Hell on wheels
HIGH A huge number of modes, both single-player and online.
LOW The Extreme difficulty caters only to die-hard motocross game fans… all two of them.
WTF Overly exaggerated animations kill any sense of realism.
On paper, motocross games should be an absolute blast. There’s just something about the large jumps, bouncy suspension, and the mobility of two wheels versus four that seems like it should translate beautifully to a console experience. And to be fair, the sport has seen some console success—the sim-lite MX Unleashed, and the arcade-heavy Motocross Madness are the most prominent examples. However, the genre is a small niche at this point, and MXGP2 is simply not a good entry point for newcomers to motocross—or to any racing title for that matter.
After booting up, this would-be simulation begins promisingly by showing the sheer number of options available. Rider and bike customization, one-off races, time trials, tournaments, career mode and a ton more. And what must be noted is that all modes and features are available from the start. There is no gated content waiting to be unleashed by a credit card. In today’s era of Day One patches and overpriced DLC, this was a fantastic first impression.
On the track, the game takes a step backwards from that strong first impression.
First, the game isn’t much of a looker. Sure, motocross is about mud and motor oil and may not need meticulous detail to get its point across, but it would certainly help. Instead, player models are bland, and the textures are vague and pixelated. These graphics would be acceptable if there were realistic, well-implemented animations, but this is not the case.
Riders appear completely stiff and robotic while operating the bike, and then become exaggerated, double-jointed rag dolls once launched from a vehicle. It’s a design choice that completely negates the sense of hyper-realism the developers are trying to get across, and it removes the player from any type of immersion.
Another visual pet peeve comes from the tracks. I may be splitting hairs, but after three laps on loose mud there should be some noticeable track wear and degradation. However, even the gnarliest, most aggressive riders don’t make a mark on the game’s flat, static courses. It’s another black mark against a game striving to be a sim.
So, let’s discuss the realism. In terms of recreating the motocross experience, MXGP2 hits the mark. Broadcast-quality presentation, well-known sponsors and brands, and distinguishable bikes are all present from the outset, delivering a ton of fan service to diehards. If only the controls were as accommodating.
This is a difficult game to learn, and even experienced racing fans will find the physics to be a hindrance. The key issue? Gravity. Much like a meter mechanic frequently used in skating or snowboarding titles, the right stick is used to account for rider weight and balance … at all times. On paper, this seems like a good idea, but having to keep the rider’s balance in check throughout a race—even on straightaways— turns exciting moments into bouts of finger gymnastics, and it’s far too cumbersome to allow for enjoyment.
The game options do provide an assist in this department, but it’s only a partial crutch and doesn’t stop players from launching off their bikes due to ramming barricades, losing orientation on the tracks, or simply falling sideways from weight imbalance. The control system here isn’t impossible, but it is daunting, and will chase more than a few gamers away before they do more than scratch the surface.
Now, I’m sure many readers are thinking I’m simply too impatient (or just a lousy player) and that I should commend the game for offering a challenge. I get that—and if this control scheme were an option rather than the rule, I would. But, even after a dozen hours of trying, I only enjoyed modest improvements in my performance and never came close to mastering a track or dominating a race. Realism doesn’t need to mean inaccessibility, and MXGP2 does a poor job of straddling this line. There’s a ton of content to be had and there are lot of nice touches for motocross fans, but will gamers endure the steep learning curve to get to it all? I can’t imagine they will.
Online multiplayer includes almost every race and tournament type from the singleplayer, but it’s a shame there’s no one playing it. In more than four hours perusing the online, I enjoyed a lag-free, smooth racing experience alongside a deafening crowd of no one. For a game released just weeks earlier, the lobbies were utterly barren. It’s not hard to predict MXGP2 taking a lap around the discount track in the very near future.
In the end, it’s difficult to recommend a title that serves only the most experienced racing fans, while alienating the rest of us. When coupled with a bland visual presentation and more than a few technical issues, players should to go back to older motocross titles to get their fix.
Disclosures: This game was developed by Milestone and published by PQube. It is currently available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher, and was reviewed on Xbox One. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to single-player modes, and the game was not completed. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is rated E by the ESRB. As a sports game, there are few, if any, offensive or questionable portions of the game. Children under 13 may become frustrated with the game’s extensive control scheme.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Music and sound effects are a key portion of the game’s atmosphere, but are not essential to playing and enjoying any of the game’s extensive list of modes.
Remappable Controls: The game offers several preset controller schemes, but they are not completely remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are currently no colorblind modes available in the options.
When not writing for Gamecritics, Brad spends his days managing several sports and entertainment websites, handling several freelance writing contracts, and occasionally playing the role of "Dad" when time permits.
Brad is also the only guy on this staff who prefers the Xbox One to other platforms. And he's not budging on that one bit.