Not necessarily the biggest sport in the world, Motocross has got a significant following. Significant enough that Rainbow Studios and Nordic Games have released the 5th iteration of the dirt bike racing series. MX vs ATV Supercross is also the first one to be released since THQ went bust. Given increasing coverage of aspects of the sport on global TV, and the success of games like Trials Fusion, can this differentiate itself enough and make you buy into it?
Being a fan of the Red Bull X-Fighter series I was definitely keen to get revving the throttles, hitting the kickers and get myself into a cordoba 50 feet in the air. However, MX vs ATV Supercross is more about racing than stunts so I was actually a little disappointed in that I couldn’t pretend to be Levi Sherwood for a few days. The aim is simple – pick a discipline (MX or ATV) and race to win a series of events against 11 opponents on indoor arenas. Championship series are split by East or West locations in the US, and by vehicle power, and then by vehicle type; and taking part opens the tracks for single race use, as well as new series to take part in. Doing well in the races nets you new rider clothing and upgrades for your chosen vehicle. There’s not much more to say really, the menus are perfunctory, there’s not a lot of options, and outside the race series there’s not much else to select. Free ride is available for each track so you can explore and mess around, though that’s it before you head online.
The front end is simple, and this might be because the development team have focussed on the gameplay and core experience. Racing is well paced and needs mastering for you to make headway against your opponents. Starting off on the lower powered bikes, they’re nice little accelerators, fairly stable, and fun to throw around. The physics are decent enough that the illusion of jumping, sliding and bouncing along is fun without being awkward, and mistakes aren’t seriously punished. If you do manage to chuck yourself off the course there’s plenty of opportunities to get going again, and if that fails the reset system is forgiving as well as being actually useful. Shifting your weight is key to decent speed along the course, and none of them skimp on bumps, humps and kickers so you’ve got to pay attention all the time. Not managing your positioning will drop your momentum and overall speed, allowing the AI to either catch and overtake or just pull out an even bigger gap. Upping the engine size gives you more speed, and a greater challenge too.
Jumping to ATVs I expected to have a more stable ride and feel more in control. Nope. The additional weight and size means that corrections are harder to make and you feel more on the edge of losing it most of the time. They feel like they zip along at a quicker rate too, and this adds to the fun. It’s satisfying leaping from ramp to ramp and keeping the momentum going so that you’re always as close to the top speed as possible. So satisfying in fact that you get cocky and start thinking of throwing some shapes in mid air… and that will bring you down with several broken bones and an instant reset. It’s not that there isn’t time to pull off some good looking tricks, it’s that you’ve no idea how to do it. What MX vs ATV Supercross focusses on it does well, one of the things it ignores is actually helping you understand how to play the game.
Figuring out the weight shifting and how to jump is pretty easy, even if it would have been helpful to have something pop up to say how you do it. The stunts are a mystery that took a long while in free ride to figure out because it’s about the most unintuitive system I’ve come across. Because it uses the same controls as the movement of the rider, it means that 8 out of 10 times you’ll miss the trick and land hard enough to throw you off, and the other 2 times will be pure luck. I’m sure with practice that this gets better, but seeing as I couldn’t find any trick specific events I didn’t worry too much about it – which means I’ve ignored a part of the game mechanic with no detriment to my experience. The only other part of the racing that doesn’t work all that well is opponent collisions. They’re like hitting brick walls that kill your speed, whether on a straight, in a turn, or even in mid-air. It’s a bit poor, especially as you’ve got a good amount of competition on screen.
To look at the game is fairly nice, and the framerate solid at all times, though there’s nothing complicated to stretch it. Sound and music fits well in the setting too, even if the soundtrack isn’t my usual cup of tea. It’s hard not to like MX vs ATV Supercross, but it’s hard to like it too because there’s just not much to keep you entertained past the main career. The look and feel of the Motocross scene is in there with all the licensed companies and riders. It’s very competent and provides a nice diversion from other types of racing games, and no more. That said, it isn’t a full price game, and you can pick it up for less than £25. Is that enough to sway you into giving it a try?
A review copy of MX vs ATV Supercross for the PlayStation 3 was provided by the Nordic Games PR team.