The omission of the number four in favour of the word Pro in the fourth officially licensed MXGP title by Italian developer Milestone is certainly an unexpected development that raises an eyebrow or two. The developer is letting consumers know in no uncertain terms that MXGP Pro is geared towards the simulation end of the racing game spectrum. This should appease long-term fans who have been crying out for additional depth.
Frustratingly, the MXGP series has ebbed and flowed over the years and has not yet found its feet, despite showing promise in a number of areas. Does MXGP Pro finally realise its potential and truly push the series forward to become the definitive motocross title, or does it once again fall short of greatness?
Milestone’s efforts with providing an experience catered for veteran players is all too obvious when spending even a short amount of time with the title. MXGP Pro feels altogether less forgiving than previous MXGP titles when using the Pro physics in particular, which are packed with depth and well realised through realistic rider and bike animations. As before, you control your bike direction with the left analogue stick whilst adjusting your rider’s weight using the right.
Coming up short, or “casing” a jump no longer has little effect on your bike – there’s now a risk your rider will be ejected from their machine, adding some extra challenge to activities. Should you squeeze the throttle too hard through a turn, you will see the rear wheel sliding out giving you deciseconds to come off the power to avoid having an impromptu date with the dirt.
Making contact with trackside objects will also see your rider fly through the air sans bike more often than not. In short: this game is tough. You have been warned. With practice, however, you will learn to tame your bike’s rear end and understand the game’s physics, which undoubtedly have more depth than previous games in the series. Milestone has struck a good balance of providing a challenging experience without the title feeling obnoxiously difficult, which is always a testing task.
Besides the demanding Pro physics, there are the Standard and Semi-Pro options to consider. For all the detail and difficulty found in Pro, the Standard setting is surprisingly accessible and will be the choice for newcomers and the less experienced (as well as those looking for some instant fun) alike. Choosing the Standard setting can make an otherwise tense and taxing racer feel more akin to an arcade experience, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
When racing with Standard physics, you can really attack the stages, and for the most part, not worry about how much throttle you are applying through turns, which can feel liberating after a long session using the somewhat harsh Pro setting. That said, bikes still move around a lot on Standard physics, particularly in the wet, so you can come off your bike if you’re too reckless. The Semi-pro physics lay somewhere in the middle of Pro and Standard and is a good place for experienced players to start.
Covering a large range of difficulty across each of the title’s three physics modes, MXGP Pro offers an experience both veterans and casual players can enjoy, and that’s quite an achievement.
Those all-important scrubs (where the rider throws their bike to one side to limit time spent in the air, thus increasing lap time) are once again activated by pushing the left and right analogue sticks in opposite directions and then using the left stick to return the bike to a neutral position. With this system, scrubbing still feels somewhat clumsy – I’d like to see the bike transition quicker or perhaps simplified to a simple press of the button. If you are not precise with your analogue inputs, it’s easy to fail to activate a scrub.
Deformed to perfection
Besides the vastly improved physics, another stand out feature in MXGP Pro is the ground deformation. You can’t help but marvel at its impressive detail and complexity. Ruts build up over time and the surface truly evolves with every lap. As a result, picking lines has never been so important.
The ground textures aren’t a blurry mess like in previous titles either: they are rich in detail and look particularly impressive in wet weather conditions with puddles of rainwater scattered around and nestling on the inside of turns reflecting the sunlight in the process.
It’s clear that in order for Milestone to provide impressively authentic ground deformation and a physics engine with more depth and nuance than found before, large amounts of trackside detail has been sacrificed. The large swarms of people complete with country flags and flares (which was a stand out feature in last year’s MXGP 3) are reduced to paltry pockets of people with the occasional flare and a few flags scattered around, paling in comparison to MXGP 3.
This cutback was likely made to improve performance. Running on a standard PlayStation 4 console, the frame rate usually dips at the start of a race when riders jostle for that all-important holeshot, but is otherwise solid throughout.
Unfortunately, there’s no dynamic weather in MXGP Pro so don’t go expecting a race to start in dry conditions only for the heavens to open a lap or two later. Besides the clear and cloudy conditions, MXGP Pro also offers “Wet Track” (a wet track with sunny skies), “Rain, and finally, there’s the “Random” setting if you’re feeling lucky.
The audio found in MXGP Pro still has a long way to go to replicate the real machines: bikes largely have the same muted sound as found in previous offerings. Undoubtedly, Milestone needs to strive for improvements in this area for future titles, which will add a lot to the experience.
Not content with content
MXGP Pro includes the usual array of single race, time trial and custom championship modes, (the latter makes it possible for you to cherry pick your favourite tracks from the 19 official tracks on offer to effectively create your own dream season) as well as the online multiplayer component and the career mode.
The omission of Motocross of Nations and Real Events found in previous MXGP titles makes for a rather basic and somewhat barebones package. It remains to be seen if any of these modes or any additional content will be available via DLC. For instance, last year’s MXGP 3 saw the release of the Monster Energy SMX Riders Cup DLC, which is something MXGP Pro is crying out for.
