When news of THQ’s dissolution started to make its rounds, sharks began to circle around its most notable intellectual properties. Nordic Games — a smaller fish that is trying to make a name for itself — was one of said bidders, and has undeniably walked away as the victor. Not only did the company obtain the fantastic Darksiders license, but it also managed to scoop up Red Faction, de Blob and MX vs. ATV. It’s the latter franchise that we’ll be talking about now, though, because it’s the first to see a release under its new publishing agreement.
MX vs. ATV: Supercross, as it’s called, is a budget-priced, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC arena racer. Coming in at a low, thirty-dollar price point, the game aims to interest wallet-conscious gamers, on top of those who love the sport it’s based around. Disappointingly, though, the final product is a mediocre package that will leave folks who’ve been hoping for a great motocross racer wanting.
With a budget price tag comes a game that is focused on one thing and one thing only. There are no additional modes outside of the basics, and the overload of mediocre racing gets to be too much.
Still, without secondary modes and the like, MX vs. ATV: Supercross remains a content-filled package in most respects. How? Well, the folks behind it — those being the employees of Rainbow Studios — did their best to cram the sport’s season and championship experience in for our enjoyment. The result is a career mode that will take quite a while to beat, thanks to its inclusion of several eight-race seasons, as well as another five championships on top of that. Championships, themselves, are comprised of seventeen consecutive events, and take advantage of each one of the game’s tracks.
If you’re a super fan, you may not mind playing the same type of races over and over again, but I must admit that it got to me. The tedium that is created by the design of Supercross‘ career mode leads to boredom after a while, and loses its appeal during long sessions. It’s nice that you can take a break and save your progress, but the lack of variety is clearly evident regardless of that fact.
Things would be better if the actual gameplay was a home run, but it’s not. It’s serviceable and has its moments, but is too basic and uninspired. What you see is really what you get, because it’s all about standard racing and nothing more. Sure, there are different tracks to drive on, but they all blend together after a while. That’s not entirely the developer’s fault, either, because it comes with the subject matter.
For some reason, my home city’s track was always my kryptonite, and I’d never do well on it. In fact, there were a few courses that gave me trouble. I’ll admit that I’m not amazing at the game, despite being a competent and above-average gamer, but my issues weren’t entirely skill-based. Instead, I noticed that the artificial intelligence was surprisingly varied in terms of its actual skill level.
During my time as a dirt-bike and all-terrain racer, I cycled through three of the four available difficulty levels, including easy, amateur and super hard. What I noticed as I did this was that the difficulty didn’t exactly affect me like it was supposed to. On easy, I’d sometimes lap the competition, while during other races, the AI would zoom well ahead of me and drive close to a superstar level. Sure, they’d crash occasionally, but they’d also be given the opportunity to cut corners, while I’d receive a reset if I tried to do that myself.
When I played on hard, I was able to keep up with the pack, which surprised me. After all, this was a game that I was playing on easy. Shouldn’t hard have been incredibly difficult? In context, the answer is yes, but MX vs. ATV: Supercross doesn’t abide by those rules and has some of the strangest artificial intelligence that I’ve ever encountered. As a result, the unpredictable competition ends up turning what could’ve been a more enjoyable game into an occasional exercise in frustration.
I admittedly disliked the game at its onset, but as I became used to its tricks, it started to grow on me a bit. The bike-based races, seasons and championships always seemed harder than the ATV ones, though, mainly because of the fact that the ATVs’ mechanics are superior. There’s less float when you’re on four wheels, and the rough terrain that each course presents is easier to manage. Tricks can be tough to pull off while using both types of vehicles, though, because the way they control is both cumbersome and imprecise. Even when you think you’re in the clear after a huge jump, that’s not always the case, so showing off is quite often detrimental to your cause.
Although there’s no tutorial to be found here, I managed to understand how things worked after a while. Though the devs don’t tell you this, you’re supposed to take a break from events after several races or so, in order to improve your chosen bike. I learned this when I stumbled across upgrades that I’d unlocked by placing well, and noticed that they greatly improved my ride’s stats – at least on paper. Doing this gave me a bit of an edge, but nothing too, too noticeable. Still, it helped.
There are several bikes to choose from, but some of the better ones are hidden behind a pay wall. Yes, once again, this series has fallen victim to the microtransaction epidemic. If you want to spend additional money for more generically-themed bikes, then that’s up to you, but $2.99 per is a steep price to pay. It’s also worth noting that, while the shop page only offers vehicles right now, there are quite a few empty tabs that may end up housing other pay-to-win options before too long.
Aesthetically, Supercross is lacking. It looks okay, and is serviceable, but it doesn’t resemble a game from the year 2014. The racers’ animations are stiff, the arenas look too similar, the physics are dated and there’s little in the way of window dressing. In fact, the game is full of advertisements, including over-use of the publisher’s logo and the title logo itself. One somewhat good thing about it, though, is that it at least attempts terra-deformation, although it doesn’t succeed in the way that other games have. You’ll see ruts and wheel tracks, but won’t bounce around and experience realism in the way that you’d hope. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing, because the controls are far from perfect.
The audio is what you’d expect from a budget-priced game, and that’s forgettable. Expect to hear a lot of B and C-level nu-metal, as well as incredibly loud engine sounds. Each aspect of the soundtrack battles with another, making for an unpleasant experience, sound-wise.
Those who are in need of an extreme motocross hit will get a rather barebones and uninspired fix from MX vs. ATV: Supercross. This is a game that had potential, but failed to achieve it and instead, merely exists as a mediocre offering. There’s definitely better out there, and I feel as if this one’s shelf life will be short, especially considering its small online community.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we were provided with.
MX vs. ATV: Supercross looks, feels and plays like the budget title that it is. On top of that, its aggravating AI is an excitement-ruining monster.