When it comes to racing titles, Milestone S.r.l. must be the most prolific development studio that I have ever seen. They seem to churn out games at an astonishing rate. Unfortunately, many of those titles end up getting stuck in the pit stop due to the studio’s weird aim to “release all the things”, all the time. I will be blunt: MXGP Pro is not a bad game, but it is a hard sell in a genre saturated with Milestone titles.
Not my first rodeo [Story]
When you take a look around online, the consensus seems to be that Milestone absolutely needed to take a break from the MXGP franchise. The company released Monster Energy Supercross earlier this year to mixed reviews, with many critics thinking that meant no MXGP for at least a year. It seems they were mistaken, and not for the better: MXGP Pro‘s career mode feels like Milestone ran out of fuel.
When booting up the game’s career mode, you are met with two options: standard and extreme. Alas, there is no real difference between the two. After making your decision, the game lets you choose a manufacturer and various sponsors. After that, you can mildly customise your rider. That is about all there is to do.
Once a rider has been customised, you may carry on through to a lacklustre career mode where you have to work your way up the ranks. MXGP Pro has a similar career mode to Moto GP 18. The difference is that MXGP focusses on off-roading and dirt biking over motorsport and track. Thus it lets you go up against MX2 riders as you move up the ranks and try your best at attaining that motocross championship title.
I must admit that racing titles should not be penalised too much for their lack of stories, especially if they are meant to be simulation titles. With that said, the career mode is so lacklustre in MXGP Pro, that it could just as well have been left out of the game. While it features pretty much exactly the same career nuances as MotoGP 18, it feels far less refined. Throughout the career mode, you sign contracts and improve your standing in the sport. It is not bad, per se, just a shame that it feels so neglected and, dare I say, copy and pasted. In fact, I may not have liked MotoGP 18‘s career mode too much, but even that felt more robust than the career mode featured in MXGP Pro.
One more time, with feeling [Gameplay]
Regarding the ‘normal’ and ‘extreme’ career modes, the latter is supposed to cater exclusively to advanced and/or veteran MXGP players. It does so by blocking all pre-race options and prevents the use of the rewind function. Naturally, the game rewards “extreme” players with more credits and fame, but even those rewards are arbitrary at best.
In fact, it is so arbitrary, that it does not even matter in career mode. I thought it did, and the game implied that it did. However, after a quick Google search, I learnt that upgrading seems to be exclusive to the other non-multiplayer modes of the game. While this is not an issue in and of itself, I would have appreciated it if the game made it a little bit more obvious. With that said, it is possible to upgrade bikes a tiny bit using your hard-earned resources for other modes.
I may not have a lot of love left for the career mode, but I must admit that I found the rest of what the game offered to be quite entertaining. Alongside career mode, there is an open playground mode where players can do single races and tutorials. It is a substantial piece of land where two dirt tracks allow players to get to grips with the game. There are many neat tricks that you can learn here, such as correct timings for starting, braking and controlling the bike in mid-air. From here, you can start the game’s proper tutorial mode. This mode provides five “sessions” where you go through the basics of the game. Completing each session allows you to tweak tiny aspects of the bike, such as brake sensitivity, handling, and controls. All of which you can use in the game’s multiplayer mode and other single player challenges.
While fun and pretty (more on that below), the single player challenges seem lacklustre, especially when compared to the likes of MotoGP 18. Single player modes include Time Attack, Championship, and Grand Prix. All do exactly what you would expect: time trials, a series of knockout races, and a series of races where you win with points. They have nothing special going for them besides the fact that they look great.
Gameplay itself is fun and smooth. I go into detail in the next section about the bikes, but I feel it warranted here as well: all bikes feel the same. They sound almost the same, and they play in almost the exact same way as well. With that said, handling and riding them is an absolute blast. Compared to MotoGP 18, bikes in MXGP Pro are easy to control and very hard to master. Just the way I like it.
Apart from the single player options, multiplayer stands out. It boasts 19 tracks, and features both a quick match functionality and player-hosted races. In custom races, the host player can tweak universal aspects like physics, race length, and collisions. This is a vast improvement over the multiplayer featured in MotoGP 18.
On top of that, the game also features a number of tracks for its multiple game modes. All tracks, which are based on real-life circuits, look stunning and offer various neat details. Admittedly, I learnt that the game features the same circuits as previous MXGP titles, according to a few sources. Whether that is the case or not, it is obvious that all of them have have benefited greatly by Milestone’s move to Unreal Engine 4.0.
