After the unfortunate closure of THQ, the videogame supercross world could potentially have turned to ruin. Instead however, Nordic games pulled Rainbow studios into its arms and re-established the company once more; in doing so, proudly presenting: MX vs. ATV Supercross.
During this year’s Gamescom event, I was fortunate enough to visit the MX vs. ATV stand for a chance at playing the pre-release version; despite my ineptitude, I left pleased, looking forward to its release. Fortunately, not much has changed since then in terms of the game’s mechanics, modes and customisability options. After claiming that MX vs. ATV was made ‘by passionate riders and gamers, for passionate riders and gamers’, it’s clear to see that influence on both sides have equally rubbed off.
Races comprise of up to 12 players across 17 tracks, with some sporting both vehicle variants; lining up at the start of an event with all manner of engines roaring can make for an interesting start. Before each race you can choose to ride either the bikes or the ATV’s, the motocross bikes tend to be a fair amount nippier round the corners, at the expense of an increased chance to potentially fly off into the wheels of another racer. Whereas the ATV’s sacrifice cornering ability for all out power and speed; with the obvious advantage of being able to land jumps on four wheels instead of two.
Whilst it’s easy to pick up and play, there are several nuances to Nordic’s racer which can make the difference between winning in style and just plain finishing third. In this iteration, it’s all about the right thumbstick and how it controls the balance and pitch of the rider. Smoothly landing jumps and throwing your weight into corners is only the first step however. Mastering the dampeners and spring levels is key to gaining the most height and momentum. Also thrown in are the intricate yet showy tricks you can perform in mid-air, lending an element of flash to your victory, provided you land them of course! Whilst it’s good that the real focus is on the racing, it can be a little disappointing to not get rewarded for pulling tricks off mid race, still whilst firmly holding the lead.
The ‘easy to play, hard to master’ mantra is expanded further, not only due to the selection of both bikes and ATV’s, but also incorporating real time track deformation too. Meaning getting into the groove, as it were, can often be beneficial later in the race as corners can be taken at a higher speed. Despite still holding a fairly arcade-y handling mechanic, most of the vehicles, along with their respected upgrades, do feel different too, and even if it is only slightly, it encourages you to often try something new.
The depth of the customisability is impressive too, with over 80 licensed motocross manufacturers lending their names and products to the game. Everything from the gloves of your rider to the suspension system of your bike can be altered, making a nice change from the current slew of racers out right now.
For all the great things regarding MX vs. ATV Supercross, there are unfortunately some negatives too. Whilst it’s always necessary to have a career mode in a racer, no racing game can seem to get it right; it’s never more apparent than here. Finishing a race simply progresses you towards the next one with there being little to no interaction with the player whatsoever; ultimately ending up as a case of race, win, repeat, ad nauseam. The generously portioned 17 tracks to race on does little to quell the sense of repetition either. Granted, there’s only so different dirt tracks can be, but after spending a while on the game, you’ll pine for some diversity. The game modes, whilst representing the standards of the genre, do little to mix things up either, the only variance coming of whether you race in singleplayer, split-screen or online.
In terms of presentation, Supercross once again has its ups and downs. The riders themselves look fantastic, with fabric shifting in mid-air and riders getting slowly blathered in mud as the race progresses. Whereas the leaning animations are as stilted and wooden as the crashes are unspectacular, lacking any form of impact or force. The crowds look as though they’re moonlighting from a previous generation of consoles and the menus are a little sluggish and bland too. Audio wise, the game presents you with an odd, yet somewhat suitable playlist, comprising of rock and dubstep to accompany the constant revving of engines.
Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of the MX vs. ATV universe as there is true promise in the series. The addition of some more modes to play about in, alongside more variation in track design and locales would go far; and bringing the sport to the current generation of consoles would do it the world of good too. Having said that, the mechanics themselves are mostly solid and the accessible yet complex control method can be very rewarding. Fans of the sport should probably pick this up, if for no other reason than to see the amount of attention gone into the customisation aspect of the game. For everyone else, MX vs. ATV Supercross is a solid racer that rewards mastery of its controls and mechanics, before unfortunately succumbing to repetition a little earlier than it should.