It may come as a bit of a surprise, supercross as a FIM championship has been going for some time, but many of us have never heard of it. Breaking from the tradition of motocross being on long outdoor tracks, it swaps them out for tonnes of dirt piled into arenas to have crazy courses formed in them. It’s all about close racing, big air and supreme bike handling skills. Whether it’s 250 or 450 engined bikes the idea is the same – get to the finish line first in each and every race. It has a big following in the US, hence the attachment of a major drinks sponsor, but will Monster Energy Supercross as the official videogame be able to do two key things: replicate the action of the series for its fans, and widen the appeal of the sport to newcomers?
Milestone are bringing their motorcycle racing pedigree to bear in Monster Energy Supercross. Their experience in Ride, Ride 2 and MXGP hold them in good stead for pulling off a game worthy of wielding an “officially licensed” moniker. Taking the courses, bikes, riders and sponsors, they’ve digitised them to provide an authentic supercross game that puts you firmly in the riding seat across a number of events and disciplines. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just an arcade dirt racing game though, there’s a lot more depth than first appears – from the different track surfaces present in each course, to the fact the controller lights up in line with the rev counter.
After a bit of a shaky start – putting you immediately into a race with no control or rule instructions could have been handled better – it’s time to setup your own racer and make a start on earning both cash and prestige, the two currencies in play throughout the game. Single player gives the standard options of a one off event, time trial, career or standalone championship; and it’s in the latter two that most of your time with the game is spent initially. Picking the 250 class of bike then taking part in an 8 race long season on either the East or West coast has you battling over 20 other riders for the top spot on the podium in various stadium across the US, each designed to challenge your skills and patience… if you take it off simplified physics that is. It’ll then let you tackle the more powerful 450 machines which will bite if you’re not careful.
Arguably, one of the most surprising elements of what could have been just a simple arcade racer is the customisation available in the handling model and race setup. With multiple AI levels, race lengths and the inclusion of practice and qualifying, Monster Energy Supercross brings the full race weekend feel to the game. It then ramps up your options with the ability to change the handling and response of the machines, as well as factoring in weight shift and transfer as vital mechanics to keeping you upright. Then there’s the tuning options to access before each event so that your motor does what you want it to. Whatever knowledge of riding you have is pretty much catered for from the total novice to the seasoned professional, and it adds to the impetus to get better when you start cranking the difficulty up. However, if your skills are firmly in your head and you run out of talent, there’s an exceptionally generous rewind feature to get you back on track.
Mastering the career mode means cash and prestige that do two things. One allows you to buy new bikes and kit them out with customised parts and decals – all of which come at a price so you’ll need to put the laps in to make it worthwhile. The other opens up new sponsors to bring in more cash when you hit their targets. Prestige determines the overall rank you’re at and lets you compare against everyone else playing the game, if you want to venture into multiplayer. After a couple of rounds in the championships it can get a bit stale and make you crave some different competition, and Monster Energy Supercross makes it easy to find and jump into an online game. All the options from single player are there and it’s a pretty smooth ride. The only downside to it is getting thrown into a game doesn’t seem to tell you whether it’s started or not so you can end up stuck just watching proceedings. It also doesn’t help that there’s no HUD and no indication of how long is left on the clock.
If you’ve mastered the AI and beaten human competition into submission, there’s then the track editor to play around with. Even though the pre-made courses are all great to ride, with Las Vegas being a particular highlight, nothing can beat building your own from scratch. With comprehensive tutorials to get started it’s easy to get into, and whilst the initial templates feel very small, once you get laying down the sections you realise there is a lot of ground to cover. Jumping in for a quick test is simple, as is sharing online. That’s one of the key features with the editor, the ability to upload/download and rate users efforts. Done right it’ll add a huge amount of life to the game.
Monster Energy Supercross has a lot going for it for a sport that’s probably not all that well known outside the US. There’s a solid set of mechanics underpinning the game that makes it fun to play whatever your skill level. The floaty feel to the bikes on the easier settings actually makes things pretty entertaining… even if you’re just flinging your digital self off your ride; and the ability to dial up the challenge is welcome. The niggle that remains though is that it is a niche game, no matter how well thought out it is, and for non-enthusiasts it will wear pretty quickly. It’s not the most technically stable at times with riders appearing and disappearing, the gate release being very jerky making the holeshot a real pain to achieve, or the camera jumping around. Then there’s the genero-rock that can grate after persistent exposure to it, it’s definitely not AAA standard. But then we know that whilst Milestone isn’t a massive studio it does seem to have the market share of biking games, and it’s what they know their way around. I don’t think there’s new ground being broken here, and it won’t really appeal to anyone who doesn’t know who Ryan Dungey is, yet it’s a decent game that will keep fans occupied for a while.
A PS4 review copy of Monster Energy Supercross was provided by Milestone’s PR team, and the game is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch for around £45.