On paper, if anyone knows how to develop a motorbike racer it’s Milestone, which means Monster Energy Supercross should be in good hands.
With a pedigree that features MXGP, WRC and MotoGP, that would definitely seem to be the case. And for the most part, this looks, feels, acts, and plays just as good as any of them. You’ve got all the familiar locations like Daytona International Speedway, the U.S Bank Stadium, Angel Stadium Speedway, there’s pyro blaring off in all directions and the sponsors are there in full.
Yet I struggled to get to grips with the games’ twitchy controls from the very first race and never really improved fifteen, twenty, even thirty races later. At times, my biker would vault over a mound so high I could swear he was carrying ET in a wicker basket over the front wheel. Then other times, he would stumble and career into the side track with barely a tap or a nudge. The inconsistencies were immediately apparent and it soon impacted on any fun I may have got out of the game.
I also found it far too easy to lose my bearings, veer off my track and trawl ahead to another part. The moment you do go off the track, the game gives you a three-second timer to get back to where you should be or there’s a penalty. But by the time you reorient yourself and contend against the fastest countdown in video game history, you’re immediately reset behind a bunch of your competitors and much further back than is fair. Not to mention, sometimes it’s almost impossible to get back onto the track because you’re totally boxed out. Truthfully, I have never had to work so hard to stay on a game’s race track in the thirty years I’ve been playing racing games. It was as if my bike had this permanent gravitational pull beyond the barriers. Not only was I trying to fend against that, but the 21 other racers who kept slamming into me and trying to push me out of the sky. Even when Mario Kart is at its craziest with shells and banana skins sailing everywhere, I can still keep my bearings better than I can in Monster Energy Supercross.
Add to that I could barely break into the top five without the AI absolutely trashing me, making it their priority to smash me off the road even at the expense of their own positioning. It was unusual how aggressive they were being and even on the lowest possible difficulty levels, that puts you at a distinct disadvantage. And when the game’s own internal social media acknowledges their headhunting, you know something’s up. I get this is aggressive racing and will be more of a challenge than most, but MES can be obnoxious in its approach and more punishing and unfair than it should be.
Plus, when you’re glitching on top of bollards, randomly wiping out for no clear reason, continually getting your wheel stuck in the ground and have over-the-top collisions from the slightest knock, your patience starts to wear thin pretty quickly. To be clear, in the thirty plus races I’ve had on this game, I’ve never come first – even on the easiest possible difficulty. Make of that what you will. I enjoyed MotoGP, I loved Driveclub Bikes and Motorstorm, I even aced quite a few challenges in Trials Evolution, yet I’m not even competitive in this world. Throw in some juddery frame rate – especially on that first corner, good god – and it adds up to Monster Energy Supercross being a lot of hard work and not much fun.
Still, it’s not all bad. The game has a decent amount of options to plough through with a single player career, championship, time attack and single event to test yourself. Championship can only be unlocked when you become a Level 8 rider, which means you’ll need to earn points during the races. This could be something simple as winning a race, by overtaking rivals, performing jumps, pulling off some excellent turns and more. There are also SX challenges you can complete to get a massive boost in XP. As you gain more levels, you also earn new titles and portraits which you can use for your overall racer profile and naturally unlock content in the game. You can also customise your racer, though the options are pretty basic, such as naming them, giving them a number, saying where they’re from and choosing one of the pre-set faces.
The multiplayer lobby is also pretty decent with the option to vote on the preferred track and conditions for the race ahead of going out on the circuit and leaderboards to compare yourself to the rest of the world.
Then there’s the surprisingly well done Track Editor which lets you create your own courses by choosing your own stadium, track type, individual modules, and, of course, starting and finishing points. When done, you can then finalise and validate to post online or just mess around in for your own recreational use. It’s not as detailed as you’ll find in other titles, but it definitely gives the game an added value bonus.
Sadly, though, the UI makes it difficult to navigate through anything seamlessly, with Monster Energy Supercross being incredibly menu heavy. The game forces you to tap through about four to five screens before getting where you need to go and there’s also a lot of loading screens to sit around and wait through. But hey, at least it looks good and the soundtrack keeps the blood pumping.
Ultimately, what you’re left with is a beautiful looking racer that gives you the feeling of being at a Monster Energy Supercross event, sharing in the roar of the crowd, headbanging to the music, hearing the hum of the engines and the crunch of the dirt, but lacking the core ingredient in the driving to complete the thrill ride. As much as I tried to get into and enjoy Monster Energy Supercross, the game was determined to kill my enjoyment at every corner. Nice Track Editor, though.
+ Looks pretty
+ Good Track Editor
+ Cool Soundtrack
– Twitchy input and difficult to stay in control
– Some nasty glitches
– AI too aggressive even on easiest difficulty
– Juddery frame rate
Monster Energy Supercross
5 out of 10
Tested on PS4