Motocross is not the most popular sport in the world…not by a long shot. When I was growing up, frothing at the mouth for anything motocross related, I usually had to explain what this obscure sport was to my New Jersey friends and family. Honestly, that still happens all the time. For some reason, despite the sport’s limited mainstream popularity, there has been a motocross game for just about every videogame console made since the original Nintendo Entertainment System (Excitebike anyone?!). Perhaps that fact has something to do with Japan, which is where most MX machinery and many videogame companies originate. Maybe it’s also because pretend dirt bike racing is just damn fun. Milestone kept this idea in mind when it partnered with Feld Entertainment to create the first ever season-based Supercross game, with the oh so creative title: Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame.
The game is based directly off of, you guess it, the Monster Energy Supercross series. Yeah, not the most original name. Why not “AMA Supercross 2017” or “Monster SX 2017?” Or how about just plain old “Supercross 2017”? The term “Supercross” is trademarked anyway, so just own it. Enough of the corporate gobbledygook. However, the name is an incredibly accurate description of an incredibly accurate game — perhaps the most physically accurate motocross game ever made.
Part of the accuracy comes from the 3D scanning technology Milestone implemented in order to make the game. Rather than just referencing photos and videos of stadiums, tracks and riders, game designers actually scanned every single track from the 2017 Supercross series and uploaded those directly into the game. Every rut and bump from last year’s season is now right at your finger tips. For those wondering why Milestone didn’t just make a 2018 game, this is one of the many reasons. Add to this their 3D scanning of nearly every rider on the ’17 SX roster (Eli Tomac, Josh Grant and a few others are not in this one for some reason) and you have a bunch more reasons why you should just sit back and enjoy reliving your own take on last season. Trust me, it’s worth your time…if you don’t consider playing endless hours of gaming a waste of time, which I obviously don’t.
During Press Day for the 2017 Monster Energy Cup, I had a chance to get scanned in the same exact way the riders and tracks were for the game…and it was wonderful. I mean, uhh, enlightening. Yeah, that’s what I mean. The detail that showed up of my ugly mug was incredible. This is why Ryan Dungey’s character in the game looks so much like the Dunge and why Ken Roczen looks just like a digital German wunderkind.
A great thing about gaming…you can suddenly possess skills you’ve only ever dreamed possible. Can you scrub lower than Roczen or Musquin in real life? Could you even keep up with them for more than two-seconds on a track if your life depended on it? First off, who would be so cruel as to threaten your life if you couldn’t keep up with Ken or Marvin. Plus, like, what’s their game plan if you can’t? Do they have a sniper rifle or something? Maybe a Running Man-style explosive collar? What kind of sick entertainment is this anyway?…Ahem, sorry…where was I? Oh yes: competing with pro racers in real life. Yeah, not gonna happen. But in Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame (MESTOV), you can block pass the no. 1, scrub under the no. 94 and straight up dominate the no. 25.
Like I said before, I have been playing motocross games since Excitebike for NES and even its Game Boy cousin Motocross Maniacs. While I haven’t owned every game, I have tinkered around with most and most fall way short of delivering accurate gameplay that reminds me of what it’s like to actually ride a dirt bike.
I feel old when I long for the days of controllers with four-way directional pads and two action buttons. The PS4 controller has 20 buttons including two joysticks and what is essentially a mouse pad. Times have changed and with that so have the complexities of character movement within games. Part of the issue with MX games of the past was inserting the proper amount balance so the movement looked and behaved realistically. Today, the majority of bike and rider balance can be handled by the player themselves thanks to the multitude of buttons. MESTOV even allows you to control front and back brakes separately, and just like in real life, the front brake is far more effective. From using the clutch to get your revs up, leaning forward off the starting gate to keep from wheeling, or doing the most epic of scrubs that would leave even James Stewart breathless, Milestone has taken MX gameplay to a whole new level.
One of my favorite features is the Rewind option that allows players (in Single Player mode only) to go back in time about 10 seconds in their race. Why is this cool? Because you are going to make mistakes…a lot of them. Snag a Tuff Block? Rewind to just before that and continue on. Got hit off the start? Time travel back to nail that holeshot. Although it sound like cheating, I like to think of it as an excellent training tool. The feature allows you to instantly circle the track again just to hit that one section perfectly. Repetition is a very effective means of learning, and Rewind lets you nail every section of a track perfectly all within one lap. Granted, that one lap could take 10 minutes, but you get the idea.
If you really want to improve your skills with the game, the best place to start is in Championship mode. There you have the option of competing in 250 East, 250 West, or in the entire 17 round 450 series. Of course, there are plenty of options to make gameplay easier or more difficult, and the nice thing is the more challenging the game the more credits you earn per race. Putting the AI riders in “Realistic” or making the races full length (15 minutes plus two laps for 250s), all add up to more credits.
