[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
Milestone’s latest outing comes just several months after they released Ride 3 for home consoles and PC. The game is a surprisingly steep departure from their previous game, given that while Ride 3 focused on MotoGP bikes, road bikes, classic bikes, sports bikes, and freestyle bikes, Monster Energy Supercross The Official Videogame 2 is focused entirely and only on dirt bikes, and I would probably be hard pressed not to say that it’s the best dirt bike racing game on the market.
Obviously, though, the big question is: is this game worth $60?
Content wise it definitely gives you hours upon hours worth of content. You have a seemingly endless career mode that features three categories of racing, the 250 East, 250 West, and 450 divisions, which you can repeat time and time again even after you complete them. There’s a multiplayer mode with the bare bones features that have been present in previous Milestone games for those of you who want to play online against friends or strangers either using preset racing settings or customized sessions that allow you to bring your own custom bikes and tracks to the table.
And yes, the game does feature a rather robust track editor so you can create a near endless supply of different race tracks set within indoor or outdoor arenas and of varying sizes. If you’re curious how in-depth the track editor is, YouTuber Start Your Systems has a 16 minute video that covers the ins and outs of designing your very own track.
It’s definitely not bad, but it’s also a shame that it’s limited to just arenas and stadiums. So you don’t get the outdoor motorcross tracks like in the MXGP Pro series.
In addition to those modes, there’s also custom championship modes, single events that allow you to race on any of the 17 tracks across the three divisions, and a time attack mode so you can attempt to post your best scores against your friends and rivals.
The meat of the game is obviously in the career mode, where you’ll create a character choosing from a limited number of preset heads, slap them on a winning pose, and then attempt to earn some credits and fame by picking up a sponsor, winning some races, and upgrading your bike. You’ll need to balance your time between training, attending media events (which is just a short cutscene that gives you fame, which in turn allows you to unlock better paying sponsors), perform promotional spots for extra cash, or meeting with fans, and participating in seasonal races.
Now let me say right off the bat, this game does not have the bike customization or tweaking features present in Ride 3. Milestone may have made both games, but Monster Energy Supercross 2 has a far more limited supply of options when it comes to tweaking and upgrading your bike. It may boast more than 300 parts from different manufacturers and 3,000 customizable items (including decals), but only a few upgrade options (mainly the exhaust, tires, brakes, sprocket and rims) affect the bike’s stats. While they make a huge difference in performance, you don’t get the the nitty-gritty, gearhead features that were present in Ride.
And speaking of tweaking the bike… while the customization is available before each race to tweak your bike’s shocks, dampeners, suspension, and gearbox, the sliders are rather limited and unless you put the game on the hardest difficulty and with the hardest physics settings, you can basically leave the defaults as they are for each race, which is a far cry from Ride 3 or even MXGP Pro.
The thing is, even on the easiest difficulty settings for Ride 3, you still had to tweak your bike and make some changes because each bike handled vastly different on each track.
Also, on the topic of customization… it’s not something that readily stands out. A lot of the options menus are kind of compacted into one another, so the option to buy new bikes is also in the same screen where you can customize your bike, but you’ll have to scroll through to get to the bike(s) you own and then customize it. The way the menu is layered it’s an easy feature to miss if you don’t bother looking to purchase a new bike. Again, comparing it to Milestone’s Ride 3, it just seems like in Ride the menus were a lot more clear and open so you were always presented with the option to select a new bike, buy a new bike, or upgrade a bike.
And you will need the upgrades for the latter parts of the game. While Monster Energy Supercross 2 is definitely a far easier game to play than Milestone’s other offerings, the difficulty does ramp up when you elevate from the 250 class to the 450 class, and again once you get near the end of the season where the opponents are a lot more aggressive.
The AI is passable, though not remarkable. They will ride to conquer the corners and the jumps with precision, but they’re not going to throw you off the bike or ride you off the line like in Project CARS or Forza Motorsport.
That’s not to say that the races aren’t intense, because they absolutely will be close depending on your skill level and the difficulty setting. The harder you make the AI the closer to perfect you have to race.
Thankfully, Milestone’s evolution of the bike physics in the latest iteration of the Unreal Engine has made the game feel drastically better than their previous dirt bike racing simulators thanks to the Advanced Inertial Response system combined with the geometrical terrain deformation courtesy of the Real Terrain Collision technology.
One of my biggest complaints about MXGP Pro was that it felt kind of stiff and as if the bikes weren’t realistically reacting to the dynamic topography of the tracks. Here in Monster Energy Supercross 2, it’s the complete opposite. The bikes are very loose, very nimble, and very agile – reacting to every lump and bump on the ground. The riders also wiggle, wobble, teeter, and constantly adjust themselves as players make those micro-adjustments coming in and out of turns, going into and out of jumps, and when going for the seat bounce to reduce the jump height and achieve maximum forward trajectory.
I feel like this game has the best dirt bike physics I’ve ever encountered.
Now for those of you who read my Ride 3 review, you would know that my biggest complaint about the game was that on home consoles it was relegated to 30fps, which absolutely killed so much of the nuance in the bike handling, the physics, and the way players could adjust to the track and the rider. Here, with Monster Energy Supercross 2, the frame-rate doesn’t impede the input latency quite as badly due to the nature of the game and the pace being much more stop-and-go than Ride 3, but it still hampers the overall smoothness of gameplay that you would find when playing on PC with unlocked frames.
