Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Video Game Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC
Having worked on racing titles such as the MotoGP, WRC, and SBK Generations series, it is little wonder then that the official entry in the Monster Energy Supercross series has been tackled by Italian developer Milestone S.r.l, and, for the most part, is a successful representation of the sport, although it’s not without some noticeable flaws.
While most racing games on the market today make you feel like a professional racer from the moment you step into the cockpit or slide a helmet on, Monster Energy Supercross is the complete opposite. Upon booting up the game for the first time, you’re thrust straight into the action, which is ultimately a chance for you to get a feel for the controls. We finished dead last, and despite numerous re-runs, we never achieved a finishing place higher than 18th, and this will ultimately set the tone for your first few hours - the game offers little in the way of hand holding or guidance.
After returning to the title screen with our tails between our legs, we began searching in earnest for some kind of tutorial, and eventually found them, although they were simply text-based and offered just a single image as an explanation, with no guidance videos or training mode. What’s more, the sheer number of controls and aspects you need to understand in order to stand a chance of winning an event is overwhelming. For example, trying to remember which of your breaks is best for which corner, how to perform a holeshot at the start of a race, or how to best position your rider’s weight to ensure maximum speed during a straight felt more complex than it needed to be - we’ve played some RPGs with less to remember!
Ultimately then, the best way to pick up the controls and discover what works best for you is to just dive in and play, and you’re able to choose from a selection of modes including time trials, single races (which is best for getting to grips with everything), and the more expansive championship and career modes - although you’ll need to level your overall Prestige rank in order to unlock the championship mode. Time trial and single race are pretty self explanatory, but championship allows you to recreate the 2017 Supercross season with one of 22 drivers; you can also create your own championship if you wish, selecting whatever tracks you want. Career mode is where the meat of the game lies, and allows you to create your own unique rider and bike and take him through the West or East 250SX classes before ultimately upgrading to the 450SX class. Creating a rider and bike, and modifying his appearance, is enjoyable, and despite a limited number of faces to choose from, the actual amount of gear you can select from (helmets, suits etc.) is impressive and only expands the more you play and collect post-race Prestige Points and SX Credits, which allow you to unlock additional gear and bike modifications.
Customisation is also found in the deep and rewarding track editor, which allows players to design and build their own track and publish it online for others to race on. The scope here is enormous, with players able to create pretty much any type of track they can imagine, it’s truly impressive and certainly an attractive selling point for any hardened Supercross fan. What’s more, we found playing other players’ tracks a more enjoyable experience than the standard offerings, we do love creativity!
The core element of any racing game is, unsurprisingly, the actual races themselves, and Monster Energy Supercross does provide a fair representation of what it’s like to be a professional rider. Before each race you’re able to customise the bike to make it faster in corners or on straights for example, and you can even adjust elements such as the weather, or whether you want assisted gear changes etc. All of these changes help make the experience different for every player, and if you’re after a truly authentic experience, you can select different length settings which allow you to take part in just the race, or semi-pro which includes other elements such as qualifying, while the full-hog experience includes qualifying, heats, a semi final and then a last chance qualifier, before finally the race. All these choices mean you can pick up and play races five minutes at a time, or play for twenty minutes or more. There’s also an online mode where twelve players can compete against each other, however, there’s no matchmaking system, so players of all levels are thrown in together, making for a painful experience for newcomers.
Once you’ve got everything set up, you’ll dive into the races, with mixed results. The physics are a little awkward to say the least, while the AI is brutal, even on the easier difficulties; we lost count of the number of times we breathed on another rider and fell off, likewise, the padded guidance posts helping you navigate around the track feel like brick walls if you touch or land on one. What’s more, other riders would often crash and reappear on our heads, causing us to crash out, although the game does feature a rewind feature that allows you to backtrack to a previous section of the track to tackle a troublesome corner again! Nevertheless, for the most part, bike handling was solid enough, although there were certainly times when we felt the bike had a mind of its own, and, as you would expect, bikes handled noticeably worse in wet conditions.
Fans of the sport will undoubtedly recognise some of the tracks on offer here, and Monster Energy Supercross does a great job or recreating them. Stadiums buzz with atmosphere, the mud effects look amazing especially as the track deforms during a race, while the riders and bikes look authentic, especially with the extra power of PS4 Pro. However, riders should certainly keep their helmets on, as the character models look truly awful on the podium and in the character creation screens. The visuals are also let down by frequent texture popping, and the occasional frame rate hiccups during races.
We also experienced a number of crashes when starting up the game and when trying to connect to servers (namely the CE-34878-0 error), which resulted in us having to delete and reinstall the game data on three occasions - we tried other titles installed on the PS4 and had no such issues, so we have to put it down to either poor development or just bad luck. What’s more, the game is dogged by unacceptably long loading screens (over 2 minutes on some occasions) - we noticed this most during the track editor and before each race. Given the extra power the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X offer today, loading screens of this length really aren’t acceptable.
Monster Energy Supercross is a more than adequate representation of Supercross - which is not at all surprising when you take into account the experience Milestone S.r.l have in developing racing titles - and given enough time and effort, it is an enjoyable racing experience. Unfortunately, the tough learning curve and somewhat dodgy physics will turn newcomers off and makes the game feel a little unfinished. With a few patches to improve in-race physics, texture popping, and the loading screens, the game could be a vastly more enjoyable racing experience, but it appears to have missed out on its true potential in its current state.