Tracks may look boring form the onset, with the the usual bumps, jumps, corners, and muddy spots that you may expect. However, the new dynamic weather system seems to bring to light just how great these 19 tracks feel. A mere change in weather alters the way players have to approach the entire track. This is a feature that I wish more racing sims would implement.
On top of that, I have to mention that I absolutely adored the fact that everything appeared to just work. I go into more detail in the section below, but in terms of gameplay, the physics and handling appeared far better than I expected. While physics are still as wonky as ever, I feel that MXGP Pro has less physics issues overall when compared to MotoGP 18.
Singing in the rain [Performance and Visuals]
Since this is a game by Milestone, you might expect it to have the same faults evident in both Gravel and MotoGP 18 – two games that I reviewed earlier in 2018. However, that seems to not be the case! The game performs very well.
It performs so well, in fact, that I did not experience a single drop in frames or a crash during my time with the game. Loading times are as fast (or long) as you would expect, but they never felt out of place. Boot-up times are on-par with MotoGP 18, but loading between races is superior. This rings true, even as the game transitions from loading screen and pre-race setup, to actual gameplay.
Once in the race, the game just works. I mentioned above that the game’s physics are wonky, but I have to admit that it was not intrusive at all. In MotoGP 18, I have issues with the physics, because the game presents itself as a super serious simulation title. It presents itself as a game that introduces players to the world of motorsport and track racing. MXGP Pro, however, comes off as a less serious, more fun title. The phsyics are equally as wonky, but here it kind of feels at home. Plus, it also helps that I am beginning to think that this is becoming a staple for Milestone games. Perhaps wonky physics are just how people will remember all Milestone titles within a decade or two.
Handling the various bikes proved to be quite a challenge. Although handling was fun and hard to master, getting to grips with a bike feels more daunting than it seems. When you ace those tutorial sections, however, you will feel like an absolute bad ass. With that said, I have to admit that I never could quite get the handling just right. As a result, I ended up tagging behind pole position on numerous occasions.
Although different games, I like comparing MXGP Pro with MotoGP 18 for two reasons: Unreal Engine 4.0, and the fact that both were developed by Milestone. Since Milestone made the move to the newest Unreal Engine, all of their games received an immediate visual bump. Gravel may not have been perfect, but the studio has definitely learnt a lot about the engine since then. In fact, MXGP Pro is polished far more, and in many ways better, than MotoGP 18 ever could be.
The move to Unreal Engine 4.0 also undoubtedly attributed heavily to how pretty tracks are, and they really are stunning. As good as the change is, the tracks still suffer from the same curse that all racing games seem to have: standing still emphasises how poorly rendered the environments actually are. However, the moment you start moving, everything looks perfect again. These games are really meant to be played in motion.
When the game’s dynamic weather comes into play, all tracks jump in visual fidelity. With rain comes mud and puddles, and with sunshine comes dry tracks and easy corners. Similarly, rain brings pretty wet visuals and shiny surfaces while sunshine gives off a unique feel of dryness that I cannot say I have ever experienced in other titles.
It is such a shame then that the same attention to detail was not mimicked in the bikes and riders. While MotoGP 18 is by far the proper “simulation” title that touts realistic riders and bikes, MXGP Pro is a dirt bike sim in all aspects but one: bikes. Not one bike ever felt unique over another in this game. I cannot even recall the names and models that I ended up riding in my short six-hour playthrough.
Lost on the track [Conclusion]
From pretty visuals and zero drops in frames to wonky physics that are admittedly growing on me, it seems that MGXP Pro has everything going for it. That is, until you remember that career mode is lacklustre at best and that bikes are about as unique as the various strands of hair on Chewbacca’s body.
As a simulation game, it can be quite challenging. When I played career mode, I began with extreme, knocked it down to standard, and still had the exact same difficulties with the game that I had before modifying the difficulty. It also has a steep learning curve, unlike other motorsport titles such as MotoGP 18. Thankfully, the game is fully aware of this and allows players complete freedom in a spacious open area to learn and get everything just right.
I think there is no denying that this is by far the best Milestone racing game that I have ever played. It proves that, with three Unreal 4 games behind their backs, the studio has definitely learnt a lot. While the game is by no means flawless, it is the first that I am cool with getting on release, for its intended price. It is just a shame that it will get lost in the multitude of other Milestone titles that are also available.
|Time Played||6 Hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of Gamefinity|
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