Reposted on Wednesday, November 27, 2019: We're bringing this review from the archives following the announcement of the December PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Racing games cost a dozen bucks, but while most focus on cars or more “extreme” sports, this is a relatively slim pick when it comes to motocross and supercross. They were more common a few generations ago, but now Italian developer Milestone is virtually independent when it comes to releasing licensed motocross games. While its titles are typically focused on the European motocross racing theater, Monster Energy Supercross offers a refreshing change of pace in North America. Unfortunately, this change brings all the pitfalls and flaws of most Milestone games.
Monster Energy Supercross is an officially licensed game that features the racers and locations of the North American Supercross circuit as you race to win the championship. Oddly, the game does not include the most recent circuit possible, as the Foxboro, Massachusetts circuit is conspicuously absent, while the East Rutherford, New Jersey circuit, abandoned after the 2017 season, remains. . Despite this oversight, the 17 titles offered in the title are true recreations of those who participate in the real world tour. The venue design in particular impressively exudes the sense of scale and scale that a Supercross match can deliver. The uniforms and motorcycles also look really nice, with the overall aesthetic of the game looking much more authentic than most of Milestone's past motorcycle offerings.
But, as with most of their titles, the gameplay itself leaves something to be desired. One of our big issues with the team's last major motocross title, MXGP 3, was that the controls seemed to have taken a step back from previous titles. Luckily, Monster Energy Supercross is able to get around this quagmire, because the controls are perfectly adequate. That's not to say they're good per se, but the controls and handling of your bike no longer feel like something you have to personally struggle with.
The same cannot be said for physics. We tried our best to try out the different settings the game could offer on this front, ranging from a more realistic physics engine to a more arcadey one, and the one thing that always made them consistent was their inconsistency. On a triple, your bike may land very hard and bounce through the air for no apparent reason, then on the next attempt it will veer erratically upon landing. Being able to read jumps and getting much harder timing than expected probably didn't allow that.
This fight against the game's physics makes the few moments when you have the rhythm of sections of tracks even more rewarding. There's not much more rewarding than hitting three triples, flying over a section of moguls and crossing the finish line. That said, of the title's four game modes – individual races, career, online, time attack mode, and track creator – there's hardly any fanfare for a win, which dampens the feeling of doom somewhat. 'exaltation. Not only that, but you're forced to see the riders' faces, which is borderline punishment. The animation of the riders when on their bikes is outstanding, but anytime you have to see someone's face, or see them on the bike, it might have been best avoided. Milestone, we've met Ryan Dungey before: he doesn't look the same.
Although we briefly mentioned the track editor, it deserves another mention, as it is one of the best and most impressive facets of the title. While the majority of the game's UI is a confusing and complicated mess, the Track Editor features a surprisingly clean and easy-to-follow UI without sacrificing an impressive level of creative control. Since some of the menus are messy, we were completely taken aback.
You just have to pray that you don't accidentally load the track early, because the loading times in this game are absolutely brutal. Everything has to be loaded and it takes forever. While racing through the Championships, if you choose the “short” race duration, you will race approximately five minutes per track. Unfortunately, due to brutal loading times, you might have to spend an extra five minutes letting everything load. These days, with the power of the PS4 – a PS4 Pro, that's completely unacceptable. Not only do load times take forever, but usually the first thing that happens after those loads (dropping the door and going through the hole) has major frame drops, because the game doesn't seem to be able to follow. Luckily, outside of the portal, the frame rate is pretty solid, but it's a very important moment for the game.
A lot of Monster Energy Supercross' problems on their own really aren't that bad, but when you take them all at once, the game is underwhelming. Many issues - such as load times - are more about quality of life than gameplay issues, so if Milestone could get its house in order, it would go a long way. But it's the inconsistent physical characteristics that are the real kicker and detract from the generally acceptable presentation and decent selection of modes. It's better than nothing, and North American supercross fans will certainly appreciate that the title exists, but it could be a whole lot better.
Revision copy provided by Milestone Srl