Review: Monster Energy Supercross (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): February 13, 2018
- Release Date (EU): February 13, 2018
- Release Date (JP): February 22, 2018
- Publisher: Milestone S.r.l
- Developer: Milestone S.r.l
- Genres: Racing
- ESRB Rating: Everyone
- PEGI Rating: Three years and older
- Also For: Computer, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
GBAtemp was sent a copy of Monster Energy Supercross to review. As mentioned in an article here it was all set up to be released and then the unassumingly named "update 1.04" hit. Checking the changelog many of the issues had been resolved and thus sent me back for another spell with the game.
As mentioned in previous reviews I have a great fondness for the MX vs ATV series, and the Motocross Madness games that preceded it, and have lamented its fate in recent years.
I have long then sought a replacement. This… is very very good but maybe not quite what I seek there, but that is through no fault of its own.
Monster Energy Supercross, or to give it its full title Monster Energy American Motorcyclist Association Supercross Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme World Championship The Official Videogame, aims to be a largely faithful recreation of American style Supercross. Before going any further it must be said it does spectacularly at that. Lots of riders, lots of official looking tracks/locations (from the game's website "Scanned with photogrammetry and reproduced with incredible care for even the smallest details, the officially licensed venues and tracks"), options aplenty and a gameplay engine to back it all up.
Full track list, 250 series is split between East and West coasts, 450 does all of them.
I say American as it is rather different to the UK Supercross. The elements are there and recognisable but where one is a bunch of people turn up of a weekend to a field in vans, the other is something of a stadium filling affair.
Milestone S.r.l. are the people responsible for this game, maybe not a household name but they do have over a decade at this point putting out both the Superbike SBK series and the MotoGP series, as well as Rally games and a few motocross efforts among it all. Many of those mentioned are quality games so I was expecting good things here.
Arcade or Realistic? 'tis always a question for these sorts of games. The developers clearly wanted realism in their game, and their previously developed game library is no different, but there are enough very well thought out concessions to the former that you were never faced with the problems famously brought to the fore by the Gran Turismo series' “License Tests”, and indeed fairly prominent in some of the other games from the developer. Those which turn off these helpers will find themselves gaining experience and unlock points at a faster rate (if they can handle it and still place highly). It stops far short of pure arcade though and landing at the wrong angle, trying to turn too hard, messing up the weight shift, messing up the jumps and overshooting things too far and more besides will spit you off, the helpers mainly making it so those not wanting to handle it all can still get on with it.
The helpers, pictured below also with the controls options, include
Assisted physics. Anybody that has ever ridden a motorbike in general will know about how body position affects things. This allows some control of it, or none at all, to be handled by the computer. Similar options for the weight handling.
Dual brakes. If you want a spectacular demonstration of “an object in motion tends to stay in motion” do pull just the front brake on a motorbike (or indeed a good one on a pushbike) when moving fast and watch as you sail majestically over the handlebars. The harder options then give you split brakes so you have to manage each independently.
Assisted gears. For this option then manual shifting is still possible (and indeed useful for some more advanced techniques) but will otherwise be handled by the game.
Rewind time, pictured below. A very generous option rewind option at that, you can probably get back a few corners with this.
Start of a race, note the yellow in the very distance. Said yellow in the middle and then again note the colours in the background.
AI options are also available, though even the easier modes will give new players a run for their money.
On top of all that you can select the length and style of race, going from a simple short timer and then a final lap right through to full heats, qualifiers and such of very long timer and then final lap.
Pictured above. Once you get into the race you are given further options still for your bike, more on that when customisation happens.
Realism for those that really do it.
I am no stranger to a scramble round a field on a crunch but motocross/supercross itself hurts a lot so I save myself for more sedate things like flat track.
Some among my friends, several also seeking the MX vs ATV replacement, are a different matter so they got dragged in for this one.
They say yes.
The moves, the bodyweight influencing things extensively, the general feel, the track designs, track deformation and more besides were all unanimously agreed upon to be awesome and among the things missing from earlier efforts we have been subject to. Obviously it is not a matrix style simulation but where some felt limited by a lack of options, or found them poorly implemented and taking away from it all, in previous attempts at computerised motocross this allowed it and was actually better for it. Speaking of one time limiting options here the track deformation played a nice role and those seeking to take a better line or higher jump might have come unstuck if they were in a rut someone else made when in the later laps, as did the occasional edge marker/pad that got thrown onto the track*.
*quite often by me, as many that ended up playing me online will likely attest.
When cornering hard and risking it with the weight balancing.
Can I, can I... can I. I can not.
Would you like to go online?
The primary concession to the Gran Turismo style is that parts of the game get unlocked as you earn experience.
How about going online?
It is not a dozens of hours affair and plenty of the game is available from the start, and in but a few races most of the rest will be unlocked.
Pictured above. Just a simple small race and the amount of levels (which correspond to various unlocks) you go up in it.
That online thing, fancy it yet?
Modes consist of single race/event, time trial, career and championship.
You know online is a thing?
Most of those are fairly self explanatory. Career builds in some “sponsorship” things where they will ask you to place in at or higher than certain positions and apparently a fake social media feed you can follow along with as well. Such setups have never been my thing since I first saw them some time during the PS1 era but others seem to enjoy it and it does not get in the way. The ability to create your own custom championship is quite nice as these things go, mentioning that a game has such things probably should be redundant but it is so often overlooked (looking at you all but the most recent Mario Karts).
Why are you not online? You know all your friends have online.
Enough with the online thing but you see how annoying it is. I played it partially on my offline profile but after basically every interaction and race it popped up. I don't know if it was backup or metrics or what but it was poorly handled here. I saw on the online profile you are given the option to disconnect it from the online service but such a feature was not available in the offline one.
