Monster Energy Supercross is a good example of a developer cornering its niche and running with it.
Or rather in this case, the team at Milestone tears through the mud before ramping into the air in front of thousands.
From an upgraded physics system to smooth visuals and the all-important track editor, Monster Energy Supercross builds upon strong systems in place and sprinkles in innovation from other sports titles to make for a fun release with plenty of crossover appeal.
Under the microscope, this one has the look of an underdog who can steal a win late.
While it isn't necessarily as difficult as other racing games on the market right now, Monster Energy Supercross has a high skill ceiling the best players will reach for and perfect over time.
This is a different animal than other games, where vehicles making contact can feel inconsequential. Here, contact can send a player flying and ruin a race.
Monster Energy Supercross tasks players with not only worrying about wrecks on top of tricky courses, it requires smooth control over the bike itself, while another stick controls the movement of the on-screen rider. The latter has a huge impact on the former, especially when getting aerial.
Like offerings in the Forza franchise or otherwise, assists will help along players who want a more casual experience. The career mode helps players shed these over time while running through 250SX and 450SX classes, though it's a big process.
As a whole, this is a great game to pick up and play regardless of one's familiarity with the sport. The physics and collision detection can be spotty at times, but the frame-rate is usually smooth and leaves players feeling in control of the action.
Graphics and Presentation
For a sport susceptible to muddy conditions, a game offering won't feel right without coming in realistically in this department.
Luckily for players, Milestone made this a priority while on the track and come out looking great.
As hinted, the action on screen is mostly smooth, and making it all the more impressive is the detailed, next-gen visuals. Players kick up mud as they go and the track itself worsens as an event continues. The sense of immersion surrounding the action on the track is boosted by what feels like a gigantic stadium on each side, though active crowds filling the seats don't hold up well the closer a player gets.
Above, though, the wording specifically said "on the track" for a reason.
Monster Energy Supercross stumbles in the few cut scenes players get before and after a race. A bad showing, for example, will pop up a cut scene in between looks at the leaderboard that shows a disgruntled driver talking to somebody else, with both player models looking like something outside of the Xbox 360 era.
This noticeable issue aside, the on-track action is crystal clear night or day, rain or clear skies. There isn't much in the way of announcers or a narrator chronicling the journey, though it's difficult to complain about a developer spending the majority of its time on true-to-life gameplay instead of the superficial items alongside it.
Track Editor and More
One of the biggest selling points here is the anticipated track editor.
Granted, these sorts of racing games have required a track editor since Excitebike, though the developers back then probably couldn't have envisioned what a game like Monster Energy Supercross would do with the feature.
This isn't a basic offering where a player just slaps down points on a grid and then rides around on it. This is a robust creator where players pick a start point and can do what they want, from dramatic turns almost defying gravity to straight-up bridges and beyond. Rounding out the experience by customizing the surroundings and picking from a variety of stadium types is a nice touch.
What's fun here is a player can then turn around and upload their custom creations to the online realm, where a social media-esque liking system will propel the best creations to the top. These creations can be subbed into the career experience in place of traditional real-world venues. Also in the customization realm are the depths to which players can go to alter their character, bike and sponsorships, the latter including real-world brands.
Career mode, is a basic offering running through the classifications mentioned and features 17 tracks from the 2017 Supercross season. There are plans to add more tracks via downloadable content.
Of note, this is the first time the series has leaned on a different engine for physics. Unreal Engine 4 delivers as we've hinted above, offering a much different experience than past iterations. If there's one issue worth bringing up, it's that player models sometimes pass through inanimate objects after a wreck.
Load times are also notably on the longer side when heading into a race, but it's a small bump in the road for what is overall a strong experience.
For Monster Energy Supercross' niche crowd, this year's offering is a solid jump in the right direction. It doesn't stick the landing perfectly by any means, but there's enough in the way of depth and social features to keep this one going for a long time while dreaming about what the developers next do to improve it.
Outside of the niche, there's fun racing here with an under-the-radar skill curve. There aren't a huge number of modes and the career isn't an in-depth affair by any means. The few hiccups such as wonky physics and crowd-graphics struggles reminiscent of other sporting games years ago will stick out, but not ruin the experience.
Which is where Milestone probably wants to be—plenty of sports games struggle endlessly with complaints about gameplay itself and how it mirrors the real thing. Few issues stick out in this regard, making Monster Energy Supercross a worthwhile effort now while finalizing a blueprint to build from the ground up around strong core gameplay.