What I love the most about good sport games is the suspension of belief that they give you by replicating the look, sound and atmosphere of the television production you get from watching the sport on tele. Games like NBA2K, and MLB the show are the best two games at making you believe that you’re a pro player. Even FIFA has been making small strides to replicate the act of viewing football.
When I began the review process of MXGP 3 I didn’t think I needed to know much about the sport that the game depicts, but after playing my first race I new immediately that I was wrong to assume, and that I was going to have to learn a bit more about motocross. In an effort to learn more about the sport, and by association the game, I watched the AMA High Point 2017 450 Class Moto 1, and WOW. Watching that race made a motocross fan of me, but did it make me appreciate the game more?
The short answer is, a little. It made me more open to the game than I was at first, but I didn’t feel engulfed in it, which if you ask me is a bad thing. Games like these ride on the player’s desire to experience what they watch on tele, while changing the outcomes with their own hands. Players want to feel like they are the ones that won that race, scored that goal, experienced the battle on the field of combat. MXGP 3 gets some of that right, but there is a big ‘IF’ in that statement.
You see this game rides on something that I’m dubbing the ‘IF’ factor. ‘IF’ you play this as an eSport with a live commentator it can be epic, ‘IF’ you make up your own internal rivalries you’ll have more fun with it, ‘IF’ you have A LOT of patience this game can eventually feel rewarding. See where I’m going with this?
The game does a couple things right, but it is just not good enough. It leaves it up to you the player to fill in the blanks, something that should never be with games like these that ride on the fandom of a physical sport. MXGP 3 fails by not emulating motocross well enough, and here’s how.
When you start the game for the first time, you are required to create a character. This is the character that you will be mainly using in the game’s career mode. The creation suit is fairly limited at first, but after you get into the game there is a lot that can be done with your character. After creating your character you can choose a sponsor and begin playing the career mode, which happens to be the most bare bone career mode I’ve played in a game in a while. It seemed like something I’d find on the PSX back in the day. There are no bells and whistles to this mode at all. You choose a race, your bike, settings, sponsors and just race. There was no feeling that I was a real motocross rider other than seeing my rank on the leader board over the course of a season, and this infuriated me more than anything else. The game could have had some form of a plot, story elements, rivals, something, just something to make the races feel worth a damn.
Oh and you wanna know the thing that bothered me the most? THERE IS NO COMMENTARY, None! When watching a motocross race on tele commentators build up a narrative between the players. Who has it out for who, how much of a comeback someone races and talking about the time trials and previous races. I’m sorry if you can’t at least build me a narrative for me to care about, why should I? This is not rocket league where everything is fictional, this is attempting to replicate something else, and doing a poor job at it. And I know, I know there are going to be those folks that are going to try to defend the game by stating that it’s attempting to replicate the live experience, but is it, is it really? Because I watched quite a few motocross races during the review process, even ones in different languages, and those recorded from some blokes phone, and I couldn’t help but notice the announcer in the background of every race, and the sound of the crowd. These are elements that help build atmosphere, and MXGP 3 has none, I repeat, none of it. If you stopped your bike in the middle of a track all you’d hear are the engines, and what would amount to basic menu music in other games.
The other modes do not do much to differentiate themselves from each other, and I was unable to find one online match on Steam during the review process, and before I searched I really doubted I would because most people that would probably play this game are likely playing rocket league.
Graphically the game looks good, but keep in mind that the visuals like tire markings, and gashes in the track do not affect the movement of your bike, they’re are purely cosmetic. The game also uses a lot of resources to run at peak visual fidelity, so mid to lower end PC owner will need to keep this in mind. What I did to get the best out of the game’s visuals was visit the compound (test track) to alter my settings in real-time. This allowed me to make changes to each slider then check the performance so that I got the best performance, and visuals that my system could offer. Messing with the in game photo mode and filter you is another way to see just how good this game can look. You can create some epic images, but I wish that these filters could have been left enabled during races.
As for the audio, I’ll quote my sister for that, “is that a lawnmower?”, Me: “it’s a bike, but that’s what they sound like in real life so…”
All my criticisms aside MXGP 3 does get a couple things right. Remember the ‘IF’ factor that I mentioned earlier? Well I made up my own ridiculous narrative for my Swedish racer, Lord Pro, an on-edge lad who grew up on a small island in the Swedish archipelago, and found fulfillment in motocross at a young age. LP is a bit of a loose cannon, in that he is not against knocking you off your bike if he needs to, and he tends to win all his races on the last lap. The dude has an amazing ability to come back from dead last to make up much needed points over the season, and he also has a habit of shouting “YOU DO NOT MESS WITH THE WARRIOR CARLA! “
Making this narrative for LP helped make the game much more fun for me, and it’s something you’re going to have to do if you hope to find any fun in the career mode.
One of the other things that kept me playing MXGP 3 was the customization. There’s a lot that can be done to your created character, and his bikes. Sadly there are no female characters in the game, which sucks, so you’ll just have to make do with the choices on offer for your bloke. Your character has choices among numerous branded biker gear that can be purchased using in game currency earned by winning races. This currency can also be spent on upgrading your bikes, and one of the best parts about the purchasing system is that most of the parts that you can purchase can be installed on all of your bikes. While playing the game I’d check to see if the same part was available for both my MXGP 250cc and 450cc bikes, then buy those so that I could upgrade both my bikes with just a single purchase. The game also has 150cc and 250cc MX2 bikes for those that manage to stick around long enough to afford one.
As for the way these bikes perform, I am happy to say that for the most part they are well done. When you remove most, or all the assistance and attempt to actually learn how to play the game, you will find that it replicates the ‘look’ of riding an MX bike quite well. There is a physics setting in the race options menu that can be altered before each race, though I think it should be called assistance not physics, and some other sliders that assist with controlling your bike. Switching these to semi-pro or pro will truly allow you to experiencing this game as it should be experience. The feeling of mastering a perfect corner, braking, and performing scrubs is satisfying. Scrubs feel particularly more rewarding when the bike doesn’t start moving about in the air as if a giant invisible child were holding in there hand, and moving it about. I would have preferred if scrubs were mapped to a single button press, and just came in a few standard realistic variations.
The final, and probably the most surprisingly feature that this game has to offer is the difficulty system. Before every race you are able to enter a menu labeled race options, then increase or decrease the difficulty of the race by messing with a few sliders. These allow you removing the rewind feature, adding qualifiers, changing AI difficulty, and some other stuff. By changing these settings to make the game more challenging you are rewarded with more in game credits, and if you play qualifier you have a chance of earning the right to choose a better spot on the starting line.
If I had to use one word to describe this game it would be ‘empty’. It’s a game that has an interesting canvas on display, but no depth to it. So many of the features in it are half baked and the ones that aren’t, have to be either augmented by your own imagination or by messing around with the game till you find them. While I wait, and keep my fingers crossed for an updated sequel, or other game that replicates Motocross like it is on tele, I’ll keep playing MXGP 3 while remaining hopeful for updates, or a commentator DLC.
The copy of MXGP 3 used for this review was provided to us by it’s publisher Milestone S.r.l.
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