MXGP2 – The Official Motocross Videogame

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Complete Review & Description

“This is going to be a trainwreck, isn’t it?”

Those were my wife’s words, verbatim, when I informed her that I am in the process of reviewing MXGP2, the official Motocross game from Milestone.

You see, I don’t have any experience riding motorcycles, so the concept of riding a mechanised two-wheeler is very foreign to me. My wife, on the other hand, has ridden motorcycles extensively and understands how different riding a motorcycle is compared to driving a vehicle, in both handling and the feel of the road. So when she said the word “trainwreck”, I knew I was in for an uphill battle.

And boy, was it an uphill battle. In the first hour of playing MXGP2, I struggled to stay on top of my motorcycle, often finding it travelling further than my virtual rider because I lost control. It took me a while to grasp the concept that the rider and the motorcycle are two different entities in this game, which is where MXGP2 excels: the control scheme and the design mimic the mano-a-mano skirmish between the rider and his motorcycle, and the physics of the motorcycle’s movement in relation to the course makes this one of the most realistic racing games. Despite its graphical shortcomings, the new modes, inclusion of Grand Prix of nations, and the (slightly) revised control schemes makes MXGP2 an improvement on its predecessor.

From the get-go, MXGP2 introduces the concept of the differentiation between rider and mechanical beast: the control scheme basically boils it down to using the left stick to control the rider and the right stick to handle the motorcycle, with the triggers and shoulder buttons controlling acceleration, braking and clutch. It’s not enough to just make a turn using the left stick to lean your rider, but on tighter turns you will need to use the right stick to lean the weight of the bike in order to get through the turn unscathed. This idea of maintaining the balance of your rider, while simultaneously wrangling the bike itself, is something I haven’t experienced in driving games.

The other aspect of MXGP2’s controls that I haven’t experienced in other driving games is the use of the clutch. It functions the same in motocross motorcycles the same as in any other vehicle – to disengage gears – but the situations in which you use it are wholly different. In MXGP2, you would use the clutch to help you launch your bike at the start of a race, as well as navigating through tight turns where, by engaging the clutch, you maintain your engine’s momentum and accelerate out of the bend faster.

This broke my brain, and the concept of turning became infinitely more difficult when you have three different types of turning available to you – the other two being a standard turn and turning using the rear brakes. But I enjoy learning new mechanics in racing games, and my virtual rider is apparently a sucker for punishment, so we pressed on, determined to figure out how to master the motocross discipline.

The upside to the learning curve is that you do see yourself progress consistently. From finishing 22nd out of 22 riders constantly to begin with, I found myself finishing in the late teens as I learnt the tracks and the physics of the game, then early teens, and finally getting to a top-ten finish once I figured out how to use momentum to my advantage. The progression is substantial enough that you do feel accomplished as you move up each place in the race.

MXGP2 offers extensive modes of your choosing, from the standard Motocross GP races, to the indoor Stadium Series, to a new Nations mode, where you race based on the nation of your choosing and participate in races as the riders of your chosen nation. I’m sad to report that I’ve let New Zealand down, having not podiumed in any race I partook in. Alas, I will get that top-three finish for the fine country of Aotearoa, so never fear.

If you’re one of those people that like to customise your rider and bike to your liking, MXGP2 offers a bevy of choices and upgrade options. You are given a free motorcycle based on the manufacturer of your choosing, but to add new motorcycles to your garage, you will need to purchase them using credits earned through racing. From the looks of the helmet to the boots, to engines and exhaust in the motorbike, the options are plenty.

Like other Milestone games, MXGP2 excels in its ability to mimic real-life physics. Tilted the bike too far back on landings? Your bike will take off on you upon hitting the ground. Didn’t put enough momentum into the turn? You will ride straight into the hay bales that line the edge of the tracks. You have to use physics to your advantage if you want to succeed at motocross, and MXGP2 pushes that agenda effectively.

MXGP2 does feel better than it looks, as the tracks and the scenery look significantly blander than its real-life counterparts. The trees in the background are essentially still-life paintings, and I expected dirt to be kicking up from under the wheels throughout turns and accelerations, or mud slung during wet conditions, but saw minimal amounts of both. In fact, there are no dynamic weather options – a glaring omission, given that motocross racing is (mostly) an outdoor sport. The game doesn’t reflect how messy motocross racing can get. It looks almost too clean-cut, but Milestone has made other improvements over their previous releases: the crowds look dynamic, and the overall layout and displays on tracks look more vibrant and better presented than previous games.

The biggest takeaways from MXGP2 are the mechanics and physics Milestone successfully mimicked in the way riding motocross would feel. The learning curve associated with balancing both rider and motorbike is steep enough to make it interesting, but not impossible. The modes available make for a wide variety of racing, and each track is unique, with no two alike. Although Milestone has made improvements to this game graphically, it still falters somewhat, especially in a discipline of motorsport that is as visually dynamic as motocross racing.

MXGP2 is touted by its developer as one of the most authentic motocross games on the market, and Milestone has definitely lived up to that claim. It’s not graphically perfect, but the physics and game mechanics makes MXGP2 a great game with a solid learning curve.

And if it does take you a while to master the rider/motorcycle dynamic, just remember that my wife (correctly) predicted my experience as a “trainwreck”.

I hate it when my wife is right.

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