Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
I’ve always loved racing games, but there’s a special place in my heart for Supercross titles. Naturally then – as a diehard Supercross fan, racer and gamer – when Milestone revealed Monster Energy Supercross I was incredibly excited to get my hands on it. In fairness, bike fans have been spoilt with their selection of video games over the years (look at the likes of Excite Bike, Moto-Racer and the more recent MX vs ATV) but this looked like it was going to offer one of the most authentic experiences yet. I’m glad to report that it certainly delivers on that front, but does it actually manage to capture the feel of the sport itself too?
So one of the first things you’ll notice about Monster Energy Supercross is just how authentic the whole thing is. You’ve got plenty of licenced racers, tracks, and teams, whilst the bikes themselves look incredibly impressive. Don’t worry though – you can still create your own racer, so you can still make your Supercross fantasy a reality.
Everything looks and feels great though, and it’ll certainly appeal to the die-hard fans out there. Just to warn you though, the facial graphics and animations live up to the game’s title and are a bit monstrous. Everything that takes place during a race looks fantastic, but as soon as those helmets come off the game takes a severe turn for the worse as far as visuals go. It doesn’t affect the racing though, so it’s easy to let it slide.
One initial problem I had with Monster Energy Supercross was that it doesn’t do a whole lot to teach you the basics of the game, with a reliance on text tutorials as opposed to properly showing you through gameplay. I’ve played a lot of games in the genre in the past, but even I needed to learn the mechanics of the game before I could properly get going. It’s a complicated sport and with a big dependence on your body position and how you apply weight, the first few hours for a newbie might feel a little daunting.
Thankfully, there are different levels of assists that players can apply, so even a beginner will find some sort of comfort level that suits them. The amount of assists you have active do affect how much experience you earn in-game though, but that’s neither here nor there as long as you’re enjoying yourself. Still, figuring out what works best for you will take some tinkering, so it’s a shame that the game isn’t more forthcoming in streamlining the learning curve for newcomers.
One feature that’ll probably be a bit of a godsend for new players is the Rewind function, which allows you to quickly replay a section that you might’ve completely messed up. I typically like to steer away from that kind of feature in a racer, but during those opening hours where I was getting to grips with how each bike controls and how the physics works, it was a race-saver. Obviously, you can’t use it in multiplayer though, so you don’t want to get too dependent upon it.
There are multiple racing options in Monster Energy Supercross, but the meatiest and most enjoyable is found in the Career mode where you take on event after event across multiple classes as you rise through the rankings. Best of all, you can approach each event in a way that suits you – if you want to just race you can (though you’re sacrificing your starting position), but if you want to go through a fully authentic qualifying stage with all the bells-and-whistles (including all of the commentary and introductions from Fox Sports’ full time Supercross Series announcer of Ralph Sheheen) you can. I’ve got to give the game credit, it really does go all out with the events in both their presentation and how they play out – Monster Energy Supercross has got a mighty fine authentic touch and it’s perfect for the die-hard Supercross fans.
Oh, if you don’t want to enter countless events you can just take part in single races or time-trials, so you’re never tied down to just your career. In honesty though, unless you were just having a quick go of the game, I’d stick to the Career mode – it’s definitely the highlight of the single player experience.
What adds to the authenticity is the selection of licenced tracks, with seventeen different real-life choices available in total. Gamers will race through the likes of Oakland, the Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the AT&T Stadium in Dallas and the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. All of the tracks are perfectly re-created and look fantastic in-game.
It’s worth noting that some of the arenas you’ll race in have open-roofs, so you can expect weather to play a big part in the game. It might be a case of having a dry race during qualifying, only for the rain to hit by the time you come to the main event – added to the already existing track deterioration, it can certainly change how a race plays out. Not only do the weather effects force you to take a more careful approach, but they also look great when affecting the tracks themselves.
No matter where you’re racing, Monster Energy Supercross is always a lot of fun to play. There’s a real intensity to each race, but the game always manages to maintain a solid frame-rate – even during those hectic turns where you’re constantly banging bars with other racers. The steep learning curve can take some getting used to, but when you finally get to grips with how the game works you’ll find that Monster Energy Supercross is a game that’s authenticity is complimented by just how fun it is to actually play. Everything starts to come naturally, and when it does you’ll find yourself enjoying jostling with others to find the perfect turns or working out how to zip ahead of your rivals to work for the Supercross crown.
Whilst Monster Energy Supercross is a lot of fun to play though, it does have a few noticeable flaws. The physics have their moments where they just act… odd. That’s probably the best way to put it, because there’s no real consistency to it – for the most part everything will feel completely natural and work well, whilst other times you’ll find yourself flipping all over the place when coming out of a jump or making contact with another racer. In honesty, these moments aren’t a super common occurrence, but when they do hit it can greatly affect your chances in a race (thank god for the replay function).
The loading times can be a bit ridiculous too, which was something I noticed a lot of when playing around with the Track Editor (more on that later). They’re not the worst load times I’ve seen in a game, but you’ll definitely have enough time to mess around with social media on your phone whilst waiting for a race to start.
Those who prefer to compete with real-life rivals as opposed to A.I. ones will be pleased to see that Monster Energy Supercross has a very enjoyable online component. Unfortunately, you’ll only face off against up to twelve other players at a time as opposed to the twenty, but it still makes for some pretty epic racing showdowns.
I was a fan of the game’s single player component, but it was in the online mode where I found myself totally absorbed into the experience. I loved taking on my friends in big Championship races, and whilst I’ll admit that there were times when it was difficult to find a big group of players to play with, you can always put AI opponents into the mix if you’re lacking. The whole game just lends itself well to competitive multiplayer action, and there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found when tearing the dirt in a quick turn and stunningly stealing the lead (or if you’re a bit dirtier, cheekily hitting other racers off of their racing line).
Monster Energy Supercross offers one of the most authentic Supercross experiences I’ve ever had in video games thanks to its use of licenses and real-life tracks, so it’s definitely a title that fans of the sport will appreciate. Add in the fact that the game itself is a lot of fun to play and you’ll find that Milestone are onto a winner.
It’s just a shame that some occasionally sketchy physics and the long loading times can cause a few issues. Neither of these problems are severe enough to break the game, but they’ll certainly be noticeable during your time with it.
Still, they don’t stop Monster Energy Supercross being an essential purchase for Supercross fans. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a blast to play – add in the fantastic track creator and the genuinely intense online modes, and you’ll easily find yourself losing a ton of hours speeding through the sport’s muddy arenas.