As the only dedicated motocross game currently available for consoles, its hard not to recommend MXGP2 to anyone who is a fan of the sport. Thankfully this isn’t just because it is the only one in existence, but also because it is a good motocross game.
Covering both a single player career mode and an online mutiplayer component, MXGP2 touches on all the bases of a current generation sports game. You get to customize your player and team name, tune the performance of your bike, and race across a variety of tracks. You do this both in career, where maintaining public relations and courting sponsors help your progress, as well as the multiplayer, where you race against a mix of humans and AI controlled riders.
As I am not a avid fan of the FIM Motocross World Championship, I can’t tell you how faithful it is to the license. Whether or not it faithfully transitions famous riders, bikes, and tracks into video game form I can’t speak on. What I can speak on, however, is how the game plays.
Instead of a tutorial section of gameplay you are given the opportunity to watch a few short videos that go over different ways to brake your bike for a turn, scrubbing, and accelerating at the beginning of a race. The single player options cover MXGP, Career, Monster Energy FIM MXON, Stadium Series, Real Events, and Test Track.
In career mode, there are four separate sections of a race. The first is a practice section in which you can ride through the track in order to gain a feel for it and set your lap times. This portion is timed, with a thirty minute standard, something I never played entirely through. To continue onwards you’ll have to return to the pit and forward time to the qualifiers. This is the same setup as the practice except now your time is weighted against others and will determine your position in the actual race.
Again, this is timed with thirty minutes slowly ticking down, so after a few laps you will most likely skip ahead to the first actual race. Everyone is lined up at the starting point and if you are able to gauge your acceleration right you can pull ahead early once the gates drop.
The beginning section can make or break your position in the race, as avoiding crashes and staying in line during turns has a huge effect on your position in the last lap. Turns especially — how you approach them, your braking strategy, and ability to adjust for the next turn — are probably the toughest learning curve. Jumps, straightaways, and avoiding other players are pretty basic, but knowing how to efficiently turn a tight corner in a race is key.
There are three ways you can brake, with X, L1, and L2. With each braking you can also adjust the weight of your rider with the left stick. Learning the nuances of these brakes is probably why each practice session gives you thirty minutes.
All of these systems are carried over into multiplayer except for the rewind mechanic. For a limited number of times during a race you can tap R1 after crashing or making an error and rewind time to an earlier point in the hope of fixing whatever mistake was made. You can’t rewind time back to back, so you only have one chance to avoid running into the sign after a tight turn.
Even when you don’t use this mechanic, the game itself will often just teleport you back onto your bike, intangible to the other riders, after a few seconds on the ground. Its a light penalty, but when milliseconds separate you from the next position, it can be frustrating when you crash multiple times.
For multiplayer you can choose to be quickly placed in a match, or search for a game in a server lobby. You can also host your own match, with the expected set of adjustable variables. With online matches the positions not filled by human opponents are simply filled with AI.
The presentation and UI are really slick while navigating the menus. Instead of bland, text-list menus, each display is packed with a lot of style. Lots of diagonal lines, hexagon image cropping, a mix of real photos of tracks, bikes, and players, and in-game assets. Images will sometimes move slowly, and most of the time it all loads well.
Switching between races and loading the tracks themselves can take quite some time, which can hurt the pacing of going from a qualifying round right into the race — at times you will have to wait 30 seconds or more for it to load the same track again.
Each race track itself looks good, though even MXGP2 can’t escape the sports trap of crowds being full of the same six models copied and pasted. I understand the reasoning behind it, but its still jarring to look into the crowd and see the same figures randomly populate a specific space when the rest of the game looks much better.
While the tracks, vegetation, and bikes themselves look great, there is some underwhelming overall quality to it. It doesn’t look bad, but it looks like something that could have easily been done on the PlayStation 3, and doesn’t appear to really take advantage of the PlayStation 4’s increased ability for impressive visuals.
Customization when it comes to riders and the bikes goes much more in depth than I will ever be able to touch on. Helmets, goggles, boots, and so on each have many companies you can choose from and each company has a sub-menu with all their offerings. With the bike itself you can customize parts and fine tune the suspension as well as other mechanical innards and systems. This is great for those who really want to go all out in creating a bike tuned to their play, but also doesn’t harm the experience if you simply leave everything at the default level.
Every gameplay system and feature in MXGP2 is solid, as my only complaints are rather minimal: long loading times, unnecessarily long practice and qualifying rounds, and serviceable graphics. Learning to master corners on each and every track — from the outside hills to indoor stadiums — will take quite some time. On top of that, you have your own career to complete, stadium events and other tournaments to win, and a myriad of options to fine tune both your bike and your avatar. MXGP2 isn’t going to convert anyone over to motocross, but it will happily entertain anyone who is a fan.