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MXGP2 review: I heard you like mud

Some people enjoy playing polo on Sunday afternoons, while others fancy crackers and croquet on quiet country lawns. Others on the other hand, love face-diving into a puddle of mud after falling from a spluttering two wheeled demon.

Yes, off-road motorcycling, motorcross, or MotoX, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that didn’t stop Milestone from developing MXGP2 — the “Official Motocross Video Game.” That subtitle really shows the acute target audience this game would normally attract, but Milestone hopes to catch a few casual gamers’ eyes too.

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But will it? To answer that, I probably need to explain what this game’s all about.

The long and short: it’s a motocross simulator.

Gamers can define a MotoX character from the game’s chalkboard system — which strangely consists of three skin colour choices but about eight bike manufacturers (it’s nice to see Milestone has its priorities in order). Players can also race as a famous biker and relive some of their pivotal career moments (a la WWE 2K16 Showcase mode), and take part in multiplayer mud-flinging too, or course.

As with other Milestone games, creating a character isn’t a very granular experience; it’s like applying makeup with a shotgun rather than a fine brush.

Thanks to the lack of options, you’ll probably end up looking like the fifty other people who’ll pick up this game for R899.

Nevertheless, I can’t fault the system for being straightforward, even though there are a tad too many button taps needed. A Siri-like voice guidance tutorial also tells new players about various elements of the game too, and well, I found him annoying after his second smart ass remark. As if I really need to understand how a human’s face works.

What’s really annoying though, is that you needn’t set up a custom character called John Doe at all to play much of this game. You can race as some of the sport’s greatest contemporaries, such as South Africa’s 2008 MX2 Champion Tyla Rattray, British rider Tommy Searle and Belgian Max Nagi. You’ll get to sample around 20 riders at first, and about 20 tracks as well.

I spent much of my time here, racing as Rattray, and probably tarnishing his good name online too.

In terms of circuits though, Milestone did some excellent layout work. Each track has its own unique character, from the grip levels available, to the ruts and grooves in the ground to the general purchase of the surface, effectively mirroring real-world physics. And the game’s respect for physics is admirable although has brain farts fairly often.

For instance, you can crash into a tree without much ado, but a timid straw bale will almost assuredly bring you down. I’ve seen motocycles collide with trees, and well, it doesn’t usually end well for the machine.

Beyond the wobbly physics, the game isn’t he best looking thing on console, but that doesn’t really matter — it’s a game that privileges physical realism above the aesthetic.

The controls are about as accurate as controlling a bike on console can probably get. Left stick moves the bike, right stick transfers the rider’s weight around the bike, R2 accelerates and L2 pulls the brakes. There’s no front or rear brake differentiation though, which is odd for such a physics mad-cum-Motocross obsessed title.

Users can also set up their bikes to match the track surface, softening the suspension, firming up the ride or dropping gear ratios to increase acceleration. I did find that these settings helped when adjusted intelligently, and that’s felt through the rumbles of the DualShock.

These physics settings can also be tweaked to make the bike easier to handle, or more realistic. I’ve done a fair few events on the Pro setting, and for someone who’s truly horrible at this game, I didn’t find controlling the bike to be a horror show. I will say that it feels extremely lifeless, which is the case with other bike games I’ve played, like Ride. Sure, I imagine this is in attempts to remain true to the sport itself, but it’s at the sake of entertainment.

So the real issue with MXGP2? It’s just boring.

I often found myself mentally drifting off into space, forgetting where to brake and flying over the ridiculous number of advertising hoardings around the tracks. It makes for some good videos (and a rather fun side-game entirely), but it’s also not funny when Milestone sees you drifting harmlessly off course and condescendingly respawns you on the track. That annoying shit — apparent in the Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo game too — is even worse here, and needs an on/off option.

But look, changing perspective for a moment: if I was a die-hard MotoX fan with R900 occupying my back pocket, I’d get this game. The problem is that I’m not. And that I’d never drop R900 on a game like this, when more entertaining racing titles like Rocket League are about for nearly nine times less.

There’s nothing special about it otherwise. The graphics are average. The gameplay isn’t absorbing. There’s almost no incentives for character progression other than the unlockables. Sure, there’s multiplayer, but even that pales in comparison to Trackmania Turbo‘s multiplayer mode — another cheaper, and more fun racing game.

There’s a lot of content that a non-motorsport fan won’t get, won’t understand and definitely won’t care for after the first hour.

But if you are a MotoX fan, there’s a boatload of name drops to last at least for at lease a week of hard graft. More unlocks are made available the more you play, so there’s that completionist incentive, but the question is this: is MXGP2 interesting enough to play over, and over? I don’t quite think so.

Generally, like I said in the beginning, this is a very particular game for very select clientèle. Personally, polo sounds splendid.

Game information

Release Date: 7 April 2016
Developer: Milestone
Publisher: Milestone
Genre: Racing simulator
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows 10, PlayStation 4 (review platform), Xbox One
Launch Price (RRP): R899
Industry average score: N/A

Verdict: There’s nothing fundamentally broken, I just didn’t enjoy playing it. It’s one for the fans, and that’s just peachy, but as a game there’s nothing there to draw me in or leave me wanting more. If you’re a fan, pick it up when it’s cheaper.

Score: 6/10

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