It's easy to become sceptical or perhaps even cynical about annual Motorsport games. They often stick to the same recipe every year with few changes in terms of gameplay, focusing more on new locations and perhaps new vehicles. However, Milestone seek to rid us of our cynicism in a number of ways with their latest official Motocross videogame release, MXGP3. With basic gameplay improvements, a new dynamic weather system and Milestone finally ditching their outdated engine and embracing Unreal 4, this might be the game to change your mind.
First of all, let’s talk about that long awaited, long overdue switch to a new development platform, Unreal 4 engine. No doubt, this has improved on what Milestone can produce tenfold, especially when it comes to MXGP3. Not only have the graphics had a complete overhaul, but the physics, handling and actual in-game sounds are more authentic than ever. There are a few options to tailor the difficulty level in terms of the physics, the most true to life being the 'Pro Physics', and also the most challenging. Being able to alter the controls and tweak the difficulty has led to MXGP3 feeling a little more 'arcade style' as opposed to just a motorcycle simulator, broadening accessibility for newer, less experienced players.
Milestone's games are often burdened with weaker visuals and less 'true to life' audio than most other studios, often appearing passé alongside other titles. But, once again, Unreal 4 has come to the rescue allowing for much more tangible environments. Effects such as coloured smoke screens billowing across the crowds and tracks look sublime, and the particle effects really tie together the whole scene, allowing for incredible realism.
The use of Unreal 4 has also allowed Milestone to accurately recreate all eighteen Motocross Championship tracks as well, from Losail in Qatar, through to Teutschenthal in Germany, to Assen in The Netherlands and so on. And besides the diversity of the locations, the new and improved track deformation physics means diversity in each and every lap. Whether it's sand or dirt, as the laps go by, the ruts in the tracks get deeper and deeper as you and your fellow bikers drive over them. This means choosing the right racing line becomes more and more essential throughout as you're able to hook into corners with deeper ruts as the race goes on and make up time, which really adds an extra layer of dynamic and strategy to the racing.
Another big change from MXGP2 is the addition of a dynamic weather system. Aside from looking exceptionally authentic, thanks to Unreal 4, the rain actually has a profound impact on gameplay by affecting not only factors such as track deformation, but also by altering visibility and increasing the overall unpredictability of each race. From one race to the next, the weather can randomly change. It could be raining from the start, or there could be a torrential downpour halfway through the race. The resulting challenge is substantial and satisfying. The inclusion of authentic particle effects also ensures the whole experience will be as messy and muddy as can be.
Playing through career mode, you definitely get a sense that the AI riders are reasonably competent and, depending on your chosen difficulty settings, can put up quite a convincing fight for positions. The first few laps (depending on your experience level) are usually punctuated by lots of jostling with other bikes, tactical cornering to overtake other riders and strategic racing line selection in order to finish in that all-important pole position.
MXGP3 is also boasting tonnes of new customisation options. With 300 official components (a massive increase from MXGP2, 40% more to be exact) and over 75 brands to choose from, you can truly create your own unique rider and bike setup. The choice of MXGP and MX2 bikes also makes for some extra choice, with brands such as Yamaha, Honda, and Kawasaki.
But if you're having trouble getting to grips with the handling or feel of your chosen setup, there is a new free-roam track called ‘Compound’ where you can ride around freely and practice your racing skills. Some players have found it difficult to get to grips with the new whip/scrub controls, finding them more difficult to land than in previous MXGP games, so perhaps ‘Compound’ is the perfect place to go to start off.
All in all, MXGP3 is a fantastic improvement on the series with gorgeous new graphics making for beautiful locations, improved vehicle handling (with driver consultation for added precision), the incredibly effective dynamic weather system and track deformation capabilities. This is the definitive version of MXGP and is definitely a step in the right direction for Milestone and, as they continue to work with Unreal 4 Engine for upcoming titles such as Gravel, hopefully a step towards even greater success.