MXGP The Official Motocross Game Review (PC)
If dangerous speeds, challenging rivals, plausible physics and deadly collisions are necessary parts of a functioning motorsport simulation, then MXGP is a stranded machine, stuck at the starting line with a set of flat tires.
While developer Milestone S.r.l has been marketing MXGP with a mantra of “Adrenaline! Speed! Mud!” the current in-game experience achieves only the dirtiest of its three mission statements.
True to the sport of motocross, MXGP's dirt bikes travel around 30 to 40 miles per hour during most races, with frequent bumps, turns and jumps interrupting any opportunity to break residential speed limits. This low-velocity, highly physical style of racing depends on pack maneuvering, driver battles and artful jumps to excite its audience.
Whereas real motocross events often include up to 40 participants, all offline races in MXGP feature just 16 competitors. Online race tracks are even less crowded, allowing a maximum of 12 players into the starting grid.
Since MXGP's 14 licensed courses are all recreated on a 1:1 scale to their real-world dimensions, this reduced field of racers fails to generate the same claustrophobic, chaotic feel as a live motocross event.
It doesn't help that MXGP's AI shows no aggressiveness in protecting its pack position or fighting for control of the prime riding paths. Instead, each computer motorist seems stuck to a predetermined racing line, afraid to touch the 15 other bikes around him. After the initial holeshot, AI bikers settle into a fixed order, making few passing attempts. Driving alongside computer-controlled riders often triggers a bizarre tendency where they will hit their brakes and slow down so that your bike can safely pass by.
Despite setting the AI's difficulty to “realistic” and adjusting the bike physics to “pro” level, it's common to beat the entire field by five or more seconds, even while wiping out several times during the default three-lap contests.
MXGP's lack of difficulty is also reflected in how lightly it punishes players for crashing their bike or illegally cutting through corners. Both actions will cause the game to immediately teleport the offending player back onto the track, without losing much time or forward momentum.
In some instances, triggering the “teleport restart” after flying head-first into a barrier will actually save a few seconds compared to slamming on the brakes, turning your wheels around and getting your bike safely into gear. Because these riders never risk injuring themselves or ruining their multi-thousand-dollar machines, MXGP's races lack any sense of danger -- the fuel that keeps adrenaline running.
Collisions between dirt bikes animate in an equally unsatisfying manner. Computer opponents are largely immune to contact from human-controlled bikes. It's possible to slide wheel-first like a bowling ball into a pack of ten computer pinheads, only to find that your driver is the lone wipeout. The AI's tires will commonly clip through fallen bikes, and even fallen bikers, like they were completely nonexistent.
MXGP's jumping physics are just as unrealistic, as bikes float in the air for far too long, even when approaching small ramps at reduced speeds. More bothersome, is how hard, front-wheel landings, which can cause horrific accidents in real life, are frequently landed without penalty.
How messed up are the jump and collision systems in MXGP? I once had an airborne computer player land directly on top of my head. Rather than wrecking us both, I balanced the full weight of his bike on my skull, carrying him like a water jug across an ancient city street, until the next turn finally shook him free.
Jeff Gordon had Dale Earnhardt. Ricky Bobby had Jean Girard. Captain Falcon has Black Shadow.
MXGP has your generic, created character facing 26 European riders in 14 (mostly) European venues, and unless you're a native of the continent or an FIM aficionado, it's unlikely that you've ever seen or heard of any of them.
Though anyone can immediately appreciate climbing up the dangerous hills of Italy or circling around the peaceful forests of Sweden, it's difficult to develop any sort of rivalry with the masked men who populate these tracks.
To an American outsider, who enjoys motocross video games but doesn't follow the FIM Motocross circuit, the name of seven-time world champion, Antonio Cairoli, only suggests that he might be one of Adam Carolla's distant cousins.
This initial obscurity would not be an issue if MXGP made some effort to personalize its roster to unfamiliar audiences. The game's only cutscenes, regrettably, involve the same mute bike technician patting you on the back before and after every race.
Since all competitors share the same set of animations, and everyone's physical features are hidden by huge helmets and full bodysuits, there isn't much, besides colors and sponsor stickers, to distinguish rider 222 from rider 777.
MXGP does include some moments away from the track, but these brief trailer scenes are little more than interactive menus, where you can check the league standings or read through dry sponsor emails and uninteresting fan tweets.
