Whatever you want to say about Milestone, you can't argue that the folks have not been keeping themselves busy. This year alone, the team has released Gravel
, MotoGP 18
, and Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame
. Now the studio's latest two-wheeled offering is out. Following on from last year's MXGP3 – The Official Motocross Videogame
we now have the unusually titled, MXGP Pro
, not MXGP 4 like some might have expected, and there's a reason, because this time Milestone want us all to go pro or go home and they're not playing around.
Right from the start, the game starts with something new. Whilst it is simply a tutorial introducing the basics of riding and controlling the bike, it also shows off a new free-roam area, the compound. It's here that you'll catch your first glimpse of the new graphics and they do seem to have improved. Trees and vegetation look sharper and the dirt track is clear, and the rider and biker seem to have lost some of the smudginess of recent Milestone titles. It's a good opening to the new game.
After the tutorial though, it all becomes a little too familiar with the usual game modes returning. In single player, this means the career mode, Grand Prix, Time Attack and Championship mode. In multiplayer, Grand Prix and Championship modes are available. It is all known territory to those familiar with the franchise. If there's any criticism of the title, it is that on the surface it is all too just a little too familiar. Even though all of this year's tracks, riders, teams and sponsors have been updated, initially you may be left wondering what has changed.
Shortly after getting into the game, it's clear that handling has been tweaked and the graphics have improved albeit slightly. There are still the occasional stutters, texture pop-ins and frame rate drops especially in the rain, but they're nowhere near as prevalent as in last year's installment. However, it's the game's title that provides the answer to where the real differences are; changing the name to MXGP Pro
Under the bonnet, Milestone has worked on the physics and handling so that the game now leans towards a more simulation level of detail. Whilst previous titles have always had a choice of physics models, this year's model is a response to fans' wishes to make the game more realistic. An easy comparison would be that of Dirt 4
and Dirt Rally
, although it's a little less extreme this time. It's a shame that despite most improvements, the loading times still seem inordinately long.
On standard physics, the title remains accessible to players of all levels especially with the number of race options that can be adjusted to simplify the handling, but the Pro mode will extensively challenge players to keep their rider on their bike, with the machine handling more realistically than ever. Again, players can still tweak the gameplay options to give themselves a fighting chance and gradually progress towards the more difficult levels, ultimately managing every aspect of balancing the virtual rider and controlling the bike.
If all of that wasn't already challenging enough, the new Extreme mode will lock down all of the settings on the highest levels including pro physics, full-length race weekends, balancing rider position, managing gears and separate brakes, all the while fighting off the best that the AI riders can offer. It's a lot to ask, and it really isn't for the faint-hearted.
To make life a little easier, regardless of your level, the game includes a number of training drills to work through in the woodland compound. As well as training the player, completing them will give your virtual rider a skill boost in that particular area as well as unlocking a number of achievements.
Although you can enter races with any of the stars from the sport and race with their characteristics and styles, the most fun and the biggest sense of progression is in creating your own rider and advancing through the different tiers of the sport from MotoGP2 through to the MotoGP bikes. During the course of a season, players can sign sponsorship deals with manufacturers that will supply components to improve your bike. It's not a free ride, as each sponsor will include an objective as part of the deal which varies in difficulty. Whilst some may simply require the player leads for so many laps in a race, or completes so many laps without falling off, some are a lot more demanding. Simply racing is no longer enough, along with team goals and career goals, the player has to try and keep the sponsors happy too, adding to the overall stress felt during racing.
It seems that Milestone is finally getting to know the Unreal Engine. As always, the tracks look fantastic and remain the real stars of the show. In the wet, the mud glistens on the surface, before scattering over the bikes and riders. Tires leave tread patterns behind and puddles increasing in depth form in between in the ruts, reflecting the world around them. It's impressive and Milestone has set a high bar for itself with the visual realism that the occasional anomaly such as puddles on an uphill section and the lack of water splashes stand out as a little puzzling.
Regardless of the surface, the track deformations are more than a simple visual aesthetic, the changes have a very tangible effect on the handling on the bike. Hit any of those deep gorges in the ground and you'll be struggling to stay on your bike, with bumps destabilising the rider and making the grip on the surface more unpredictable. With the improved realism, overexuberance on the accelerator will kick the rear wheel out from behind you. Players coming from last year's title might find themselves initially falling off their bikes more than previously.
Racing remains as tense as ever. It's a nerve-wracking experience trying to guide the bike over the bumps and deepening ruts of a dynamically changing track at speed, even more so with the knowledge that a single spill or fall can ruin your race, although a rewind function is available in case of emergency for those that need it. For newcomers, there is a steep learning curve whilst getting to grips with racing on two wheels, but with a little patience and a basic understanding of the bike's behaviour, and the plethora of game options, the title remains accessible to players of all levels and even basic mastery of the motorcycles can lead to some exciting races.
Audio-wise, the game is consistent with other titles. MotoGP2 bikes sound like high-pitched angry wasps, and the MotoGP bikes have a deeper tone. The ambient soundscape also adds to the atmosphere. Pull off a mid-air scrub and the crowd will whistle and applaud your efforts. Fall or crash, and there will be an audible moan of disappointment. Additionally, with there being no rider radar on the screen, the only indication of your opponents' proximity will be through the audio cues.
The AI plays relatively fair but the level of aggression can be altered through a slider for those wanting more rough-and-tumble in their races. This fair play is also reflected in the lack of rubber-banding by the AI. However, during qualification rounds, the AI did seem to put down some extremely tough times to beat, leaving the player to start from much lower down on the start gate, which seems a little unfair for those aiming to get extra credits for the holeshot in the race. Strangely though, during the race itself, despite being untouchable during qualification, it seems easier to keep up with and beat the AI riders.
Online, the title caters for up to 12 players racing against each other and when the lobby is not full, AI riders can be used to fill up empty places. Happily, there seems to be a fairly steady number of players on European servers, and the racing itself is a lag-free affair. The downside, as with all of the single player modes, are the loading times which remain frustratingly long.
Achievements remain fairly standard for a Milestone title featuring a number for winning at each of the locations, career progression, customisation and a few for accomplishing race feats. This time there is also a number linked to completing each of the training drills. Usefully, all of the achievements can be unlocked in singleplayer mode, which means given time and patience, all are obtainable.Check out our Best Racing Games article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
Newcomers to the series will still find a steep learning curve getting to grips with racing on two wheels instead of four. However, those returning to the game will find it very familiar, and for those playing at a casual level, it may be a little too familiar as outside of the new Pro physics there seems to be little additional content. Veterans and hardcore players will certainly benefit the most, with Milestone striving to fulfill fans' wishes by increasing the level of simulation in the title. Racing, though, remains as engaging and as thrilling as ever, perhaps more so due to the added realism. Maneuvering the bikes over loose surfaces and dynamically changing tracks at speed remains a nerve-wracking experience. This is Milestone's best MXGP
title to date, improving the graphics, improving the physics, the handling, and the realism, all whilst keeping the title accessible to players of all levels.
- Improved physics and graphics
- Accessible to all levels of players
- New extreme mode and pro physics to test veterans
- Occasional texture popping and frame rate issues
- Long loading times
- Career mode feels a little mundane
The reviewer spent approximately 10 hours sliding around in the mud and attempting to scrub during jumps. 13 achievements were unlocked during the dirt scrambling. The Xbox One download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. The review was performed on a standard Xbox One.