Developer Milestone srl continues its reboot on the MXGP front this year with MXGP 2019.
Where last year's release dialed in on hyper-realistic gameplay while fine-tuning the physics engine, MXGP 2019 swings open the door on more traditional sports game systems like teams, realistic seasons and editing functionality.
As is the case out in the dirt itself, the approach is key. Last year, nearly everything away from the track felt like an afterthought, but the gameplay was excellent. One can't argue against the gameplay-first approach, but MXGP 2019 needed to adjust and for the most part, it does so successfully.
Graphics and Gameplay
One area Milestone games don't usually struggle with comes in the visual department.
Even then, MXGP 2019 is notable for a sheer uptick in details via diversity. Cobblestone bridges, variances in trees and more realistic-looking water are little things that weren't always up to par for the current generation of consoles. The free-play area and tracks simply having more going on and further diversity in the former was a necessity.
In motion, MXGP 2019 mostly looks fantastic simply thanks to another detail pass. Rocks fly up behind the bike or skid off to the side based on what occurs during the race. The track deteriorates as a race continues and depending on weather conditions, those ruts become haphazard and mud flies everywhere. In a muddy event, the riders get caked as the race progresses.
It is clear where time has been spent, though. Water looks good on the surface, yet doesn't do much but spray up when a bike rolls through it and the size of the splash doesn't change regardless of momentum. The ruts form in a track look and perform great, but the sprays just seem to be the water splashes with a brown hue.
The presentation upticks in visuals don't necessarily apply to sound, though. Make no mistake, what's here is immersive on a headset like an Astro A50. But some of the familiar complaints such as the drone of engine noise that seems to come and go sporadically remain. The bikes don't seem to make a ton of other noise, nor do the features surrounding the track or bumps and crashes create much in the way of sound, either.
Sticking with the presentation and immersion front for a moment, cutscenes are still sparse and besides the immense load times, there are even small loading screens between a short clip of a racer getting ready to go and the race itself.
Most of these familiar trappings don't work against the gameplay itself, though. The nuance and weight of the bike remain solid, with one stick controlling direction and the other the weight of the rider. It's a fun system that doesn't prohibit pick-up-and-play potential (in part thanks to some strong assist options), but offers enough in the way of a skill ceiling to see appreciable gains for those who stick with it.
Those ruts in the track exemplify the simulation-based experience found here. The learning curve can be steep in part because the tracks depreciate and demand adaption from the rider to keep up with A.I. that doesn't seem to make a ton of mistakes, though it isn't too aggressive, either.
As was the case in other recent Milestone offerings, the when and how of wrecks still seems a little spotty and the rider flying over the bike still seems a bit more fitting for a comedy sideshow, not a serious injury-inducing event.
Again, MXGP 2019 isn't a perfect experience in these areas. But it is hard to complain too much based on the upgrades from a year ago. Whether players want to pick up this release was always going to hinge on the additions around the gameplay itself.
Career Mode and More
MXGP 2019 again looks sparse in the features department.
As of this writing, the solo modes include Season, Grand Prix, Time Attack and Championship. Players can pick through a nice batch of options that tweak the experience and maps both stock with the game and from the online community.
But there is a little more depth here than last time out, thankfully. Players are now able to participate in the current MXGP World Championship thanks to the implementation of the roster, standings and tracks themselves. The ability to take up a current season isn't new to sporting games, but it's a nice feature for fans here to finally have.
Also interesting is a bit of player agency in the form of a (limited) character creator and the freedom to choose to sign with a sponsor or jump right into the fray with a team.
This year, "The Playground" is another big talking point. It's another version of the free-roam compounds seen in other games. This one diversifies the terrain even more and makes some interesting use of verticality, giving players plenty of different surfaces to practice on, not to mention weather and a day-night cycle.
Within this space, another big point is the addition of waypoints. Players can now plop down checkpoints throughout the space and then share what they come up with online. The map itself is still wrapped behind a pause button, but more customization options and the ability to get creative and share with the world is never a bad thing.
That Playground similarly has a nice suite of options besides the Waypoint system. Weather, specific assists and more are available to tinker with, which makes for a great practice area.
A track editor is also present like it has been in other games. It's a modular system with some moving parts and the ability to share those once the final product is complete. This is a must-have feature these days, but it is definitely an area that will need to be continuously pumped up looking ahead, as some missing items like pre-made ruts aren't available. As of now, there are only four beginning landscapes to start plopping down a track.
From the track editor comes a grander sense of community. Players can browse created tracks from other players right on the track selection screen in different game modes. Those tracks have necessary filters such as "likes" and can also be sorted by number of times downloaded. While creating tracks isn't a simple process and the tutorial doesn't seem like much of a help, there will undoubtedly be some outstanding offerings from the creative side of the community within a matter of days after the game's launch.
Customization is also a big point in these games as of late and a similar system makes its way into MXGP 2019. A credits system permits access to unlockables for riders and bikes. It is fair to say players will be free to pursue quite a unique look and the credits reward system doesn't feel too grindy upon the game's launch.
It was only natural for this series to keep growing outward in an organic matter, borrowing ideas from other games in the developer's backlog as it went. Player options are always front and center in this regard, so the inclusion of the expected bike tuning and assists is once again a necessary touch.
Some of the featured additions in MXGP 2019 aren't anything special in the greater realm of sporting games.
But in a smaller niche like this, it is worth celebrating things like track editors and creativity spread throughout the community thanks to additions such as the waypoint system.
On the track, MXGP 2019 isn't a major departure from the last game in the series. But the fact that isn't a negative speaks strongly to the overall direction of the series. The features surrounding the on-track racing still have a long way to go, but this year's game offers a solid but not necessarily must-have leap in the right direction.