Monster Energy Supercross 2 – Xbox One Review
Gone are the days when sports games had an arcade feel about them, when you could pick up the controller for your first play and get straight into the action. Now sports titles veer more towards simulation. in these times of professionalism, stardom and corporate sponsorship the developers expect you to invest more time into their sport, to appreciate the skill level involved, to notice the nuances that take you to the top. So it is with Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame 2, to give it its full, not very catch title. Only a year after Milestone released the first title, comes this sequel, and as we come to cynically expect of new editions like this, it doesn’t offer much substantially different from the first title in terms of gameplay, but it does it in a smother, slicker, shinier, brasher manner.
For those not in the know, the game represents the premier competition in Supercross, motorbike racing over dirt tracks, but indoors in big stadiums, with all the tight turns, big jumps and fireworks that make it a great spectacle for the spectator. Italian developer Milestone are well known for producing good motor-sports simulations, and despite not being a rider myself, MES2 (I’m not tying the title out in full all the time!) seems like a pretty accurate representation of Supercross. They’ve tried to cater for all skill levels here, with lot of options in the settings, so the novice can start with standard physics, making the bike easier to control, but the dedicated fans can go for the Advanced setting on the physics, and then you’re into real simulation territory, where every little bump and groove on the track has you fighting for balance and control. Even on the easy settings however, it still takes plenty of practise to be able to get through a race without flying off the track or becoming detached from your bike in a fairly violent manner. Its not quite pick up and play like a Forza title. So you do have to invest a bit of time in the game to get some enjoyment out of it.
Newcomers are advised to start with the Tutorial section, where you’ll be introduced to the controls and physics, learn the techniques of how to take corners and jumps, and learn scrubbing, which is when you lean your bike to the side, lean your body weight to the opposite side, all in mid-air so you cover the best distance from you jump, while not going too high in the air. These shallow jumps help you maintain speed going forward rather than losing time by going too high. The techniques can be practised and perfected on the outdoor practise track before taking them into the races in the arenas.
The big difference between MES2 and last years title is the addition of a career mode. Create a custom rider, pick a bike, choose which category you want to race in, and set off on a 3 season career to become the best rider. You have a race every week, with rest days and additional activities in the run up to the big race. Go to the practise track to take on challenges based on a different skill. Get the tasks right, and earn stars to give your rider better skills. Sign contacts that last about 4 weeks on average, wear your sponsors logo, and attend promotional events to earn extra cash. You can also go to media events where you talk to the press or meet fans. Build up your fame to get better sponsorship contracts or earn credits to spend on customising the bike and the rider. The stuff that happens between races is too much like irrelevant padding, except the practice challenges, which do have a value. When it comes to race day you chose can make it as realistic as you want. Take part in the qualifying heats and practise or just set it straight to the race. The AI can be adjusted to suit your level to give you the right challenge, but be warned if you set it low your rivals are likely to show no common sense whatsoever. In one race I lapped half the field as they just queued up behind each other waiting approach a steep bank.
The focus of the game has to be on the racing itself as that is what it will live or die by, and on the whole they’ve done a damned good job with this, You not only need to regulate your speed at the right times, but also use the right stick to keep the balance of your rider in the right position so be able to make and land jumps without losing speed or falling off. As you would expect with the real bikes, the handling is different depending on what speed you’re travelling. Go fast and you’ll find it hard to turn sharply so you’ll need to slow up a bit on the corners, and at very low speed, the handling is very twitchy, which lead to a lot of frustrating oversteering when trying to line my bike up in the right direction. The collision detection system was something I felt let the gameplay down as there seemed to no consistency with it. One second you can be smashing into other riders, and viice versa, with very little effect on your steering or speed, then the next second the slightest touch will have to bailing out and going arse over tit across the mud. It was far too much of a random element that really needs to be addressed.
As well as the main draw of the career mode you can have a go at championship events on a one-off basis, time trials or just simply pick a single race. There is an online mode as well but as I was reviewing this before the release date, I can’t really pass accurate judgement on the merits of this mode. The online play does let you have up to 12 human players, with the host player setting the variables such as the physics and AI intelligence, to make it as difficult or easy as they want. The tracks are picked by voting from a shortlist while you’re in the lobby waiting to start, which is a tried and tested method in a lot of motorsport games.
A feature I was impressed with was the track editor, which allows you to make your own custom built tracks for you, your friends or the wider community to race on. There are different stadiums for you to place your track in, and although the features may seem a bit limited, it makes the editor easy to use, and you can stick together endless combinations of straights jumps and turns, and come up with something fun in no time at all.
The presentation is slick and professional, the kind of impressive quality you’d come to expect from a Milestone racing game. The sound of the engines roaring came through very realistically through my headphones, and add to that the explosions of the track-side pyrotechnics and the cheering of the crowd, you have what I imagine is a pretty good representation of the real event. The commentary for the races comes from Jeff Emig and Ralph Shehan, all nicely done but they should’ve spent more time and effort to record enough dialogue so you don’t notice the commentators covering the same lines over and over. The graphics do the job well, just as in the last game in this series, but really come into their own as the track gets wet, the mud starts flying around, and the riders really do look like they’ve been through it, as they get gradually muddier as the race progresses.
Overall I think Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 2 is something that has been made for the enthusiasts and players who are already fans of the sport. Despite the smooth slick presentation, I’m not sure many new converts will be won over to the sport, as its not really a game you can just pick up and play. It took me a while to get used to the handling and I had many poor finishes on the easiest settings before I got used to the feel of the bike. If you have the time and the will to invest yourself into this game and work at mastering the bike, you’ll be rewarded with a great motorsport sim. Master the basics and you can then go about fine-tuning the difficulty to suit you, and because of this you can have many hours of fun challenging races. The improvement might not be widespread for this years version of the game, but with the career mode and a few nips and tucks here and there, this is the best Supercross sim to date on the Xbox.
Huge thanks to Renaissance PR for the review copy.
Developer: Milestone S.r.l.
Publisher: Milestone S.r.l.