MXGP Pro’s career mode options are split between Standard and Extreme. Standard allows the player to fully customise the experience with access to the full array of options (AI difficulty, race length, assists, etc), whereas all these options are locked out in the Extreme Career mode, forcing you to experience the Pro physics against the hardest AI setting available.
If that wasn’t tough enough, each race session in the Extreme Career lasts anywhere between 20-30 minutes, which should satisfy hardcore players. As an incentive, Extreme Career players gain additional credit and fame bonuses as well as a special rider outfit for both MX2 and MXGP categories. Fortunately, you can opt to play both Standard and Extreme career experiences simultaneously thanks to separate save files.
As found in previous MXGP titles, you begin the career mode racing in the lesser MX 2 category with the goal of securing a contract for the MXGP: the pinnacle of motocross racing. You begin by choosing a bike from any one of twelve on offer split into 250cc and 125cc classes.
MXGP Pro asks you to choose from a range of sponsored bike parts from the off (some of which increase the performance of your bike) which include exhaust, brake discs and handlebars among others. Each bike sponsor and every bike part has its own fame objective that you can meet to earn additional rewards. Increasing your fame (by competing in races) will allow you to choose from even more bike parts.
As found in the previous MXGP instalment, should you stray off the track you are given three seconds to get back on to avoid being reset to the track at a standstill. However, should you be on a collision course with a person or a trackside vehicle, you will be respawned back on track with immediate effect – this is not Grand Theft Auto or Carmageddon after all.
While the AI opponents provide a decent challenge overall, they tend to stick on a very narrow path for the most part. As a result, their behaviour is too predictable and they feel more robotic than human. AI opponents coming off their bikes more often would also add more drama to the action. Another annoyance is finding the same rider leading the pack of AI riders time after time: I’m looking at you, Jonass.
Once you’ve completed the two races at any Grand Prix, you will need to react to comments made by your opponents. These can be anything from referencing a riders performance to general ramblings. You can approve, disapprove, or have a neutral stance to the comments made, which in turn affects your standing with that rider. Reacting badly to some comments will enable you to create a rival earning you additional rewards.
Should you finish a race in the top three positions, you will be treated to a very brief and basic podium scene, which is ultimately underwhelming and anti-climatic, to say the least. It’s good that Milestone is trying to add more elements here and there to better represent the sport, but there is still much room for improvement in these areas.
Overall there’s nothing drastically different here compared to earlier MXGP title’s career modes, which is disappointing after four outings.
An amalgamation of skills
The practice area known as “The Compound” returns in MXGP Pro. This time, the developer has provided a 1km squared area that can be explored at your leisure. The Compound features a supercross and motocross track (which you can take on at your leisure or as a time trial or race against the AI) as well as a tiny figure eight track.
The compound also hosts MXGP Pro’s training mode which covers six core areas including riding in the wet, in-air control and braking among others. Each of these six subjects contains five training sessions for a total of thirty. Training sessions are generally short and can be very challenging as they often expect close to perfection.
Considering you’ll need to successfully complete a training session to move on to the next in any given core subject, they almost miss the point of a training aid. A scoring system would be a better option. This way, veterans can strive for perfect scores whereas less experienced players (or those without the patience) can proceed through all sessions quickly gaining valuable knowledge along the way.
MXGP Pro’s online component features a lobby system where players can vote on the track and bike category. As server host, you can decide on a single race session or championship format, race length, and whether to include AI or not (along with their difficulty). You can also choose to turn collisions on or off, and decide which of the three physics models to use. Interestingly, there’s also a “free” physics option which enables the player to choose their own physics.
Should you effectively join a session that has begun, you will automatically spectate the race. This takes on the form of a live action replay where you can choose which rider to focus on as well as a slew of camera options including two helmet cams not playable in the game.
Online gameplay is generally smooth but there are sometimes lag issues that cause riders to glitch, which can be very offputting. I also encountered the odd lobby disconnect.
To make matters worse, you are waiting far too long between races often, leaving you staring at boring loading screens and waiting for the timer to hit zero while losing the will to live in the process. The online component of MXGP Pro leaves a lot to be desired.
MXGP Pro’s Pro physics are clearly aimed at players who yearn for that extra challenge and are sure to test the skills of even the most experienced of players. Conversely, the Standard physics setting is accessible enough to ease in players new to the series as well as provide a fun experience for those who want to jump in for a quick session. Despite its namesake, then, MXGP Pro, can be enjoyed by the larger gaming community and that can only be commended.
The incredibly detailed track deformation and track surface textures coupled with impressively deep bike physics make MXGP Pro worth a purchase if you’re looking for a simulation experience. Sadly, a lack of content compared to other games in the series, trackside detail that looks embarrassing compared to MXGP 3, and a lackluster online experience holds MXGP Pro back from greatness.
- Very impressive track deformation
- Challenging Pro physics
- Content missing from earlier titles
- All too familiar career mode
- Lacklustre online experience
- Trackside detail lacking
The incredibly detailed track deformation coupled with the impressively deep bike physics make MXGP Pro worth a purchase if you’re looking for a simulation experience. Sadly, a lack of content compared to other games in the series, trackside detail that looks embarrassing compared to MXGP 3, and a lackluster online experience holds MXGP Pro back from greatness.