Motocross, the art of hurtling along a mud-strewn racetrack, is something rarely seen in the gaming world. When I first saw MXGP series back in 2014 it was tucked away with all those other ‘niche’ sports games on the PlayStation Store, right next to Handball and Jonah Lomu’s Rugby Challenge. It’s quite strange really, that MX (as it shall be known from here on) hasn’t taken off as a sports genre in the same way a Gran Turismo or Forza has. There’s all the excitement of racing with the addition of being absolutely filthy, something I’m always totally on board with.
MXGP3 is the latest entry to grace our home consoles, and the results are.. MX’d (mixed, sorry). The focus here is clearly on realism, with the title being more of a simulation than an arcade experience. It’s something that I’m sure diehard fans of the actual sport will be well on board for, with the title being fully licensed; tracks, riders and teams are all here with a ton of sponsorship thrown in for good measure.
The career mode sees you joining a team, decking out your bike and rider, and tearing it up on the track. The aesthetics here are fully customisable, even down to what colour neck-brace you’re going to wear to prevent injury from those inevitable tumbles. It’s a nice touch being able to make the avatar your own, and gives you a desire to do well in order to earn credits to buy that pink helmet you’ve always wanted.
The challenges during career are quite limited however, with the only real objective to beat a certain rider or gain a minimum number of points during a Grand Prix. While this all seems quite obvious, it would have been nice to have some tertiary objectives thrown in to mix the race experience up a little. The grind of race after race can get a little stale, even if you’re working towards getting those fancy new boots that really complement the mud splatter. There seems to be little to no drive to succeed during your career, with the offer of credits the only real reward. There is a big shift within sports games now to include a full story mode, this isn’t what I’m after here, but some minor narrative would have sweetened the experience, at least for me.
What MXGP really gets right (thankfully) is the actual racing; the wheels to the dirt, full throttle, mud-strewn mess that is a 12-person Grand Prix. The track constantly evolves as lines are cut in to the corners, creating a boost of momentum for those perceptive enough to notice them, or creating quite the detriment for those (me) who just kind of barrels in to each turn like it’s my last. It definitely creates a layer of strategy that other racing sims just can’t do, tarmac just doesn’t cut up like wet soil does.
The bikes handle (sort of) you’d expect, with understeer and oversteer prevalent during the entire race. Hold throttle down and it turns gracefully. Turning and then letting loose on the gas swings the back wheel out like an demon which helps taking those hairpins; it’s a strange thing to get used to but once you get a feel for your bike you start to get in to that ‘zone’. Controlling the weight on your rider was also something that took some getting used to, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to reduce your track times. Cannoning in to each corner with reckless abandon will only get you so far, you’re going to need to get a feel for how and when to shift your rider’s weight or order to reduce the amount of bone-breaking spills you’ll take.
This may be true of MX in general, but I found that each track did seem quite unique in how it played. Even though ultimately they’re all dirt-covered hairpin strewn messes, they had their own personas; couple this with the game engine’s decent weather system and it tries it’s best to fight against the restrictions of the career to become a varied experience. Take one track and play it in the rain and soon you’ll find that everything becomes a horrible slippery mess, with riders careening off the sides of the track if they’re going even a fraction too quickly around a bend. It’s the saving grace of something that, quite frankly, didn’t hold my attention for too long.
I feel like you already know if you’re going to enjoy MXGP3. The game itself does little to nothing to appeal to a wider audience in a way that MX vs GP did, by adding pure unadulterated fun in to the mix. There’s no silly stunt mode, or any real drama to the career. It’s a shame that there isn’t anything on offer for someone who isn’t already a fan of the sport; this isn’t something I would recommend to many people. Those who ‘get it’, will already have a copy of the game. Even those of us who only share a passing interest will really struggle to find enough to warrant the purchase.
I played around 12 hours of MXGP3 on the PS4. It’s initial released date was the 30th May and is available on PS4, XBOX ONE and PC.