Have you ever found yourself playing a motocross videogame and thinking: ‘This is nice, but I wish these races were held inside a lovely, warm stadium so I’m not so chilly when I break both of my ankles falling off a motorbike at 70mph’? Well, if you have, not only are you part of a very niche crowd, but you’re in luck, because Milestone have just the game for you. Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 has launched and dirt bike fans everywhere are wondering two things: is it any good? And is it possible to say a title that long after you’ve knocked your front teeth out on your handlebars?
To the uninitiated it may seem strange for Milestone to bring out yet another dirt bike racing game mere months after the release of the highly enjoyable MXGP 2021. However, Supercross, despite looking on the surface very similar to Motocross, is a different beast. Not only do the races take place inside arenas or stadiums, the tracks are shorter and tighter, requiring a lot more precision handling of the bike, and creating many more opportunities for crashes and pile ups. The faster pace of Supercross, combined with the beer-and-hotdog appeal of packing into a stadium with some friends has led to Supercross becoming Motocross’s younger, but more successful brother. So, how do these differences translate to the videogame world?
The most immediate difference between Monster Energy Supercross 5 (hereby known as MES5) is in how the bigger budget afforded by a more profitable sport has clearly had a positive impact on the game. MES5 seems to have not only improved on everything MXGP 2021 was lacking, but has gone above and beyond its predecessor (Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4, if you were wondering), adding many features and improvements that even a racing behemoth like Gran Turismo 7 doesn’t include. There’s a brilliant, in-depth tutorial mode to introduce newcomers to practical techniques like whips and scrubs, as well as theory lessons to help you get accustomed to the rules and strategies of a Supercross race.
The game’s career mode is roughly what you’d expect from this type of racing game; join a team, race as hard as you can for your sponsor, earn skill points to develop your character and money to buy new bikes and gear. The progression is enjoyable, and the inclusion of the new Rider Shape System adds a new layer of depth that I didn’t realise I wanted until now. After each race, if your rider has sustained injuries, you are offered the opportunity to take part in a Workout Session, designed to help heal broken bones and improve your riders’ overall shape. Surprisingly, this is not accomplished through a trip to the doctor, instead, through a Tony Hawk style free-roaming level in which you are given a series of tasks to do such as performing a backflip or collecting the letters S-H-A-P-E within a time limit. It turns what could have been a button on a menu into a really enjoyable, interactive experience and adds some light-hearted silliness that many games lack these days. Now we just need big head mode and I’ll be happy.
Racing itself is a smooth, enjoyable affair. Controlling your bike can feel fiddly at first on the small tracks, and it only takes a small error to completely throw your rhythm off, leaving you driving slowly over jumps, rather than soaring through the air like Evel Knievel. Rhythm really is the name of the game here, too; at times, MES5 plays more like a rhythm-action game than a racer. Careful control of the throttle and brakes, small tweaks to your steering here and there, shifting your rider’s weight using the right thumb stick, performing scrubs as you’re just about to leave the ground – all of these skills factor together to make a successful race incredibly satisfying.
Once you have a handle on the controls and you’ve learned the layout of the track, you’ll be in a flow state before long. Being able to manoeuvre your bike flawlessly around the track, lap after lap, becomes an obsession. Supercross races are held to a time limit rather than a lap count, and you’ll find yourself constantly trying to beat your previous best lap time; staying ahead of your rivals will be the least of your concerns. It is Supercross’s short-scale lap length that might put some people off, though; even at the shortest race length, which lasts around five minutes, it’s possible to hit double-digit lap counts, and that’s not counting qualifying sessions, meaning that if you’re not someone who enjoys repeating the same course, trying to continuously improve yourself with each lap, you may find Supercross races too repetitive and possibly even a bit boring.
If making AI opponents eat Texas dirt isn’t your idea of a fun time, you might be pleased to hear that MES5 comes complete with online multiplayer, split screen modes, a track editor, time trials and a free roam mode that can be enjoyed solo or with friends. There really is a great deal of content here, and for the more hardcore Supercross fans, Milestone has decided to include a selection of 2-stroke bikes and Ricky Carmichael is along for the ride to act as your mentor in the Futures Academy. It really does feel like Milestone have packed everything they realistically could into MES5, which, considering the barebones nature of some of their previous titles is great to see.
It’s hard to say whether the game is going to win over anybody who isn’t already a fan of the sport, but if you’re willing to give it a go, Milestone have gone out of their way to welcome you with open arms; short of packing a free motorcycle in with the game, that’s about the most you can ask from them.
If you are a fan of the sport, however, you’re going to find a game that does a fantastic job of recreating the action you would want from a Supercross race, with a ton of content, great controls and, most importantly, exactly the type of crunchy heavy metal guitar background music that I said MXGP 2021 needed when I reviewed that (I know you’re watching me, Milestone.)
If you were born to lead at breakneck speed, you should give Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 a try.
Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 is on the Xbox Store