Monster Energy Supercross is the latest official release from Milestone in Partnership with Feld Entertainment Inc. Their aim is to allow gamers to experience what is considered by many to be the most competitive and highest profile off-road motorcycle racing championship in the world.
Now, right up front I want to be honest with you all and say I’m not an avid fan of the sport, I do enjoy Speedway, so I have an appreciation for bike racing. But, it did mean that going into this review my knowledge base of the riders and tracks was pretty limited. Monster Energy Supercross is available on all major gaming platforms (PS4, XBox One, Switch & PC). This review however is being done based on the PS4 release.
So as someone who wasn’t a fan before playing the game, the question is did I become one while playing Monster Energy Supercross? Let’s find out…
The first thing I noticed when starting Monster Energy Supercross was that no matter which mode you start with you’re basically thrown in at the deep end, as though you’re already familiar with the game. (Maybe this is my fault, but I didn’t expect the tutorials to be hidden away in the extras section of the menu without any signs for you to just find when you go exploring.)
As you can imagine this resulted in someone who had no idea of the controls trying to race. Needless to say, I wasn’t overly happy with my performance and felt like I was being stupid for not being able to play the game.
Even with all this I was still having fun (except for that one time when I rage quit… but we won’t go there). As someone who doesn’t generally like losing very much it surprised me that I kept coming back for more.
Before I start going into the details of how the racing performs, I just wanted to touch over each mode so you know exactly what’s on offer:
- Single Play
- Single Event – Basically a ‘Quick Race’ picking any track from either the official list or any online tracks that have been uploaded from the Track Editor.
- Time Attack – Racing on your own against the clock, I found this a great option to help learn the tracks given my knowledge prior to playing was minimal
- Career – Pit yourself against the best riders across 3 championships (see below for more info)
- Championship – Play through 1 championship as a rider of your choosing
- Multiplayer – Online play – Unfortunately Not available at the time of this review
- Custom Rider – This is where you create your own rider for Career mode. For me a little lacking in options, but nothing to be overly concerned with.
- Custom Bike – This is where you purchase parts to improve your bike for Career mode
- Track Editor – Create your own track and upload it for the world to see and race on of course.
There were a few other options such as Add-ons etc. which I believe will be for DLC but these weren’t available at the time of reviewing so I can’t be certain.
The three main areas I want to look at in this review are the Character Customisation, Career mode and the Track Editor as I feel all of the other sections are covered within these and it will give the best overall information without repeating myself.
Since Character creation is needed before you can start a Career I feel we should start there.
This is split into 3 parts, Firstly the ‘Character Creation’ where you choose your name, features, height etc. and then the ‘customisation’ part which covers the bike parts and your gear.
The Character Creation part is very limited unfortunately, you’re basically given a choice of 8 faces and that’s all. There’s no hair colour or style etc. which did annoy me a little at first, but let’s be honest 90% of the game time is going to be spent with a crash helmet on so how the rider looks underneath is probably not vital (unless like me you like to know the character underneath looks as close to you as possible).
The customisation part is more tailored to both the bike parts and the riders gear. Both of which work in the same way. There are a number of items which are free to use from the beginning (stock parts), but from there, everything else is listed under Sponsors / Manufacturers names with a credits cost underneath them (Credits are earned based on your performance in races and meeting the Sponsors Objectives during Career mode).
The biggest disappointment here for me was that other than the colour pretty much every part or outfit is basically the same, for example no matter which Manufacturer you go with the most expensive Brake Discs will give you exactly the same set of brakes in appearance and stats. Just felt like it was lacking in creativity.
Speaking of parts, being somewhat of a newbie to this sport I couldn’t help but smile when I was running through the menu of parts that could be changed and found that ‘Nipples’ were under the listing. (Yes, you read it correctly… Nipples!). Luckily these are bike parts, not some strange fetish by the developers.
Once you have everything created as you see fit. It’s time to get racing!
Inside Career mode there are 3 different championships to challenge for based on bike size. 250 East, 250 West and 450. The 250 modes each contain 9 tracks and the 450 contains 17. To unlock the 450 you will need to both complete one of the 250 titles and you will also need to be at least level 24 before you start.
I have yet to see any impact of the character level beyond this, it seems as though it may have more of an important role when playing online to keep experience levels even? (which unfortunately I couldn’t confirm).
