MX Nitro Review

By Mark Delaney,
Fans of physics-based dirtbike racing games have had very few options from which to choose on consoles over the years. It's a niche subgenre that is seen more often and maybe feels more at home on browsers or tablets, but it's had at least one shining example of such a premise working well on Xbox. Comparisons between Trials and Saber Interactive's MX Nitro are fair to a degree. However, the latter's design is different enough that it stands on its own, although it doesn't always stand strong.

MX Nitro Screens 4I believe the appropriate response is "siiiiick!"

MX Nitro is a motocross arcade stunt racer. Across 14 stages, each featuring four levels, you're dealt numerous and varied tasks to complete. Sometimes you may need to beat out all of the competition and finish first but in other more lenient times you need only finish among the top two; in others, lap and finish times don't matter at all and the emphasis is on stunt score instead. Unlike its inspiration, Nitro is faster and much more focused on performing stunts and blazing through the many levels that typically take about 30 seconds and are sprawled across many different settings.

The physics model in Nitro won't take long to get used to as it's quite reliable. Riding wheelies before front-flipping and back-flipping while you boost through the air performing a huge list of tricks is exciting and feels sufficiently responsive. Nitro's primary intent, to deliver high speed MX racing where balance, tricks, and momentum all must be juggled at once, is solid. The trick system is sizable and feels akin to a fighting game's move list. Multi-button combos that are used once and then discarded in favor of something fresh on the next jump are the keys to success. Button-mashers need not apply as such an approach won't win you anything long after the tutorial. Trust me, I tried. Going for lucrative combos, mixing up your trick list to earn multipliers, and avoiding the taste of dirt mostly works well.

I say "mostly" because the game has a bad habit of introducing difficulty spikes with little rhyme or reason. Sure, the stage-ending boss battles are meant to be figuratively and sometimes literally tough hills to climb, but outside of those, levels demanded perfection too often. As the game's mobile gaming design sets in, giving it "just one more try" even when it feels like you're doing all you can, frustration can take the reins from the excitement present just minutes earlier.

Review 1The boss battles prove difficult, but the lame characters weren't needed.

There are several bikes to unlock in MX Nitro and they each come with unique stats and opportunities for upgrades. If at any point you crash them, though, don't bother continuing. Despite a really fun ragdoll effect on display with each high risk fall to earth, crashing is a nearly guaranteed route to losing. Get comfortable with the quick reset button because if you lay down your bike at any point in any race, it means you've already lost. It would seem the concise levels are to blame here, but even among the few longer levels, continuing to compete after a crash is a futile endeavor.

Rider gear is also available with which you can customize your character. Most of it was bland, repeat designs changing only in color. There are a few standout clothing options that will come late in the game, though. More personality was attempted in the game's regular boss battles but such efforts were limited to a name and a few lines of poorly read taunting dialogue. The music is one of the game's least attractive facets. It consists of the generic hard rocking guitar riffs that seem to most often accompany pro wrestlers over the years.

Online modes are also available, but they're arranged in a strange way not often utilized. You can't start up MX Nitro and jump right into an online game. Instead you have to unlock multiplayer levels, of which only a few are available, as you play the career mode. Soon after you unlock the first of these, it will become clear why it's set up this way. What the game doesn't clearly mention is that the online portion is limited only to racing time trial ghosts of others on the leaderboards. You'll be randomly assigned to someone else and right away the race begins. The first few races tricked me into thinking I was racing in real-time, but several successive instantaneous matchmaking sessions later revealed the truth. Time trials and racing ghosts are a fine game mode anyway, although I was always matched with people who raced better times than me, seemingly by design. This means the game is always challenging players to improve times, sometimes drastically depending on with whom you are paired.

Review 2The career mode takes several hours to finish and has you competing in a number of ways.

The achievement list contains several that will take skill, time, or both. Since crashing is to be avoided as much as possible, you'll probably have to go out of your way to do it 300 times. Performing all four-button tricks at least once isn't even an option until very late in the game; even then they'll take some practice before you can perform them. A few will come with regular game progression, but most of the list is quite specific or challenging.

Summary

The heart of MX Nitro is fast, fluid, and exciting. Many levels provide a tough but fair challenge with a physics model on which you can rely — crucial to the game's merits. Unfortunately, it's bogged down by some strange design decisions, lackluster customization, and sparse online modes that ultimately add up to something uneven. Getting on the bike and trying again and again can be fun for a while, but eventually you may find it's best to put it back in the garage and find something that doesn't break your spirit as much as your avatar's body.
7 / 10
MX Nitro
Positives
  • Reliable physics provide solid foundation
  • Fast, fun, lengthy list of tricks
  • Lots of levels across varied terrain
Negatives
  • Simplistic customization options
  • Sparse online gameplay
  • Uneven difficulty spikes
Ethics
The reviewer spent eight hours racing dirtbikes, admiring the ragdoll crashes, and dragging his feet through some of the game's demands of perfection. He collected 8 of 27 achievements for 190 gamerscore. An Xbox One download code was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purposes of this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.