Now the upside is that one of the reasons why the frame-rate isn’t quite as prohibitive towards the fun-factors on the home console version of Monster Energy Supercross 2 is that the game’s skill-focus isn’t on mastering turns using the rider line, but rather mastering jumps using the jump line.
In games like Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo, the key to winning races is mastering the driving line and knowing how to take the turns. The highlight for Monster Energy Supercross 2 is that you can take the turns in a number of different ways, but the way you make or break the pole position is by mastering the jumps; knowing how to tilt the bike for the medium jumps to pick up maximum speed on the landing, or scrubbing on the large jumps to cut down on your air time in order to maintain your lead, or popping a wheelie across the whoops to ride across the very top of the inclines without slowing down and losing acceleration on the declines.
There’s a lot of really neat little physics-based nuances available in Monster Energy Supercross 2 that I didn’t think would be in the game that you can utilize to increase your proficiency while riding. Understanding how to maneuver the bike and shift the rider’s weight with the right analog while going into and coming out of turns, or going into or coming out of jumps is a challenge all its own, but one that I found was implemented with a level of care and precision that never shortchanged the player from being able to exert full control over the bike/rider. I wish more games had the kind of advanced vehicular physics systems that this game has, because it really is top notch. It reminds me of the realistic vehicle mods for GTA IV and GTA V on PC.
Now that isn’t to say that the game doesn’t have drawbacks, because it certainly does.
My biggest issue still is one of the carried-over peeves I had from MXGP Pro, where if you ride outside of the track lines too far they automatically put you back on the track. Now during the actual races they have a three second countdown timer, and if you aren’t back within the track lines when the timer hits zero they will reset you, which is fine. However, other times the game will just randomly decide to put you back on the track or reset you if they think you’ve gone outside the boundaries, sometimes even if all you’ve done is cut a very short corner of the track.
Now, as I mentioned, this doesn’t obstruct the actual races much, but oh boy will it ruin your day when you’re doing the challenge modes.
So the way it’s setup in the career mode, in order to upgrade your rider stats you have to complete training segments. There are three categories of training: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Each category has several skills you can upgrade and three tiers per skill. As you complete a tier you unlock the next tier, and the better you do for each tier and the more stars you unlock the more that particular skill is increased. So maxing out the tiers for scrubbing, for instance, will allow you to scrub quicker and land faster; or maxing out the reflex tiers will improve your ability to get off the starting line faster.
Now even if you max out all of the tiers for each skill category, you won’t be able to unlock the intermediate or advanced training categories until you complete the challenges. Challenges consist of either racing head-to-head against a rival or attempting to beat their time on the training track at your compound. The head-to-head races aren’t bad, but the time challenges can really ruin your day. The thing is, as you attempt to shave off milliseconds on the counter by attempting to cut corners as short as possible, or reduce your jumps while weaving them into turns, the game has arbitrary boundaries on where you can’t go otherwise it will automatically reset you on the track, practically ruining your time trial.
Sometimes these boundaries are right there at the inside edge of some corners or just on the boundaries of some jumps so even if you go just a little bit outside of the boundary you’ll be reset. This means that instead of trying to maximize ways to increase your efficiency on the track, you’re more-so relying on just getting a faster, better bike, which is what I ended up doing in order to complete the time trials.
It’s kind of frustrating because I would have preferred if it were closer to the likes of Ride 3, where they let you cut the corners on the track or ride out of bounds, but they simply added the penalty to your overall lap time, which basically meant that you were still penalized but they didn’t inhibit your momentum during the actual lap run.
Now one other thing that I think they did well with Monster Energy Supercross The Video Game 2 is added the ability to listen to the game’s soundtrack during the actual races. This was one of my peeves with Milestone’s previous outings, so it’s cool that you can listen to the game’s sparse but grunge-rock music while you race, which can help you feel a bit pumped when you’re engaged in an intense race. I do wish the sounds for the motorcycles packed a bit more oomph, especially since it sometimes seems like you barely hear the other bikes on the track, it’s a bit of a downgrade from the sound design in Ride 3.
Ultimately, though, the question is still whether or not Monster Energy Supercross The Videogame 2 is worth the $60 price of entry on PS4, Nintendo Switch or Xbox One, or $50 on PC? Well, I can readily say that it’s probably not worth the top-end of the price bracket for casual users on any system. I can say that it would probably be worth $40 on PC given that it looks far better than the home console versions and offers players the ability to play at higher frame-rates. I would say it would probably be worth it on Xbox One or PS4 when it drops down to about $30.
While there’s a lot of replayability availability with the career mode and track creator, there’s also a lot of limited options when it comes to the bike and rider customization, even though you can change the livery on the bike and some of the component colors. However, it lacks the bike selection and customization scaling of Ride 3, which could easily keep players busy for months on end.
As I said, this is a fun game and it’s easily Milestone’s best as far as capturing the physics of motocross is concerned. I would imagine that maybe Monster Energy Supercross The Videogame 3 will probably be Milestone’s dirt-racing masterpiece if it ever gets made. Even still, if you’re a fan of off-road motorcross and you’re really looking for a fun game to add to your library, I would at least say to..