MXGP: The Official Motocross Videogame – As We Play

Format – Xbox 360

Let’s get this show started. First off: I know nothing about motocross. Seems a fair confession to get out of the way right now. This entire experience will be written as such, purely as an oblivious player, so hold that in mind for the journey we are about to embark on. However, I can tell you that when a game’s box proudly states “Follow us!” on the back, but contains absolutely no Twitter handle (only a website URL and a hashtag?) that things are not off to a terrific start. Also, the blurb on the back proudly boasts “dual stick control accuracy”… Fairly certain that is no longer a selling point on consoles, unless you’re also releasing a Nintendo 64 port.

Alright, right off the bat – you press start, and are greeted with a tutorial video. Not playable. Just a video. It then gives you the option to watch all tutorial videos. Back-to-back. Which will set you back about 10 minutes from first to last. They’re worthwhile tutorials, but it’s without a doubt the most mundane way possible of presenting them. You folks realise you’re currently in an interactive medium, right? YouTube doesn’t pay out royalties for this.

2 - MXGP Track(Above screenshot in the only non-in-game one used in this piece. The final product is not this pretty.)

Terrific news, I am now the master of all that I survey. Jumps, stunts, advanced turning, landing techniques, special tactics; you name it, I know it. Glad all those fully narrated tutorial videos were there for me right at the start. Now I get to customise my rider! Knowing my general RPG habits this will soak up a solid 30 minutes of my time.

Perhaps my over exuberance about customising my rider was a tad overzealous. To go with your new rider, you get to pick a portrait of a real person – they may may not be real motocross riders, I’m not the expert here – but every single one is a generic looking white guy with a beard. Seriously, there’s no other option (as least as far as I can find). Why?! I mean if you’re not going to have at least a partially diverse range then why even put this option in here. You can pick from 77 Nations from around the world, but only 15 portraits that look like they got the same 5 guys and got them to take 3 photos of increasing face gruffness?!

P.s. It lets you select a rider number, but some are not allowed – just because. I assume (/hope) that real riders already have them assigned, otherwise it makes no sense what-so-ever. I wanted to be 9. Why can’t I be 9?! Whatever. I’m now 29. As it was the lowest ‘permitted’ number with a 9 in (the highest was 998, for those curious amongst you). This customisation sucks. Barely any options except for 3 balls ugly font choices for your number on the rider’s jacket. At best it’s lazy, at worst it’s mildly offensive.

There are three main modes: Grand Prix, Championship, and Career. Which is the main single player? Who knows! The 10 minutes of tutorials didn’t prepare me for this. My body is not ready. I’m going to take a stab at Career.

Seems Career mode was the correct choice. I’m immediately being asked to sign up for a team to ride with, but every team has identical stats, so why is there a multiple choice? Seems the only thing it does is change your bike colour (which is entirely set based on your team choice). I like orange, so went for the orange team. Sound logic.

I’m now sat at a desk. There’s a computer labelled ‘Computer’, a locker, a calendar, and a TV. WHERE IS THE GAMEPLAY?! I’m nearly 25 minutes deep into this game and so far I’ve seen more gameplay happening in tutorial videos than in the game. Don’t worry though, there is a fake Twitter account that you can view on the computer. It’s not a poorly implemented waste of time, honest.

2 - MXGP Corner

Good news everyone! I did finally find the gameplay. Unfortunately, I rather wish I hadn’t.

Let’s start with some of the positives: the controls are actually pretty tight. Being able to shift your rider’s weight on the bike and turn the bike individually – while it takes some getting used to – is pretty freaking sweet. Nailing a perfect skid round a muddy corner is damn satisfying. What else is positive… Erm… you leave track marks in the mud that don’t disappear for the whole race? That’s kind of neat. The rest is pretty bad though.

First off the graphics are ugly as hell. Aside from the rider models, that are about average, the rest looks like a PlayStation 2 game that somebody stepped on. Every single time you crash off your bike your rider will clip into the floor before magically pinging back onto the race track. Same goes by the way if you dare to drive more than two feet outside of the designated racetrack – automatic teleportation back into line. There is a map HUD to show you the track, but it never shows the other racers, so unless you’re worried about getting lost on the next corner, it’s pretty damn useless.

The crowd animations loop painfully obviously, the water effects are utterly awful and look like somebody spilled mercury onto a field, and where are my pit crew’s eyes?! On top of all of this; there is no music while you’re racing – none! There’s music on the menus, and music on the title screen, but there is zero music/music option for while you’re in game. Meaning you’re left to a soothing, unending droning sound of your bike engine grinding along for an hour. Beautiful.

2 - MXGP Handshake

On the off chance you do wing up playing/purchasing this game, allow me to add that each event has four stages: a 35 minute long practice lap time trial around the track, a 30 minute qualifying lap time trial, a 3 lap race, and a second (identical) 3 lap race. For the first 3-4 events I was baffled this was how to play. Motocross may well do this, I don’t know, but this is not how to do it in a videogame! Eventually I figured out that you can turn off the practice laps, which will save you a good half an hour per event, but the qualifying laps are highly recommended because otherwise you’ll never know the track well enough (first time) to do well in the races. Meaning, if you do the practice, to complete on track can take you upwards of an hour and twenty minutes!

Oh! Also, once you start the event, you cannot skip any of these stages. The practice lap is just to practice, no end goal, but it is timed for fun. The qualifying race, though, is about getting the fastest lap time. However, once you do get the fastest lap (normally within a few tries) the AI will never beat you. Ever. You’re stuck there for the remaining time on the clock, on average for me around 27 minutes, and if you do leave through the menu system you retire from the whole event – and you are then penalised for quitting, and barred from repeating the event. It’s infuriating.

On top of all of this, because you have zero control of the camera (due to the revolutionary dual stick control accuracy) it can get annoying knowing what obstacles are coming up after a corner. It then goes into bloody annoying territory when the rider behind you comes into view, totally obscuring your bike and rider from the screen. Meaning the first few minutes of every race is a chaotic cluster-mess when it comes to actually seeing your own rider as all the opposing racers are bunched up alongside you.

MXGP has not swayed me, or really in any way encouraged me, to get into motocross. The racing elements of the game are some of the most solid parts of the game, gratefully, but it’s a dreadful shame that they’re let down by the presentation of almost every other part of the game.

Areas for Improvement

  • Playable tutorials, rather than static videos at the beginning of the game.
  • Skippable stages within events once you have achieved the best time.
  • Better tracking of opponents on the map during races.
  • The option to turn music on during a race, rather than only the menus.

Final Analysis

MXGP: The Official Motocross Videogame isn’t a bad racer, the actual racing elements are thankfully one of its strongest points, but it’s let down by some very obscure UI decisions, lazy scenery graphics, and dull and repetitive gameplay elements. I’m sure fans of motocross could forgive a lot of MXGP’s misgivings, but it’s unlikely to make any new fans of unknowledgeable gamers.

Technical Competency – 6/10

Graphic/Sound Quality – 3/10

Network Stability – N/A

Overall – 5/10