I should, by rights, quite like motorcycles. My brother and both of my uncles are confirmed motorcyclists, but there’s just something about having a thin slice of cow skin between me and the unforgiving, rough tarmac of the road that puts me off. This aversion seems to have carried across into the virtual world of video games too, as I have steadfastly ignored most of the two-wheeled games that are released, all while playing as many car racing games as I can get my hands on. What this somewhat tortured introduction is leading up to is the release of MXGP 2020 – The Official Motocross Videogame, which has been delivered by the veterans over at Milestone, purveyors of many other motorcycle franchises, with a notable mention going to the RIDE series. This one is different though, and MXGP takes us to the world of muddy blasts to victory.
Now, with this being the Official Videogame of Motocross, you won’t be disappointed to discover all the correct riders, machines and liveries from the real-world sport thrown in to the game. Everyone’s favourite rider is sure to be represented, from “that bloke in the green suit” to “that other bloke, on the red bike”. Yes, these are the real deal, and whilst sadly I’d not heard of any of them, it’s nice to put a name to a rival, isn’t it? Graphically the game is very good indeed, with the replica bikes looking suitably shiny – and with a vast array of customisation that can be actioned, both to the bikes and the riders, you can always nail the look you are going for. The sound is bang on as well, perfectly capturing that “bee in a tin can” buzz of the Motocross bikes as they pound round the track.
However, a special mention has to go to the zealous collision mitigation system employed in the game. I’m guessing that this is not a function that is deployed in real life, as otherwise MXGP would be the safest motorsport ever. You see, if the game thinks that you are about to crash, it immediately stops you and teleports you to the middle of the track (while all the other riders stream past, effectively killing the race for you), all before smugly announcing “Collision Avoided”. Any attempt to go a little freestyle in your race is met with this message, so you will ride as MXGP 2020 wants you to, without fail.
In the meantime, the dim-witted AI take every opportunity to crash into you – at least when they aren’t 300 miles in front due to us avoiding collisions. I really, really hate this mechanic, and on its own it is enough to induce pad-bending fury. On the final stretch and trying to slip under the guy in first to win? Oh no, we avoided a collision there, didn’t we, and 7th place is fine, isn’t it?
Anyhow, let’s not get bogged down with fine details just yet and delve in to the structure of the game. There are a plethora of modes to choose from in MXGP 2020, so whatever you are in the mood for, as long as it involves bikes and mud you will be well-catered for here. Career mode does what it says on the tin: you are a rookie rider, starting at the bottom, and must work your way to the top by joining a real team or making your own – the choice is yours. Quick Mode allows you to jump into an activity of your choice, be it a GP or a Time Attack mode, with none of the frippery surrounding Career mode. Multiplayer does the same, allowing the chance to join a lobby of like-minded folk and race to your heart’s content.
A special mention has to go to how long-winded the procedure to actually race is though: you have to ready up, then vote for the length of the race, then vote for the track, then vote for the weather, and then finally ready up again (in case you changed your mind from the first time), all before you can race. Would a “quick race” option be too much to ask for?
Further to these, Playground mode allows you to select one of the environments from the game (of which there are many, and they all look great, so a good point for Milestone here), and then basically lets you go out and explore until you are bored. You can launch a GP directly from the Playground, but it’s best used as a chance to get to know where the track goes without any pressure.
We’ve also got a track builder that, shock horror, allows you to create your own tracks, all complete with various corners, berms, jumps and straights to choose from; you too can create an oval track in as little as 15 minutes. And finally, Customisation is basically the shop, where you can buy bits and bobs for the bike or the rider.
Now, as I said before, I’m not a natural biker, and so I must admit I have struggled with this game. Slowing down for a corner works, but if you accelerate while leaning over too far, the rear wheel spins and the bike goes sideways. Yet if you apply countersteer then the rear wheel finds purchase, catapulting you off the other way. This is technically known as a crash, and luckily the riders in the MXGP world seem to have spines made of rubber, as even after their ankle bone has been connected to their ear bone, they get straight back on the bike and carry on. Without a word of a lie, I have actually fallen from my trusty steed, and then had it run over me more than once before carrying on. Eventually, after much practice and language that would make a sailor blush, it’s easy enough to get the hang of it, and the handling model started to make sense. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like in a rally game, such as DiRT Rally 2.0, where you can chain corners together into an almost balletic series of slides; it’s much, much harder than that, but you’ll begin to understand what is needed eventually.
In all, MXGP 2020 on Xbox is more than just a rally game for people that like eating mud and wearing leathers. It’s challenging, it’s rewarding, and while I’m still a long way off even finishing a race without falling off, it’s nice to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you know your Honda from your KTM, this is an easy sell, as it is probably as realistic a MXGP experience can be with all your bones intact. But for those who prefer four wheels to two, this is nothing but a fun little time-waster.