Most annoyingly is the track editor is gated behind online. Now in the few weeks since launch the online side of things is populated with an awful lot of nicely made user tracks but it still annoys to see such things happen when there is no technical reason people can't play with the onboard and local tracks they made.
Some pictures of the track editor and a supremely dedicated cameraman in the resulting test.
The track editor is fairly basic and as you can see revolves around placing premade sections in a space rather than the more freeform affairs elsewhere. That said it works and does allow you to create things rather quickly.
Also in options on the main menu is the ability to reset your career as it does not give you the option within it. For another bizarre choice the bike customisation, covered shortly, seems to want you to back out of everything to get back to the menu. As you can end up some 10 layers deep that is not ideal, though if the alternative is resetting back to start if you fumble and select suspension when you wanted exhaust...
The races themselves have three main categories.
250cc East Coast
250cc West Coast
450cc which covers all tracks from the previous two.
The track list from earlier
Below is a shot of a typical between races screen from career mode.
The customisation is an odd one. At the start you are given a selection of the main motocross bike manufacturers to pick from.
From there you have some cosmetic parts and what you then find out are performance parts. The in game credits cost for some of these is nothing you can't earn in a few races though so you end up with a near as maxxed out bike in fairly short order, so much so that the lesser parts are better skipped over entirely. Prior to the patch mentioned at the start these landed you with a pocket rocket compared to the AI and in turn the difficulty suffered a bit. The patch mostly fixed this and now it is the rewind function to gain you such a thing. Nicely you are given the option to have a few different layouts of the bikes. Said performance enhancements do make a noticeable difference and will change how fast you want to hit jumps to maintain rhythm/flow.
The customisation itself you will want to watch as some things perform less than other manufacturers for the same price, or indeed less price
You have yet more customisation during the race times. Here you can fine tune aspects of the bike like suspension height, gearing ratio, preload and a bunch of other things you can see in the image below. Depending upon the track we did find it worth the effort to play with a few of them.
Rider wise you have the usual logos, colours and whatnot as well as the ability to make a fairly custom rider to play as in various modes. Some of the cosmetic things are locked behind in game challenges or the sorts of things you commonly see achievements/trophies given for (so much distance, in game earnings, win all championships in all classes…).
Back to the tracks a key part of motocross is the timing/rhythm for the jumps. If you are going slowly up and over individual jumps then you get to watch as your opponents fly over your head and your times go way up. Returning to earlier tracks later with a 450cc bike changed this considerably as different jumps were now more readily doable and other things were easier to overshoot if you were going at full pelt.
There are basic tracks for the menus and such, theoretically there is one in the game as well but it is mostly drowned out by engine noise. That said if "not having to drop lots of money on buying in music when most would already listen to their own stuff anyway, instead then focusing on other things" is what happened then more power to the devs.
Prior to a patch there was a little issue with pop in graphics of some of the people standing around the course (marshals and camera operators and what have you), if you go frame by frame/advance slowly you can still see some shadows pop in but it is not anywhere near as noticeable as the people. Mostly ran just fine, sometimes in a particularly active holeshot/first corner with you and some 20 other AI players all trying to make it and colliding with each other (collisions are optional in online by the way) you would get a bit of slowdown but the rest was fine. Similarly there seemed to be some crashes in the menu from time to time but those have been resolved by the patches.
When doing online things I did have to terminate the whole game to get out of things, once when in quick find a race and another after a race was done and I wanted to go back to single player. Speaking of multiplayer
Sadly it is another online only effort with no split screen options on the PS4 version.
It is something of a niche game so how it plays out in years to come remains to be seen. It is good enough that I can see a little community forming for it.
Once I managed to connect to a game though we were given a bunch of options, a nice (optional) voting mechanic and the ability to include some AI players. The netcode itself seemed like it did OK with my less than stellar connection.
Pro tip though is maybe don't go in with high level players on a track you do not know so well for a longer form race.
Depending upon the host setup many of the concessions can be back, though obviously not rewind time.
Pictured below are the menu and options available, online itself is the same as the regular game in appearance.
At time of writing there are the usual cosmetic logos and whatnot for your custom characters, and an experience/points multiplier you get to pay for. While far from the most distasteful example of such practices, not even coming close to pay to win, it must be mentioned as part of this.
On my long sought replacement for MX vs ATV. The main difference is the lack of the free roam mode, the massive outdoor tracks, all the waypoint races and things associated with all that, and the tricks of freestyle motocross. I got kind of close with the track builder but it was not the same. In fairness to the game it never claimed to be such a thing, not for a moment.
What you do get is a very nice engine with a lot of customisation and AI to match. If you like track based supercross or motocross with a bent towards realism it will be the reference point for this for some time to come. Often when it comes to less popular sports and motor sports you get the lesser games to match them, this is not that. There are certainly some quirks and less thought out/developed features but it is quite possible to get something special out of this.
Would I suggest it to someone not already into motorbikes in some capacity? Probably not, said same person could happily be given it and have some fun while you get ready to go out for an evening though. For someone that enjoys their offroad motorbikes though then this will be a point of reference for some time to come.
I have not played the Switch version but if it is not nerfed and performs well then it will be something worth nothing as most 3d racing games I have ever played on handhelds have been rather cut down affairs.
Below are thumbnails of all the images in the review.
+ A lovely computerised rendition of Supercross.
- UI gets in the way at times, especially the online stuff.
- No local multiplayer.
Graphics, gameplay, handling and such are fine. UI options mar the experience a bit though.
If you like supercross/motocross then this will be something that sticks around for some time to come.
out of 10
(not an average)
Now the patches have hit it is a solid little Supercross simulation game that many can play. There is scope for further improvements but you can definitely get your Supercross on with it.