Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame 3 doesn't have the catchiest of titles, but it does describe what it is to a tee. What we've got here is the third official supercross game, once again sponsored by Monster Energy. In fact, we're pretty sure that you could put that collection of words in any order and it would still be as snappy. But from now on we're going to abbreviate it to MES just so we don't kill our word count every time we mention the title.
Milestone has in just three years churned out its third Supercross game. Only in December of last year did the first of this trilogy come to PS plus, and we can honestly say that some things have changed between the first and third game, but perhaps not enough to warrant a second in the middle.
However, we're not going to moan about a game a year, or the differences between the iterations, as it works for other sports and why not Supercross? For starters, the sport is hugely popular in the US, with fans enjoying watching groups of riders bunched up together hitting huge jumps and taking sharp turns on dirt tracks.
One thing MES does really well is to capture the speed and feeling of tension as you whip around these precarious tracks. Even when your speed isn't too high, you still feel like you're going like the clappers. From that angle, the gameplay is solid. On the other hand, however, we seemed to fly off our bike all too easily. The difficulty curve was really tricky to master, and we noticed how the physics have been changed quite a lot since the first incarnation.
While there are options to make it easier, such as reducing the realism of the handling, it still felt all too easy to fall off. One second we'd land a tricky jump, and the next fall off for brushing past a block that marks the track outline. Then, we'd be back on the track and hit a jump a little off and end up flying off again.
This punishing balancing act took a lot of the enjoyment out of the experience for us, and we found the difficulty curve a little frustrating at times, and while the core mechanics worked well to give you the feeling of speed, finicky failures tainted our experience a little. Of course, it did get easier over time as we mastered the racing lines, but we think that a gentler learning curve would have made it a far more enjoyable experience overall.
If you combine those moments of needless frustration with annoyances born of the fact that there are loads of other riders on the narrow tracks, bunched up with you, all of whom can knock you off like you're a feather in the wind - it can all get a bit too tense to the point of being stressful. What's more, one slip seems to set you back in the race so much. We were in third at one point, came off and respawned in 6th, then almost immediately got knocked off, only then to bump a block and fall off again. To cut a long story short, we went from third to last in a series of quickfire blunders - forcing us to restart. While some of this may have been our own incompetence, we did feel unfairly punished.
We started off in the career mode, which has three different sides. The 250 West takes you around tracks in the western states of the USA. There are no prizes for guessing where you head to in 250 East. Then finally, there's the 450, and that has races from all over the US. The 250 and 450 numbers relate to the engine-size, and when we tried out the 450cc bikes, everything felt a little harder, faster and it was easier to come tumbling off.
Graphically, MES stands up well and the whole package looks really good. The riders and bikes all look great, and the tracks themselves are well-designed, with a functional HUD/UI. The sound design was also top-notch, so from a sheer aesthetic point of view, we couldn't really fault it. Another thing that we liked is the fact that your rider can now be a woman. When you're customising your character you have a large range of options, and we were happy see Milestone embracing inclusivity by adding the option to choose your gender.
Other than the career mode, where we spent the vast majority of our time, there are quite a few multiplayer modes, which gives the game a lot of additional depth if you're looking to race against friends and other folks online. There's your standard single races, but also a few mini-games including a treasure hunt where you have to head to various locations. Then there's a mode with checkpoints and also a knockout game, which all add a lot of hours of gameplay.
Another thing that padded out the offering and added longevity was that Milestone has given us the tools to build our own tracks. We really enjoyed creating our own courses, and the editor is simple enough to use and well implemented.
The game also seems to boast all of this year's official riders, which will appeal to all you Supercross fans out there. Fans will also like how the bikes feel grounded and connected to the track, and you get the sense that the physics are plausible. You needed to land your bike perfectly, and this new entry seems to be more punishing if you don't take the right line on a corner. You also need to know when to go flat out and when to hold back, while earlier games didn't seem to punish you as much for taking a more aggressive line.
All in all, it's clear that Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame 3 is a good racing game. It looks and feels great, most of the time, and if you're a massive fan of the sport, you should definitely check it out, especially if you missed the second game as the series has come a fair way since the first. That said, the difficulty curve and the punishing ways that you can fly off your bike dampened our fun a little, even if the physics were quite impressive as we crashed for the umpteenth time.