Motorcycle racing is at once terrifying and exhilarating as a prospect. There’s nothing more seat-of-the-pants than hurtling through open terrain on what is essentially some metal attached to two wheels. Every jump, every hitch and every turn becomes a life-or-death prospect for the inexperienced rider, and every single encounter with another racer could turn into something that future generations will use as a cautionary tale to tell their kids not to pursue such crazy avenues of entertainment.
That said, the danger and risk inherent in motorcycle racing makes it an ideal discipline for video gaming. The sport is well-represented in this regard; more arcadey experiences like OnRush and The Crew 2 join realistic racing sims such as RIDE 3, MXGP and TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge. Even elsewhere in the gaming sphere, motorcycles are well accounted for, with versions of the vehicles popping up in Grand Theft Auto, Sleeping Dogs and many other urban sandbox titles.
One of the pretenders to the motocross throne is Milestone’s Monster Energy Supercross, or to give it its rather lengthy full title, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame. Milestone has acquitted itself well in this genre as a developer, with previous titles created by the studio consisting of standouts like RIDE 3, the official MXGP series of games and MotoGP. As such, it’s not unreasonable to expect Milestone to know its onions when it comes to creating games for this demographic.
Before we begin, a word on whether you should play this game if you’re not a superfan of supercross racing. This is the officially licensed game of the Monster Energy Supercross Championship, which is a pivotal event in supercross fans’ calendars. If you’re not familiar with the sport of supercross, it’s basically like motocross, but instead of natural terrain, supercross takes place on man-made artificial tracks and sports steeper jumps as a result. If you’re unfamiliar with the sport, there’s still plenty of fun to be had here, but you should know that this game is designed for the purists.
Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks. Monster Energy Supercross 2 consists of largely the same kind of gameplay as its predecessor, which is to say faithfully-depicted supercross racing. If you’ve never seen supercross in action before, it’s pretty breakneck stuff, with riders rocketing through courses at an unprecedented speed. Of course, that makes it pretty exciting to watch, and being exciting to watch often translates to an exciting video game.
That is very much the case with Monster Energy Supercross 2, which, on a moment-to-moment level, is an absolute blast to experience. Whether or not you’re au fait with the supercross discipline, you will find plenty of adrenaline junkie thrills simply by racing through the game’s in-built tracks and surmounting the obstacles on offer. Being a licensed game, Monster Energy Supercross 2 largely places its focus on real-life content, with over 80 official riders from the real-life discipline. Both 250SX and 450SX classes are well-represented, and fans will be excited to hear that superstar Eli Tomac is available to compete against in-game for the first time.
If the included official riders don’t tickle your fancy, there’s an absurdly extensive customisation suite included with Monster Energy Supercross 2 as well. You can create your own rider, assembling them from a mixture of over 3000 objects (yes, you read that right) and fine-tuning everything from facial appearance to clothing. There’s also a cute little “victory move” inclusion that won’t set the world on fire, but it does add a little personal touch to your rider in the career mode.
About that career mode, then. Racing games often approach their career modes in a slightly po-faced way, and it’s unfortunate that Monster Energy Supercross 2 chooses to do the same thing. There’s an updated career mode which allows players to find sponsors for themselves, accrue fans and even meet them personally, but none of the game’s career systems ever feel like they amount to much and it’s hard to get invested in the narrative when it’s so bare-bones. Fans of the genre will of course be thrilled at the verisimilitude on display, but we found ourselves longing for the days of Driver: San Francisco, which deigned to include an actual story in its career.
Obviously, that’s not what the vast majority of players are actually here for, though, so let’s talk on-track. Monster Energy Supercross 2 touts an improved physics engine, and we did notice a significant jump in physics quality from the first game to the second one, although the game does still have its fair share of glitches and problems that another quick once-over prior to release could have solved. By the time you read this, they’ll likely have been patched out, but it’s not too much to ask for a game to be largely functional on release, and Milestone still has a long way to go (ironically) in this area.
With that said, there is a new emphasis on attracting players of all skill levels, and there’s plenty of newbie-friendly in-game assists which will no doubt annoy the purists. We found them pretty useful (go on, crucify us), but we understand that there are lots of you out there who won’t need them. There’s also a brand-new training mode in the form of the Compound, which serves as both an organic tutorial (although there is an actual tutorial too) and a proving ground for the huge array of aftermarket parts you can add to your custom bike. It’s not dissimilar to a more fully-featured version of the old FIFA loading screens, allowing you to knock your bike about and see how it controls before committing to a change.
All in all, Monster Energy Supercross 2 is a slightly scrappy but welcome update to the original game. It doesn’t add a vast amount in terms of reinventing the two wheels, but when it comes to official licensed games that’s probably not what most fans are after. Instead, you’ll find a refined, expanded version of Monster Energy Supercross which is a bit more fully-featured with slightly better physics. If you already know you want this, you’re gonna get it anyway. If you’re on the fence, maybe wait for a price drop, but this is still the best version of supercross racing in a video game to date.