“Credits?”, you ask. Yeah, I was in the same boat at first, but if you just think of them as race earnings, it makes a lot more sense. I had well over one million credits after completing the 250 East championship. Do riders really earn a million smackers for winning a 250 title? Eh… maybe, but that’s probably a stretch. Anyways, all of those credits can be applied to upgrading your bike and rider equipment. Most are just cosmetic upgrades, but things such as suspension, tires, exhaust and brakes can affect your bike’s power and handling characteristics.
Multiplayer is exactly what it sounds like. Well, almost. One extremely lame aspect of MESTOV is the lacking ability to play against someone else on the same console. That’s right, if you want to play your buddy, they better have another PS4 or XBox or whatever the platform of choice. If you were planning to have your pals over for a Supercross viewing party paired with a MESTOV melee, you might want to tell them to bring an extra game system too.
So how does Multiplayer function? Pretty well, when it decides to work. Initially, this was definitely the glitchiest part of the game. No matter the broadband speed, the server was constantly disconnecting. After Milestone released their first patch, much of those issues were resolved so I’ve had the chance to play a few multiplayer match ups. Within them, players can vote on which track to race and what the weather conditions should be. The person who starts the racing group chooses race length, AI ability or existence, and contact options. One thing I learned in my first few races: with rider-to-rider contact turned on, real players are way more aggressive than a computer. Scratch that; they’re just straight up mean! Unfortunately, the other thing I learned was that I’m average at best in MESTOV. Without the option of Rewind, it takes a lot of patience and bike control to get a solid lap in.
Doing Multiplayer with decent users is very similar to going onto a track when there are a bunch of pros decided to show up; suddenly you’re being schooled on the fast line around the track and all you want to do is survive. A confidence booster it is not.
TRACK EDITOR and ONLINE TRACKS
The Track Editor and Online Tracks are definitely two of best features in the game. They are basically the same thing, but the Editor allows you to create your own track, while the Online Tracks are circuits other users have created.
Just like on the real AMA Supercross Series, there are quite a variety of stadiums to choose from. Baseball and football stadiums big and small; huge whoops to tiny rollers; bridge tabletops; triples and rhythms; berms and flat turns; just go crazy and make your own design. The process actually takes quite a while to get the track you envision, but once you do the results can be oh-so satisfying.
Bored of your own tracks or the 17 official SX tracks? Just download one of the many thousands that other players have already created. Even the real Ken Roczen has gotten in on the fun, creating a few of his own tracks while he heals up from his hand injury (it should come as no surprise that K_R94’s tracks are also some of the most popular in the game so far).
Players can even design their own custom championships using only online tracks. People have been going as far as to recreate some of the tracks from the 2018 season, so you could effectively race this year’s season as it happens. The tracks won’t be nearly as accurate as the 3D scanned tracks that are hopefully coming for next year, but the expandable nature of the game let’s the good times keep rolling.
CRITIQUES and GLITCHES
From a gameplay standpoint, my biggest issue is with the Tuff Blocks. While they do eventually reset placement once knocked out of position, they can often be strewn around the track for a while, especially in Multiplayer. If Milestone is going for realism, this is one of the few items they missed. Heck, they even put track workers on the side of the track, but in reality those track workers actually reposition Tuff Blocks as quickly as possible for safety purposes. MESTOV should provide the same courtesy to its riders.
As I mentioned earlier, the original February 13 release was rife with errors and glitches. While many of them seem to have been handled at this point (which is the beauty of having downloadable and upgradable games), there are still a few. Some of the menu items need to be reorganized (for example, Online Tracks should immediately come up once selecting Single or Multiplayer). But my biggest gripe has occurred on three separate occasions.
After clearly winning a race in Championship mode, I would cross the finish line in first only to be scored second place to a rider who was clearly not even in the top 10. I lost to Phil Nicoletti once when I was indisputably in first place and he was near the back of the back. I even went so far as to look at the replay and follow Filthy Phil around and my anger and suspicions were verified. Nicoletti is a nice enough guy, but let’s be real; do you really think I’m going to let him beat me? In a virtual Supercross race? Maybe if this was Red Bull Motocross Nationals: The Official Videogame (ReBuMoNaTOV, coming 2019…???) but it’s not, so I’m calling GLITCH!
Most recently (and by that I mean yesterday so I’m still fuming from this one) I brought my dream track to life in the Track Editor. I was seconds away from saving it before I got an error message saying something had gone wrong. Poof! Just like that, my beautiful build was gone. To Milestone’s credit, this one was picked up by PSN (I believe) and gave me the option to report it to the developer. Still, it takes quite a while to make a track so I was definitely yelling at my TV screen for a few moments.
Glitches aside, I really cannot get enough of this latest dirt bike simulator. Compared to the early days of gaming, I am elated knowing that motocross game sophistication has finally caught up with the available technology. Excitebike was really all we could hope for back in 1985; 8-bits of unadulterated, overheating fun. MESTOV was made for today’s game systems. I don’t even know what the operating specs are, but I assure you, it’s a helluva lot more than 8-bits…and you’re going to have a helluva lot of fun playing the latest release from Milestone.
Have MESTOV yourself? Challenge me to a race! Username: Yoba353.