It's an incredible time to be a motocross fan, with Milestone's MXGP Pro simply the latest in a long line of titles paying homage to the sport.
This year alone, Monster Energy Supercross and MX vs. ATV All Out have hit systems to varying reviews. MXGP Pro arrives as more of a simulation experience aimed at a niche crowd looking for realistic, challenging gameplay while the developers continue to fine-tune the Unreal Engine.
It's safe to say MXGP Pro should end up as the best game in the genre this year, though a brutal learning curve and blatant areas needing improvement don't make it a flawless ride.
Those who don't want a challenge should turn away now and have a look at some of the year's prior releases.
MXGP Pro is difficult. Gorgeous and difficult. The developers made a point to stress they had worked with pro riders to help craft this year's revamped performance and physics systems, and it shows. Tutorials are tedious, though worthwhile. However, a player won't be able to perfect everything just going over the basics several times.
Those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the sport will need to break out a notepad or recording device while giving it a go. Throttle control is important, and learning to scrub—shifting in the air to minimize time off the ground after a jump—is imperative to success.
That said, frustration stems more from arbitrary reasons than the grind to improve. Braking is more responsive than it is in past games and takes an adjustment period to get down. It's way too easy to go down overall, especially in corners. The aim is to punish players who don't tilt correctly in the air or brake too early or too late around a bend, but the punishment doesn't always match up to what's happening in the game.
For example, tracks get harder the longer you're on it. But ruts don't really seem to form and have an impact on a bike in the way they should despite the track looking degraded as a race continues.
And this is just the competition between a player, bike and the track. Add in a bevy of AI-controlled opponents and things get tougher, especially because it seems like one lone bike typically breaks away and is almost impossible to catch. Most AI riders seem to stay in a train-like pack, though, and don't experiment with switching lines to make things interesting.
None of this is to say the game isn't fun overall, as honing skills and putting them to work is a rewarding experience. But there are frustration points, especially for real-life riders who want the simulation to be perfect.
Graphics and Presentation
As hinted, this is an incredibly good-looking game.
The handful of tracks all have a unique flair. There's plenty happening off the track itself to breathe life into the game, and the track deteriorates as a race continues, which is a visual cue telling players things will only get more difficult as the brakes do less and the corners become more dangerous.
A dirty sport when things are dry, realistic puddles and mud slapping back into the camera greet players once dynamic weather kicks it. Otherwise, the crunch of dirt or splashes of muddy water sound and look great.
Sound overall can be hit or miss, though. Engine noises from AI opponents seem to fade in and out randomly underneath the constant drone of your own bike. And the announcer greeting a player at the gates before every race doesn't have many different ways to tell you this one should be an exciting one.
There are a few noticeable hiccups in gameplay frame rate itself when riders were bunched together, too. This didn't impact gameplay too much, but as we approach what seems like the end of another console generation and head for the next, these things become more noticeable.
Overall, MXGP Pro does some impressive things visually in varying environments, and it can be breathtaking to see so much unfolding on screen at once, besides the frame rate hiccups. Going into first-person or helmet mode doesn't hurt the integrity of the graphics either.
While it might seem silly to some, capping it all off is the official sponsor logos and decals everywhere. It's an additional layer of realism fans will appreciate, as opposed to looking at made-up brands.
This is where MXGP Pro really takes a hit.
These are the four solo game modes available:
- Grand Prix
- Time Attack
Each one is self-explanatory, with career taking the cake as the most important.
Career lets you race against real-life MXGP and MX2 riders after choosing a team, then earning credits to unlock parts and vehicles. The inclusion of sponsors is a nice touch, as they offer objectives to complete and help upgrade a bike. Otherwise, there's also a bit of social-media interaction thrown in because...why not?
Unexpectedly, a compound makes an appearance here as well. It's a good idea to have an open-world area with various terrains for players to practice on, and Milestone makes use of this by offering 30 different challenges. The checklist of challenges and a chance to practice is great, though after those two items the compound becomes 100 percent unused.
Speaking of terrains, this edition has good track selection, though the selection itself isn't going to blow away a player who has picked up one of these games in the past. Arguably more important is the fine-tuning that goes into the tracks to reflect the real-world changes over the years.
While customization is limited, one of the finer talking points centers on pre-race options such as AI difficulty and physics (pro or otherwise), rewind and more. Turning off handicaps such as rewind reward bonus credits.
Pre-race options extend to the bike itself, where areas like suspension, gear ratio, brake response and more can receive some tuning to change performance based on the track and weather.
For the most hardcore out there, Extreme mode is calling. It's exactly what it sounds like, as it bars players from using any assists and makes them go through true-to-life races, such as qualifying before extended events. Given how difficult the base game is, though, it's hard to imagine many gamers will pursue this brand of playstyle. There's enough of a challenge in the base game between pre-race prep and paying careful attention to all the factors during a race before stripping down assists, upping the AI, and doubling or more the time it takes to complete a race.
MXGP Pro is a by-the-books game continuing to improve and a good time for fans of the sport.
But some oddities that need cleaned up in gameplay, a few tech issues and the fact non-racing items in the game feel slapped on at the last minute don't do the offering any favors.
Aimed at a niche, then refined to those seeking a simulation experience for the sport in the same vein as Forza, the negatives don't ruin the entire package. This is still the best motocross game on the market, and those who consider it a chance to work on the skill side of things while waiting for Milestone to beef up career and other modes in future iterations will find a fun experience.
Call it a dirty, good-looking experience with a few potholes, just like the tracks the game recreates faithfully.