If there’s one word to describe MXGP, it’s intense.
If you lose concentration for 0.0001 of a second, you’ll transition from skipping along a muddy terrain at high speed to faceplanting into the nearest Monster billboard, rider flopping about on the ground like a boneless chicken.
Because of that, you need full concentration the whole time. Your eyes will dry out from your terrifying, unblinking stare. Your pad will warp from the deathgrip crush that will intensify as the race progresses. Your body will slowly lean forward as you battle to keep your bike upright and your rider alive.
MXGP – Concentrate!
Pardon us if we’re descending into borderline marketing back-of-the-box blurb but we can’t overstate how much concentration MXGP requires.
That isn’t to say it’s a tough game, at least not in the traditional sense – on the default difficulty with the default settings, you tend to nip ahead of the pack around the second lap or so – but you can never really switch off from what you’re doing.
That’s because Milestone has done a fantastic job in capturing the battle between biker and terrain. You use the right stick to shift your weight and doing so is the only way you can safely get through the series of bumps, ridges and jumps that make up each track.
There’s no such thing as learning a perfect line here. Each track is battered and bruised by the end of the race, mangled by the tyres biting and chewing their way through the mud lap after lap, deformed by wear and tear.
The skill isn’t learning through repetition. It’s constantly adapting. Hence why you can never really switch off from what’s happening.
MXGP – Serious Racing Simulation™
If you haven’t guessed by now, MXGP is a Serious Racing Simulation™, using Milestone’s Serious Racing Simulation™ experience from the Moto GP series. The handling, the physics, the weight of the bike, everything feels perfect – the only break in realism is when the rider falls off and seconds later, teleports back onto his bike.
But seeing as this is a Serious Racing Simulation™, Milestone offers a lot of assists to help you stay upright and disabling them makes MXGP an incredibly tough game. Auto-balance is the main one – take the assist for that away and you’re wobbling like a drunk on a broken tricycle, fighting against gravity as well as the track to avoid falling face-first in the dirt.
Even small bumps and ridges become moments of dread, as you desperately tweak and change the balance of your rider to ensure you don’t get caught out on your landing.
With the default settings, it’s simple enough to carve through the mud and enjoy MXGP as an intense (if somewhat easy) racer. For the purists, or those seeking a challenge, start playing around with the sliders and you’ll gain new appreciation for the sport and also the work Milestone and put into MXGP to replicate the realism.
MXGP – Review
If there’s one area that Milestone needs to work on, it’s adding polish and personality. The core game is solid and enjoyable but everything around that is drab and unengaging, the modes being little more different ways of serving up the same races.
It’s just a bit lifeless. MXGP doesn’t need a wacky colour commentator to liven things up but it does need to be more vibrant and colourful in all areas of the game, whether it’s in the character creation, the level up notifications, the menus, anything.
Same goes for the actual visuals. We’ll forgive the how awkward the managers and riders are whenever they are shown in post-race cutscenes, puppet-like marionettes jerking into life as you feel your soul being sucked into their evil, lifeless eyes.
What’s less forgivable is watching the textures of the terrain loading in as you get closer. As scouring the terrain ahead is an essential part of mastering MXGP – as previously mentioned, this game is about how quickly you can adapt, not how quickly you learn through repetition – your eyes are constantly being pulled towards one of the weakest looking areas of the game.
It’s a shame because MXGP is a niche sport and having such a drab front-end combined with the rough visuals isn’t going to make a compelling case for people outside of that hardcore to play it.
But get past that and MXGP is good fun – a solid racer built with perfect physics, requiring the sort of intense concentration that few games today demand.
Version Tested: PS3