Motorcross is an alien sport to a Brit like me.
Aside from the fact that dirt-bikes are received in England about as well as a referendum about leaving the EU, the sports relating to dirt-bikes are met with some confusion as something like NASCAR. I mean, yeah, we get that they’re popular… but why? Then again, we can’t talk ill about it when we have “sports” like Darts and Snooker, but nevertheless, maybe Monster Energy Supercross 2 can answer my questions.
This is the latest title from Italian developers Milestone S.r.l, a studio known for creating pretty much every single dirt-bike racing game, along with every other title relating to bikes and rally cars. They have a few WRC games under their belt, but their most popular games are anything to do with motorbikes or their dirt counterparts. The Ride series, the MXGP series, and a few manufacturer/figure games like Valentino Rossi: The Game, and Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo. All of these are met with the mild positive acclaim you’d expect, but is Monster Energy Supercross 2 any different?
The plot? You’re Bucky McGee, the fastest man in Texas, and your dad, Chuck Norris, gives you a Honda CRF250 for your 3rd birthday. Given that you come from a pure-blooded American family, you ride the bike flawlessly despite your infantile presence, but tragedy soon strikes as Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister, kills Norris. Not to be deterred, you find out that Brown is currently hosting the Monster Energy Supercross Championship, and you must rise up the ranks to face your foe.
Okay, obviously I’m joking about the plot, but truth be told I only have a thread-bare understanding about the world of Motocross, but I do have sources. I sat down with a friend of mine who eats, breathes and sleeps with the sport of Motocross. After her input and discussion about it, I have come to the conclusion that Monster Energy Supercross 2 isn’t just a good Motocross game, but might be the game to get you into the sport with ease.
Even though I was joking around about the story, there does seem to be more of a story angle than previously let on. The Career Mode will be the game mode most people will begin with, and it starts off with your creating your character and working your way up the measly three leagues of Motocross: 250cc bikes with tracks in the East of America, 250cc bikes with tracks in the West of America, and finally, 450cc bikes with tracks all across America.
Before you can ride anything properly, you’re given the chance to create your own character, and if anywhere fails it’s here, as the selection of pasty white boys you’re given are pitiful. It’s bad enough you can’t even switch genders if you wanted to, but the small handful of face and hair options on display are either clean or slightly rugged. Then again, I suppose it shouldn’t matter since that beautiful head is always going to be crammed underneath a helmet, so moving on.
First, you plan out your week. The life of a Motocross rider is a busy one, with 3 “Rest Days” put in-between all of the work you’ll be doing for your public image, your brand, and your sponsor. You can choose to train, to take part in promotions involving your sponsor, meeting fans and journalists, or taking part in challenges against some of your AI rivals.
Eventually, the only thing you’ll want to do is challenge your rivals. While meeting fans and journalists, and promotional days for your sponsor may be bonus money and “Fame” at first, you’ll find that their benefits slowly become irrelevant as you get much more money by simply racing, and not watching your guy stand by a Husqvarna. On that note, you’ll choose to face a Rival in a Time Trial event or 1v1 Race, and this is where you’ll get your first tastes of driving a Motocross bike, and it feels brilliant.
Riding any dirt bike in Supercross 2 is a magnificent blast of fun, punctuated by a control scheme that’s been prominent in almost every racing game involving dirt-bikes. Instead of only using the left stick to steer, you also have to use the right stick in order to shift your rider’s weight around the tracks many, many hairpins. It’s a system that’s admittedly robust and hasn’t really worked out that well in previous Motocross games.
Whereas Milestone’s previous effort MXGP3 suffered from being stiff in every style of riding, and THQ’s MX vs ATV suffered from being loose in every style of riding, Supercross 2 is this perfect balance. Even when you’re not riding on Advanced Physics, there’s still a fair challenge in getting to grips with the bikes, as every turn demands your attention, no matter how tight the hairpin is or how smooth the curve may be.
What’s really done well also is the sense of speed you get just from riding around tight turns and apex corners. Realistically, you’ll be retaining an average of around 30-45mph, but the way that tracks make you glide across their bumps and ramps– It’s always this weird elegance that rarely looks bad, for the game or for the driver.
