GIVEN the skills and thrills inherent to motocross, it is a sport that has been curiously unrepresented in gaming down the years.
MXGP - Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3
There have been several good examples, such as MX vs ATV Reflex, and Italian developers Milestone have carved out a niche as the company who best display the speed and masochism of the pursuit, with man and machine flailing in the air before crashing back down to terra firma.
MXGP continues this tradition admirably, albeit with little flair or aplomb.
What sets motocross apart from other two wheel sports is delicate balance of bike and rider to navigate the ebbs and flows of a course, and the nuanced physics required to recreate it. Milestone have grasped the challenge well.
A control system which makes use of both thumbsticks - the left directing the vehicle with the right allowing for gradual shifts in the rider’s weight distribution - sounds awkward in theory but rewards persistence.
Backed by a full licence, the game benefits from a flurry of names and locales recognisable to fans of the sport, with well-known riders and tracks ably represented.
To the fairweather motocross enthusiast, who only catches fleeting glimpses of the sport while flicking past Eurosport on the television guide, this may not mean much, but it is good to see the more hardcore fans are being catered for.
Accurate racing, frustrating graphics
The realism also extends to the races themselves, which follow the sport step by step. Along with qualifying and optional practice laps, each event consists of two races. This is accurate, for sure, but if your enthusiasm for motocross is flagging, repeating the same route three times or more can rob a track of its excitement and at times feels like a chore.
The main downside to MXGP is its presentation. While Milestone have gone to great lengths to ensure the nuances of the handling are well represented, the visuals fall well short. Graphically, the texturing harks back to early Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 titles, with pop-in particularly frustrating as you near the crest of a jump, forcing a speedy reassessment of a track’s contours.
Similarly, the suite of single player and online game modes is competent, yet decidedly unexciting, with the career mode in particular feeling dated - the whole package might have benefited from a more arcade orientated option.
Indeed, MXGP suffers from a staid and sober desire for realism. While this is welcome in the physics department, you cannot help but wish Milestone let their imagination run free. As it stands, the game is a fine and accurate depiction of the sport.
It is, though, a little too conservative for its own good.