MXGP2: The Official Motocross Videogame (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 02.07.2016

Review for MXGP2: The Official Motocross Videogame on PlayStation 4

While motorsport has always enjoyed a fairly fruitful relationship with the video game industry, titles involving vehicles of the two wheeled variety haven't really captivated the interests of the armchair enthusiast in quite the same way that those involving four wheels have. Over the years, car-centric franchises such as Forza, Need for Speed, DiRT, and Gran Turismo have flourished and grown in stature by continuously evolving with each successive iteration. Ask any gamer if they're aware of a similarly high profile series dedicated to motorbikes and they might struggle for an answer. The Trials series? Road Rash perhaps? Well … not quite, though over the years, Italian developer Milestone has slowly been carving out quite a niche for itself with a multitude of motorbike-oriented titles such as Ride, the MotoGP series, Mud FIM, and the SBK series. The release of MXGP2 sees them making the second game of an officially licensed series covering the Motocross Grand Prix.

Motocross as a sporting discipline naturally evolved from the early motorcycle trials that started in the UK over a hundred years ago. Even that far back, the format was very similar to the one that exists today: a hard fought race that saw competing riders scramble to be the first across the finish line. As the sport grew in popularity worldwide, gradual improvements to the bike frame, weight, suspension, and engine technology saw the competition shift to more rugged terrain and, in particular, enclosed off-road circuits which spawned the birth of modern day Motocross.

MXGP2 straddles the arcade/simulation style of play and sports an official license that includes the full roster of riders (as of 2015), upgradeable motorbikes from all the major manufacturers, as well as 18 real life tracks to race around at high speed. While the main meat and potatoes of the game sits in the career mode, Milestone have thrown together a package brimming with a variety of content that caters to all aspects of the sport. Alongside the online multiplayer mode that supports up to twelve players, there are also options to partake in both the Monster Energy FIM MXON and the Stadium Series competitions. If that wasn't enough, the inclusion of Real Events adds a fairly unique twist to the challenge mode by recreating a number of scenarios that actually happened in real life competition, forcing the rider to deal with events as they unfold.

The career mode is where the 'sim' aspect comes into play, but it feels a bit flimsy in execution, given that the events loosely tying the races together seem superfluous in nature and don't really have any meaningful impact on how it plays. For example, when assembling a support crew at the start of the campaign, the budding Motocross star is asked to pick both a personal manager and a team manager from the fairly wide selection on offer. Being as there are no pertinent statistics attached to any of the candidates, it just ends up being a case of choosing between pictures of random blokes, meaning 'most facial hair' or 'saddest eyes' is as legitimate a criteria choice as any bike-related experience they may or may not have.

Screenshot for MXGP2: The Official Motocross Videogame on PlayStation 4

Similarly, picking a team sponsor brings with it a set of stipulations that need to be met to (hopefully) maintain a long and fruitful working partnership. Failure to meet these conditions doesn't really have any negative repercussions other than an amicable parting of the ways, and no matter how poor the rider's performance is during a race, there will always be another gushing sponsor willing to step up for a slice of that action. It feels ever-so-slightly tacked on, given that the few managerial decisions that do crop up seem to carry very little weight, with the outcome rarely deviating from its pre-set path.

Each career event is split into four different sections in a bid to ape the official competition format and it's here that the game takes a slight stumble in its bid for authenticity. The Practice and Qualifying rounds last for a full 30 minutes apiece, with the result used to determine a position on the starting line relative to the finishing order for the two main race events. Motocross fans will no doubt appreciate that Milestone have included these preliminary races that play a fairly important role in the real life version, but unfortunately, pounding the circuit for a full half hour very quickly becomes tedious, especially when armed with the knowledge that both of the main events last a mere three laps. Thankfully, these rounds can be skipped altogether though doing so forces the rider to start on the furthest point on the outer lane which immediately places them at a complete disadvantage.

Screenshot for MXGP2: The Official Motocross Videogame on PlayStation 4

A classic 'videogame' way of dealing with this issue might have been to have a short qualifying round that could be exited at any point during the proceedings, after which, a comparative estimate of the finishing position can be derived by taking the other rider's average lap time into consideration. As it stands, the participant could find themselves in 5th position after 5 laps and decide to go back to the pits (quit the round) knowing that it's a fairly respectable place on the starting line-up, only to find themselves right at the bottom in 22nd place because they didn't play the full half hour. It's fair to say that even the most hardcore Motocross fans would likely grow weary of playing these half-hour rounds eventually.

Harnessing the power of a two-wheeled beast has a learning curve that runs far deeper than the bog-standard accelerate/brake that motorsport gaming fans have become accustomed to over the years. Those familiar with the popular Trials series will be fully aware that despite its arcade-like qualities, it possessed a surprisingly deep and accurate physics handling model that placed particular emphasis on getting the rider's stance and weight distribution as precisely balanced as possible, to guarantee successful negotiation of rugged, uneven terrain. Milestone have adopted a similar model for MXGP2 by utilising the right stick to act as a direct control for the rider, which enables movement completely independent from the bike.

In practice, tight bends become much easier to handle when the rider leans into the turn, in much the same way as leaning backwards when approaching a jump would increase the trajectory. Using weight distribution in conjunction with the separate front and rear brakes can take a bit of getting used to but does prove to be very effective once mastered, as does the presence of the clutch which is used to regulate engine revs to give an extra speed boost when required. Of course, there are options to simplify the control scheme and even hobble the physics settings for those that don't relish the thought of change, but to do so takes away a fairly unique attribute that adds to the experience.

Screenshot for MXGP2: The Official Motocross Videogame on PlayStation 4

Once a race commences, it's hard not to shake the feeling that the AI-controlled riders are on pre-set courses, as they seem to continually plough through the competition no matter what happens, and a few too many tumbles can make it difficult to catch up to the pack, as they rarely seem to put a foot wrong. Oddly, this makes the races feel a bit bland and unexciting, which is a real shame, as from a technical standpoint, MXGP2 doesn't really make any mistakes and (bar the abnormally slow load times) is a fairly robust proposition on the whole. There is a rewind mechanic built in for those that want it, but it tends to be an option that's often frowned upon by the purists.

It does feel like a game that would have benefited more from focussing on its arcade aspects, as in its current form, the sim-lite constraints don't really do it any favours. Visually, it does an admirable job of capturing the very essence of Motocross. Mud churns up realistically, leaving visual scars to the track, the foliage and surrounding scenery look natural, the customisation livery options for bike and rider work well, and the option to play with a first person helmet-cam viewpoint is a particularly nice touch. However, the irritatingly mundane audio quickly gets tiresome and is akin to firing up a petrol-powered lawnmower in your living space and leaving it to idle while you play (N.B. for those tempted to try this out, please open a window for health and safety purposes first).

Screenshot for MXGP2: The Official Motocross Videogame on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

When considering the volume and frequency of Milestone's motorbike-focussed output, it wouldn't be too out of line to suspect that MXGP2 might have been 'dialled in' to an extent, though making such an assumption would be doing the developer a great disservice, considering that it does everything it sets out to do very competently. While the managerial aspects of the campaign do feel like an unnecessary dressing used to pad out the experience, scramble fans eager to release the throttle and churn up the tracks should still enjoy the wealth of content on offer. With that said, it doesn't quite do enough to sink its hooks into those that aren't too familiar with the sport (which, in the interests of full disclosure, includes this reviewer), as despite being vaguely fun for a few races, it fails to ignite any real compulsion to continue.

Developer

MileStone

Publisher

PQube

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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