Paired with this is some really meaty sound design coming from the bikes. Even the 250cc bikes sound like they could rip through corrugated iron without scratching the paint. 450cc’s however; That’s when you hear this gorgeous rumble as a Honda or Husqvarna plows through sand, mud and grass like it’s butter. Leading off into ramps and letting go of the accelerator, listening to the revs slowly go down until you hear a soft thud and the revs come back up. It’s glorious.
Leading into this is the concise and tight track design, both figuratively and literally. All of the tracks will be situated within a stadium, as opposed to other MX titles taking place within massive fields set up for Motocross events. There’s never really a straight either, it’s always a bumpy affair, where you have to optimize your path through the ramps in order to cut airtime and maintain speed.
It’s great once you finally get into the rhythm, but a lot of the tracks feel like they’re meant for 450cc bikes, as opposed to the weaker 250s. 450cc bikes are when the game flourishes, and when you test them out on the meticulously curvaceous tracks, that rhythm and flow expands tenfold into something truly fantastic, especially when paired with the atmosphere from the stadiums.
There’s something about this overblown tone, this cacophony of noise and spectacle, fireworks and overblown commentary; It all just clicks for a sport like this. NASCAR can’t fit in with this mood because it’s so monotone in its delivery but when you see this same atmosphere implanted in something like Supercross 2, you start to think “y’know, maybe this sport isn’t that bad”.
Graphically, it is fairly impressive as well. MXGP3 suffers from this gross blurring effect on everything that makes it look like you’re playing the game through a hazy filter. In Supercross 2, that hazy filter is still there in places, but most of the arenas and areas you’ll race through look clean, splendid and as dirty as they could, would, and should be.
That being said, there are unintended bumps on this journey. The physics for example, even on Advanced, tend to bugger up constantly, leading you to land on other racers and ride them for a while, or you end up grinding some of the barricades by accident. This might be that arcade-style racing formula getting in the way of the actual biker mechanics, but it could be much worse.
The rivalry thing could’ve also been worked on a lot better. The only thing it offers you is a meager amount of XP, and it never truly shows up outside of simple 1-on-1 challenges. Maybe the AI isn’t advanced enough to implement that kind of behavior outside of preset 1-on-1 races, but still, the rivalries being implicated as opposed to implemented are a shame.
Supercross 2 also suffers from some hearty technical issues. Beyond taking forever to load the tracks (A common fault in many Milestone games), some of the AI riders find it virtually impossible to go up some specific ramps. There was one track in particular where the entire race was put to a standstill because of a 20-bike pile-up on the ramp-up. It was an odd sight, albeit slightly hilarious.
If tightly-constructed stadium tracks aren’t your bread and butter, then Milestone has given players the chance to create their own tracks. Unfortunately, these tracks can be used to gain XP for your character, along with some incredibly hefty cash bonuses, leading to various “Easy Money/XP” maps already being made. If you search long enough, you’ll find some really neat tracks that aren’t just about finding the optimal path over jumps, and instead, test how well you can handle turns on a moments notice. Like most community-focused tracks, the genius is there, but you just have to dig through dirt first.
There’s not much else to the game, other than what you’ve come to expect from most racing games: A training/challenge mode that tests your reflexes and corner controls, time trials, online racing against a few of your friends, et cetera, but that isn’t a bad thing here. A simple meal well made can be really fun, and Supercross 2 is really fun, filled with a bag of repetitious tricks that are still enjoyable after a 20-hour playthrough.
That’s about all that can be said about Supercross 2, and it might just be the Project Gotham Racing of dirt-bike games. This perfect balance between an arcade experience with simulation difficulty in the driving mechanics. The campaign’s intentions may be a bit shallow, but hey, if you’re just looking to get down and dirty with some smooth driving controls, some great tracks, an atmosphere of fire and passion, and maybe create your own fun as well? Then Supercross 2 gets the job done and then some.
This review of Monster Energy Supercross 2 was based on the Xbox One version. A code was provided for review purposes.
A really neat mix of mechanics and style leads Monster Energy Supercross 2 to be one of the strongest Motocross titles around.
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