History has not been kind to motorbike games. There has been the odd game that did bikes a bit of justice, but it’s mostly been a case of stiff controls and physics that had riders playing in the sand more than David Hasselhof. MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore unfortunately continues this trend.
Are you new to off road motorbike games? Well, tough for you. There’s no tutorial, other than the hints that pop up on loading screens, and off road bike games are actually more complicated than it sounds. It’s not just a case of completing a lap and nailing corners and brake points. You need a good grasp on the use of your clutch, preloading and various other methods to stay on the track and ahead of the pack.
Do you have 15 fingers?
When you exit a corner you receive an extra boost (as you would in real life) for making use of your clutch to build up an ejection of acceleration. Problem is that you’re trying to steer your bike around a corner, by not only holding in the left analogue stick to steer it, but also tapping away at the right analogue stick to perform a tighter turn, after just having made a successful preload jump (by pressing back, on the right analogue stick, and then up at the right time). Before you know it another ramp is in sight, other bikers trying to fend you off, while making good use of your accelerator (R2) and brakes (L2) (or L2 and R2 to tilt the angle of your bike in mid-air so you don’t come crashing down)… and in the back of your mind you’re hoping to pull off a stunt by pressing and holding R1 and pulling your right stick in any direction to perform it. Does it sound like one big confusing mess? Without a tutorial it’s daunting. This leaves you to test it all out in the new free ride mode, or in the actual races.
The developers weren’t kidding about the ‘Encore’ part of it all. The career will keep you busy for some time. It’s made up of a combination of Supercross, National and Rhythm racing events for various classes in both MX and ATV’s. Supercross covers the indoor racing, that you might have seen on TV before. It’s exceptionally tough, but hang in there (to master the controls) and it’s actually not all that bad. It’s competitive, but possible and requires lots of concentration to end up 1st, 2nd or 3rd to claim a cup. Out of all the modes Supercross is easily the most fun, but move on to the next discipline and it all comes tumbling down face first.
This is where it goes wheely bad
National events takes place in the outdoors. Keep in mind that Supercross was an in-door event. The difference between the two is astonishing as the frame rate drops well below 30 frames per second. There were moments I thought that something was wrong with my eyes. This is simply not acceptable in a racing game. Because of the jump from indoors, with limited rendering (and cardboard cut-out crowds), the outdoor scenes were to tough for the engine to run and stuttered. I should also mention that it’s by no means a graphical marvel, so it’s not as if the PS4 should be struggling. These events are playable, but just barely. Was this not the case Nationals could have been highly enjoyable, but the engine let it down. Lastly there is the Rhythm event, which is essence a straight ‘off road drag strip’. Nothing special, expect that there are no turns (or laps) and you’re racing to get to the finish line first.
So what about the MX vs. ATV’s? I’m generally much more of a 4-wheel fan than 2-wheels, but in this game you’ll fly over your handlebars all too often while driving around the track in an ATV. Take the game online and you’ll find MX races in seconds. After about 10 mins I found an ATV race with one other player. The game plays much better using a bike. It should also be noted that the soundtrack is hideous. Using your PS4’s Media app to play your own music is advised, unless American pop rock is what you’re after. (Thanks to Glen for that bit of advice).
MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore oil-soaked heart in the right place. There are gear and graphics kits you can unlock to upgrade, 60 professional riders to choose from, 80 licensed brands and over 30 tracks overall to race on. The Supercross event is genuinely good fun once you get the hang of it all, but the remainder of the game suffers due to a dreadful engine. Fix that and prospects for this franchise will change. For now one wheel is stuck in the sand… and not even David Hasselhof is prepared to save it.