The next thing to look at before you finally get stuck into racing are the Sponsors. Basically the sponsor section is a reward scheme for better performances, the higher the reward level offered to you the better you need to perform. It’s as simple as that.
Onto the racing itself, since it is essentially the biggest part of the game. The controls vary depending on the difficulty you set. You can have an arcade style of accelerate, brake and steer, or you can set it as a much more realistic option with additional controls for Clutch, Gears, Separate Front and Rear Brake as well as separate Rider and Bike adjustments with the analogue sticks.
No matter which set up you choose to work with, I have to say that they impressed me, they’re easy to pick up and play (once you know what the buttons do) but take a little finesse to actually compete and then a lot of time and effort to master. Too heavy on the Brakes and you will spin out, off centre landing and you’re going over the handlebars.
One of the things which annoyed me during the racing was the inconsistency of the collisions. At times the AI will simply run you straight off the track without even the slightest deviation from their own racing line, even though they’ve run straight into you. Yet at other times the slightest nudge and you can watch them fly off the track.
There are also times when you have a number of riders visible on-screen that you will simply travel through as though they are ghosts (the AI characters will block your vision on-screen). This isn’t overly annoying as it doesn’t happen often but it does cause problems if you’re heading into a corner.
The gameplay is addictive, there are times where I was in full on rage mode at my performances or at the AI issues mentioned above, yet I still found myself moving on to the next race wanting to prove myself rather than just turning it off. In my opinion that’s a very big sign that the gameplay mechanics are spot on for enjoyment.
Finally we can look at the track editor where you can fulfil any desires to create your own death trap or championship stadium. Rather than try to explain its mechanics, I have managed to capture the video tutorial and put it below for you to see.
What I noticed while using this is that there is a fine line between ease of use and lack of options. I found it very easy to build a track without any problems, however that may have been because the options for parts was limited. I’m sure this won’t stop the hardcore fans creating some great tracks, but it may put off the casual fan wanting to create something specific.
I did attempt my own and have put a picture below of my finished track.
Just to round off the gameplay section, I would like to say that while there isn’t a dedicated photo mode as such, I did find that there is a little bit of a cheat way using the pause menu and ‘free camera’ mode then take a screenshot using the share button.
Here are a couple of images I took while playing around with the options:
The tracks look stunning, the dirt and mud at times give the impression it’s more like video footage than gameplay. The riders and bikes are by no means bad but they do at times seem out-of-place against such a backdrop.
I paid special attention to the frame rates after a while to see if I could spot any drops and other than the issue I mentioned earlier with the ghost AI, I haven’t noticed any graphical problems or anomalies. Given the speed that most of the game is played at I think that says a lot for the team involved in creating it and the work they have done.
My biggest complaint here is on the character creation, as I mentioned earlier there are only 8 faces to choose from which isn’t great to start with, but if you look at the riders faces you can choose from or even the faces of the other AI riders in the Championship mode, they all seem to have very block-like features. It feels very much like they came from the last gen of consoles.
That is a small issue as let’s be honest I don’t think many people will really care too much about graphical quality of the face under the helmet.
There really isn’t much audio in this game to comment on, the bike engines sound adequate and respond to your controls well, but other than that its really just crowd noise and the odd piece of commentary during the load screens. Nothing noteworthy really however there is a section in the options to adjust the audio to your set up which is something I think should be included in all games, as some people play through surround sound and others just use the TV/Monitor Speakers, so I feel you should always be able to adjust to get the best out of what you have.
I don’t think there’s very much here to be explained either. As with most sports titles if you enjoy the sport then the replay ability is endless. Supercross is no different, there’s plenty to keep you busy, both on and offline. Add to that the track editor and it’s possible that you could have an endless supply of new tracks to test yourself on, but even without that I doubt you would get bored quickly.
Monster Energy Supercross is a fun, addictive racing game that I think would be a great addition to any racing fans collection. There is plenty to go at and at no point do you ever feel like the game is out of reach, even when things go wrong the victory always feels like it’s there to be taken. I believe that once the online servers are up and running with 22 people per race it could be a great game for groups of people to get together and enjoy. I believe that Monster Energy Supercross deserves the Thumb Culture Gold Award and is only missing out on the Platinum award because of a few minor issues and lack of variety in places.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.