Racing games tend to interest me about as much as they can interest someone who has driven a ’98 Honda CR-V for five years and plans to for the next ten. Needless to say, I’ve never been too excited by cars, bikes or the sport of racing itself, unless it somehow involves explosions or Vin Diesel. Despite my reservations, though, I found myself thoroughly enjoying MXGP: The Official Motocross Video Game for hours at a time.
To emulate the less strict style of MXGP races, developer Milestone has crafted an intuitive control scheme that makes each race a deeply involved blast. While the left stick is used to control the bike like usual, the right stick controls the rider’s weight, adding a new layer of thinking that goes into every turn and jump. Sharp turns can be made quicker if you lean into the curve, but lean too far or hit the brake at the wrong moment and you’ll go flying off of your bike.
Shifting weight can also be used to perform a scrub, a trick used to lessen the amount of time you spend in the air on huge jumps, allowing you to hit the ground faster and get an advantage over the competition. Scrubbing on every jump would be a mistake, though, as it’s sometimes better to fly longer to avoid bumpier sections that could slow you down. It’s an interesting mechanic that makes you think and adapt on the fly based on your position and the racers around.
The Career mode is eerily similar to MotoGP 14 and practically every other racing sim out there, breaking up races with time spent in your office checking emails from your managers, changing your outfit in your locker, and checking a simplistic social media site for challenges from competitors. It’s far from groundbreaking, but it’s the one mode you’re bound to get your money’s worth out of.
Starting as a wild card in MX2, you eventually get to choose a team to sign with before entering the series as a full-fledged racer, making your way to MX1 and gaining a crowd of fans with each win. Each race weekend also tasks you with reaching a certain amount of points and a rival to best, and completing these tasks will garner you even more adoring fans.
While it’s not groundbreaking, it’s oddly engrossing watching your custom rider grow in the public’s eye until they’re on the front page of the MXGP magazine. Leaving MotoGP 14 beaten, broken and dejected, my 16-year-old Kenyan racer Gulliver Targus found his true calling in MXGP, and knowing his story (which I made up in my head) made the Career mode that much more enjoyable.
However, outside of that, there’s a noticeable dearth of content to keep you coming back for more. Both Instant Race and Grand Prix serve to get you on the track in a heartbeat, with the former choosing your racer and track at random while the latter lets you choose both before beginning. Even the Championship mode is nothing more than a glorified string of Grand Prix races that you can rearrange as you wish. The standard Time Attack and online multiplayer rear their heads as well, although fans of racers will already know what to expect from those. If you’re completely taken with the gameplay and still feel like you need more of MXGP after Career draws to a close, you’ll find plenty of ways to keep racing. It’s just a shame that none of them are interesting or try to do anything different.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest flaws that can be found within MXGP is the difficulty. Unlike with MotoGP 14, Milestone has overcompensated and lowered the difficulty to a ridiculous degree. The AI difficulty is set to easy by default, and it shows after I won my first race and still had time to walk the dog before the competition caught up. Even on intermediate and hard difficulty you won’t find much challenge, although the realistic setting may provide what you’re looking for.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of races is the inconsistent collision detection, especially when racers are grouped together in big packs. Barely touching an opponent’s bike may fling you over the handlebars, but a full on collision will find you both crossing into each other with nary a scratch. While racing out of the gate at the beginning of each race is an intense experience, it’s marred when you see racers ghosting through each other or getting flung into the air like the intro to the George Lopez show.
MXGP also can’t seem to decide what constitutes being out of bounds, with some locations allowing you to race back to the track if you go outside of the lines while others will knock you on your butt if you have the gall to even touch one of the outer barriers. It’s frustrating to be in the lead of a close race and then lose at the last minute because you crossed the line by a hair and got thrown in the dirt.
It’s also worth noting that MXGP is an update of the same game released earlier this year for last-gen consoles, albeit with updated graphics and a few new tracks. While the addition of tracks is always a nice perk, the graphics are hardly worthy of being current-gen, with tracks looking interchangeable and featuring crowds seemingly animated for the PS2. However, if you race towards the sun on the right tracks, the lighting can provide a few beautiful moments.
If you’re a fan of the MXGP sport or racers in general, then MXGP is a fantastic racer to pick up for a discounted price, because despite the engaging core mechanics, there’s simply not enough content to warrant a $60 price tag. Unless you’re a diehard fanatic, you’d do well to wait for a price cut or a truly next-gen version of the racer. Until then, you’re left with an above-average racer saddled with below average gameplay modes, collectibles and replay value.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 retail copy of the game given to us for review purposes.
For as much fun as I had with MXGP, Milestone fail to tread any new ground, presenting a functional and exciting racer that doesn't offer anything more than its solid core mechanics.