previous games make a welcome return but this time also offer ability points to spend in your skill tree. If anything, the economy offers you more points than you can spend – initially at least – as the actual skill tree is capped depending on which of the three disciplines you are currently in.
Career mode includes a new first chapter in the form of Futures. Futures helps you learn the ropes in three rounds of racing where you can take your first steps on the road to Pro. It gives you the chance to get some ability points on your rider before heading into the 250 and 450 disciplines.
One new feature that did catch me off guard was the addition of injuries. After my first round in Futures I had suffered a few bruises and was told my performance in the next two races would be hampered unless I paid a hospital bill/ransom of 10,000 credits. Considering it was my first race, I didn’t have the pocket change and had to soldier on in the next two rounds.
Once out on the track though, you will start to feel that not all of the enhancements are for the best. Monster Energy Supercross 3 had a pretty low entry barrier to overcome in terms of learning the ropes. That barrier has been raised substantially in Monster Energy Supercross 4, to the point where it feels like a completely different franchise at times. The turning circles on the bikes suddenly feel more akin to jumbo jets at any speed other than a crawl, whoops jumps have suddenly become impossible to navigate and the start of a race no longer features a slowed down gate drop to ensure you get the holeshot.
It isn’t all bad news though. Other areas are slightly easier; you aren’t as easily flipped over your handlebars, and the tracks are much more forgiving if you go out of bounds momentarily. Instead of instantly sending you back as was the case before, you are given a small window to get back on, making it feel much fairer than before.
Monster Energy Supercross 4 also does not feature a licensed soundtrack, and the music that is included is the most generic stuff you could ever imagine.
The Xbox Series X|S optimisations are there, but very subtle. Perhaps they are most noticeable in the menus themselves rather than the gameplay. The menu is crisp, clean and very white on the new consoles. Graphically, there doesn’t appear to be much of an improvement over the predecessors, which have never really been striking in that department.
Truth be told, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 on Xbox feels like a step backwards. After the series high point of the third instalment, the enhancements on offer here are clearly designed to be an improvement over that one. However, the changes to the fundamental racing itself make this a far less accessible entry, and a far more difficult one. Improvements in Career mode with the inclusion of a skill tree, more teams and riders and the impressive new compound all go someway to softening the blow, but this entry into the series cannot be recommended over what has come before.