If there is one genre of video games that consistently struggles to get it right, it is racing simulators. There are a few franchises that do get it right, but for the most part, it is a genre filled with mediocrity. Motorbike racing games are probably the biggest culprit with so many of them being released, often failing to impress due to poor implementation. When I started playing MXGP Pro, my initial impressions were that we’re going down the same road again, but due to my obligation to keep playing, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.
A diamond in the rough?
MXGP Pro is a bit rough around the edges. The menus and UI are not very well thought out, and it soon became a frustrating experience just to get going. Once you do, you’re asked to customise your character, choose a bike and you set off on a training track of some sorts. This track, based in Italy for some reason, also serves as a base camp, where you can upgrade your bike, get new gear and also go out and learn more skills and tricks. This all sounds fine, but it was tricky to figure out how to start the actual career, and race on anything but this one track, which I ended up doing a couple of times because I quit out of pure boredom.
When I went back later, I saw that I now have single-player and multiplayer options in the menus, which allowed me a few other options I didn’t see earlier. The single-player menu gave me single races called Gran Prix, the actual Career Mode and the Championship mode, where you go and run a season of the MXGP Championship to earn some cash. The Career mode is where you take your newly created rider and do the same thing, but with the added fluff of being part of a team, impressing sponsors and reacting to the chirps from fellow riders on social media. Pretty standard fare for sports orientated career modes. There’s not really too much to these things, and it serves more as a distraction really, but it is there and it’s not annoying.
The real reason why you play the game, however, is the racing. At first, it might be a bit frustrating, since it’s not very forgiving, even with all the available assists activated. There’s a lot to get used to in terms of the mechanics, but once you do, it does become quite rewarding. It took me a while to get going and I was surprised at how much fun the game actually is. The bikes feel fast and responsive, the jumps feel good and sliding around a corner feels fun. The difficulty of the AI can be tuned, and even at a lower difficulty, you have a decent challenge from them, with some rubber-banding in the game which keeps you on your toes throughout the race.
At first, it might be a bit frustrating, since it’s not very forgiving, even with all the available assists activated.
Technically sound, but not perfect
The track design is pretty solid as well. The crowds and everything around it aren’t great, with assets frequently popping in late or not generating details in time, but the attention to detail on track, and how the bike behaves depending on what the surface looks like is pretty damn impressive. What happens is that when you go over the track the first time, it is still in a good condition, but as you progress through the race, the track degrades in areas depending on where the bikes rode. You can see where you or an opponent went a bit off the racing line the previous time, and the bike even feels like it handles differently depending on the condition of the track and where you’re riding on it. This is even more noticeable when you’re racing in wet conditions, where you can actually see water forming in the tracks where the bikes cut up the track earlier.
On a technical note though, MXGP is not bad. The framerate does drop dangerously low at times, but it doesn’t happen that often. I also experienced some sound cut-out at the start of the race when all the bikes are still bunched up together. It’s a bit annoying, but it doesn’t take too much away from the overall experience.
The multiplayer part of the game exists, and I know people are playing it, it was just that I could not get a match. The game has this weird way of letting you spectate others racing online, even with AI competitors, but I could not figure out how to join anyone. I gave up after about 30 minutes of trying and watching others play, so I cannot comment on how this component of the game works.
A Motocross game that’s actually good
Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by MXGP Pro. It’s not perfect and it requires a bit of patience to grow on you, but when it does, it really does deliver. For a while now the Motocross genre has been littered with mediocre attempts at capturing the thrill and excitement that goes with the sport, but MXGP Pro finally makes you care. It is not perfect and it needs some work, but it is a very good starting point to work from and maybe one day make something truly special.