Your rivals' avatars do appear on social media, congratulating you after each win, but these tweets are so devoid of personality, that they all seem sent from the same public relations firm.
You can act like a total jerk on race weekends, cutting corners, ramming opponents off-course and slamming into innocent spectators, but no one on social media will ever call out your lack of sportsmanship.
Your created biker's ascent from “wild card” entrant to MX1 superstar is so straightforward, repetitive and undramatic, that you'll likely lose interest before the initial MX2 season is even halfway through.
Milestone S.r.l. has put great effort into simulating the schedule of a race weekend, offering practice sessions, adjustable bike parts, qualifying runs and two-race events. But the company has completely ignored all of the human frictions and corporate tensions that are a part of any lucrative, traveling race circuit.
Unlike most STEAM games, MXGP requires you to create a separate “RakNet” account just to access any of the game's online features.
Though I was able to validate my RakNet profile and complete two online races last Saturday -– the day after MXGP's release –- the service seems to have stopped working sometime last Sunday, as many gamers are no longer able to log in.
At this moment, time attack can only be played offline, without functional leaderboards, and the main multiplayer menu will not even open up.
MXGP lacks LAN and split-screen multiplayer options, but its online races do support up to 12 bikers per track, with the option to place AI drivers of customizable difficulty into any empty gates.
In addition to one-off sessions, which support friend and global leaderboards, an online seasons mode similar to FIFA Soccer and Madden NFL is offered, which will promote or relegate you to different skill divisions based on your online success.
Exhibition matches come with many options, like map voting, bike class restrictions, steering assist limits, a bike collisions toggle and even the ability to hold a qualifying round before the actual race begins. Online contests can take a little as 3 laps or as many as 20 laps. You can even string multiple events together in a grand prix format, for up to 18 consecutive races.
Online performance was smooth the one time I was the match's host, but it deteriorated to a choppy, unplayable mess when I randomly joined another person's room. Having experienced only two online games before the account system broke, it's impossible to make a final judgement on MXGP's online latency.
Milestone S.r.l's art team and legal department deserve applause for reproducing so many real-world courses, racers, motorbikes and sponsors. But only FIM enthusiasts will find much to appreciate in MXGP's mediocre gameplay.
Steering your bike through the game's gradually degrading dirt and sand courses does possess some novelty, but the physics used to calculate collisions and judge jumps are so wonky, that it only takes a few turns before most races become unenjoyable.
Combine the substandard player count (16) with a lack of challenge and awareness from AI competitors, and completing the 56-race career mode feels more like a job than an exciting worldwide trek.
Even MXGP's online experience fails to clear the starting gate without wiping out, as all of the game's online features are currently inaccessible, over a week after release.
Milestone S.r.l and racing fans can both do far better than MXGP.
Visuals -- 26 FIM riders and 37 licensed dirt bikes are rebuilt in native 1080p resolution. Each track's surface degrades in real time, though the terrain effects are marred by frequent texture pop-in. The lighting conditions and time of day are specific to each venue. Bikers animate awkwardly, especially during wrecks and jumps. Spectators sport minimal animations and show no concern for their safety, even when out-of-control bikes come flying into the stands. The game can be played from fixed third-person or first-person perspectives.
Audio -- Weak, whiny engine noises can be mercifully silenced using MXGP's audio sliders. Crowd noise consists of an annoying five-second sound clip cycling endlessly. Race commentators are not present. The game's forgettable guitar riffs are thankfully confined to the pre-race menus.
Controls -- Synching up a dual-joystick controller to your PC is a must, as MXGP was designed to have one stick controlling steering and another stick controlling body leans. Throttle is assigned to the right trigger, and though there is no clutch present, the game does offer a front brake on the left trigger, as well as a rear brake on the A button. The inability to disable controller vibrations will bother players who prefer shock-free gaming, or simply wish to conserve their wireless controller's batteries.
Replay Value -- MXGP's monotonous career mode will likely lose your interest early in the opening season. The AI offers little challenge, even on the hardest difficulty settings. With no storylines or unexpected swerves, rerunning the same events against a faceless pack of clones quickly grows dull. Multiplayer is limited to online only, and though these modes contain several smart options, account authentication issues have completely shut down MXGP's online functionality since the day after its STEAM release.
Final Score -- 5.5 (Average)