Platform: PS3 (also on Xbox 360, PC)
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
# of Players: 1 (Online 1 – 12)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Score: C+ (79%)
While it’s not without its flaws, MUD FIM Motocross World Championship manages to be a fun and fairly lengthy romp through the wild world of moto-x that mixes in arcade-style controls with some light to medium simulation elements. Veteran developer Milestone, known for its SBK bike race series and some pretty solid road and rally racing games, tackles this particular motor sport with relish as well as making more of an attempt to cater to a younger X Games fed audience and the results are mixed overall. More emphasis on reality (and more top US riders for the fans here in North America) would have been a better focus, as some of the “cool” bits feel a wee bit too forced. While there’s indeed a blast to be had here offline or on, the game can’t quite straddle both arcade and sim worlds and appeal to those who may have wanted a few more (and better) options.
There’s a ton of content to dive into in each mode and as noted, the game does its best to appeal to fans and new players alike. Official Mode gets you FIM riders, teams and bikes to play around with, the Monster Energy FIM mode adds even more riders and tracks and for the more casual players, there’s World Tour mode with it’s made-up riders and upgradable stats to buy. You can pop into any mode you like and be guaranteed a decent enough time, but fans of the late, lamented Rainbow Studios and their mostly solid moto-x games for THQ and SCEA may be hugging their copies of whatever favorites they’ve played to death a wee bit tighter once they play this game.
It’s definitely easy to pick up and get playing, but you’ll need to let go of what you’ve learned in other games and get used to Milestone’s way of bike handling. You’re going to be using one stick for the most part, as the right stick by default only shifts the camera around the bike. This isn’t really a bad thing at all, as it forces you to get accustomed to the different track layouts without much fuss and bother. On the other hand, the deformable terrain can make for some hazardous riding and the courses have not much leeway near their borders if you get even a hair close to them. You’ll wreck a lot if you just jam the gas and try to blast around corners, so deft sliding and proper braking will be your best friends. The use of power-ups in the form of Monster Energy drinks is weird and yes, silly here, but I guess they had to appeal to those casual players or something. It feels out of place in a game that as noted needed less “hip” and more hip action in its control scheme.
Stunts are interestingly implemented here, but again, it’s going to be different than in other games. You’ll be prompted to press the X button and hold it until the stunt you pull off is completed, which is a bit too easy unless you take a jump where you don’t get enough air to complete the stunt and wreck. In World Tour, you can unlock and buy stunts and stunt combos for your fictional riders, but it’s not really necessary unless you want to add a few extra button commands to the gameplay. In fact, you can earn a ton of points to unlock stunts, gear and bike upgrades by simply running a few favorite tracks over and over and placing in the money positions at the end of each event. Yeah, it’s cheap, but it’s a good way to get a lot of content and really good at the game in the process.
Speaking of cheap, there’s some AI rubber band action you’ll want to be on the lookout for. Granted, you’ll also see the AI wreck itself and other bikers on the track, sometimes as you’re flying over a few bikes in a stunt attempt, but holding a lead on the harder difficulties can be a pain if it’s a close race. Of course, NOT wrecking when pulling off stunts and keeping that lead can help you not see much of that rubber-banding, but it’s definitely there at the end of the day. Then again, this isn’t a total sim, as some of those crashes you’ll end up in and seeing would take a real bike and rider out of a race and into an ambulance pronto.
For the most part, the game looks great, with a ton of tracks around the world to race and trick out on, but there’s only so much you can do with different shades of mud, dirty snow and other terrain. The course locations are well done and feature some lovely skies and background art, but there’s a “first game” oddity to things that I’ve seen in other Milestone racers. Granted, the developer has always gotten better at what they do the longer they’ve done their racers, so I’m hoping we get to see them deliver a more polished sequel at some point. Sounds are decent enough throughout, but the music is a wee bit too annoying in that :oh, here’s an indie band I never heard of and there’s a good reason why” manner. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer racing with as little distraction as possible these days. I find my lap times all the better for it.
As for online play, I actually didn’t find much of it when I went looking, then again I was only at a friend’s place for about two hours as I can’t use PSN from my place. On the other hand, I prefer beating up on (or getting beat up on by) the AI in my games, rubber banding or no. Overall, Milestone might not have a true classic here (yet), but they’re once more, off to a great start and there’s more than enough room for improvement should this one do well enough to warrant a better sequel. Add in rider customization, female riders in their own events, perhaps a track editor and a few other tweaks and I’ll be there in a heartbeat.