Milestone is back with another energy drink fuelled instalment in the MXGP franchise: MXGP PRO. This time around with a heavy focus on realism, physics, and official licensing - which basically means more Monster energy drink logos slapped everywhere.
Every MXGP game has garnered mixed reviews, and for good reasons. Previous iterations have had many issues, including average graphics, lacklustre gameplay, and steep learning curves. Milestone has been listening carefully to the MXGP community and has been working with Motocross professionals to improve the experience, including an entirely new bike and rider physics system, which at times, is often unforgiving.
Before jumping into a race, you are asked to customise your avatar and pick a bike. Customising your avatar is a little basic, with only ten preset faces to choose from - that doesn’t matter though as most of the time your avatar is wearing a helmet - but it would have been nice to have a bit more choice on that front. There is a deep level of customisation when it comes to both licensing and bike setup though. MXGP PRO has a vast amount of licenses that could easily put a FIFA game to shame -- albeit mainly energy drink sponsorships. Bike setup is reasonably in depth too. Although it is something I couldn't quite get into, the hardcore motocross fans should really enjoy being able to fine-tune their bikes.
After making my character and bike look bloody sexy, I was then let loose in the “Compound” to practice my motocross skills, and given a very brief tutorial. Controlling the bike is daunting to begin with. Having to use both analogue sticks to balance out the weight of the rider, and the direction in which the bike is pointing, while riding at high speeds over a six-meter high jump, can be a bit flummoxing. After a couple of hours, and more than several wipeouts, I felt confident in my abilities to jump into the career mode.
As with nearly every sports title, the career mode is the staple of the game. Starting your career means beginning at the very bottom rung of the ladder in the dark depths of the MX2 class, before being able to advance up into the more prestigious MXGP class. The career mode is the standard racing game career mode. Win races, upgrade your vehicle, get a new sponsor. That is pretty much it. There are some other basic tasks, such as having conversations with other riders to make them dislike you and build up a rivalry, but that doesn’t add anything to the game and makes the rest of the career mode feel shallow. There is a very sparse multiplayer mode which only offers up a quick match or a championship mode. Multiplayer matches are filled with both AI and players, although every time I joined a lobby, I would usually be racing against one other person and ten other AIs.
Races take place over a total of 21 tracks, 19 of those being real-world locations taken straight from the MXGP 2017 season. Graphically, the tracks look OK, However, more than often I experienced objects just popping into view. This was especially prevalent in the pre-race cutscenes. Milestone has put a big emphasis on track deterioration again this year, to simulate the battering a real motocross circuit would take. Milestone also claims that deep, channelling divots known as “ruts” also appear in the latter stages of a race - riders usually use these ruts to gain a bit more traction and control when cornering. For me, the ruts didn't do anything. The track looked a bit more chewed up, but I could find no tactical advantage from riding a rut, nor did it affect any other part of my riding. I did find some rather bizarre track physics though. I would be speeding down a straight, only to hit the smallest of bumps, to then be sent rocketing off in a completely different direction, or just wipe out. This also happened when jumping over ramps. I would nail the landing, both wheels on the floor at the same time, bike straight as an arrow, and still, I would end up hitting the deck.
Racing against the AI isn’t that hard. The real challenge with MXGP PRO is the tracks and learning how the bike physics work. Once you’ve got the physics and an in-depth knowledge of the control system, racing against the other riders is pretty straightforward. It does take a long time to get there though, which is why, for the more casual gamer, they might not enjoy it as much as a real motocross head would.
MXGP PRO is a solid experience if you can get past the steep learning curve at the beginning. Milestone, however, hasn’t done enough to differentiate from MXGP3. MXGP PRO is too similar to its predecessor. For Motocross fans, who enjoy the licences, in-depth bike customisation and famous faces associated with the game, they are sure to love it, but for the casuals, if you can stick with learning the controls for long enough, there is a decent racing game underneath.
MXGP PRO (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
MXGP PRO is a fun Motocross racing sim with deep levels of customisation but is let down by some odd physics, a steep learning curve and it's similarity to the previous entry into the MXGP series: MXGP 3. If you are a diehard Motocross fan, this game is for you, but for the casual gamer, MXGP PRO probably won't be dynamic enough to hold your attention for long.