The latest entry to the series is highly polished but undermined by handling issues.
- Developer: Milestone srl
- Publisher: Milestone srl
- Release date: 4th February 2020
- Genre: Racing
- Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Windows PC/Steam, Switch, Stadia
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X
- Game Supplied by: Developer
Milestone has quite the history when it comes to motorbike games. Over the years, they’ve given us numerous MotoGP titles, the Ride series, and both MXGP and Monster Energy Supercross games. The one thing they have yet to reliably bring us, though, is consistency. Take the MotoGP games, for example, MotoGP17 – very good. MotoGP18 – forgettable. MotoGP19 – excellent. It is this inconsistency that brings me to Supercross 3 with trepidation. Supercross 2 was a pretty average game, though fun if you are a fan of the sport, and I recently played through MXGP 3 which, while not without its own foibles, was actually one of the better representations of the sport. That in itself is disappointing though, as the presentation could have been better, and the handling had some unusual quirks.
There is clearly a market for these games, but the question is, will Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 3 manage to bridge the gap between just ok and good, or could this finally be the great game fans deserve?
Straight from the off, it’s clear the developers have put a lot of time into polishing Monster Energy Supercross 3. The menus are clean and simple to navigate, everything you need is laid out clearly for you and the overall presentation is very good.
Starting the game, you are greeted by the character customisation screen. You can choose your name, nickname (that appears on your race suit), rider number and the fonts for these, before choosing your rider. The option to choose a female rider is a first for the series, but the rest of the character customisations are mainly choices of generic features that are largely irrelevant, as you only see your avatar momentarily before each race or on the podium, and the rest of the time you have a helmet on.
The true customisation comes from the hundreds of options when it comes to helmets, suits, boots and more. There are an excellent number of options available here, and you will easily find something to pimp your rider out in style if you so wish. You can unlock these with prestige points earned in races, and you will earn more than enough points to unlock whichever items you want in no time.
When you first begin, you are given the option to do a tutorial race. There are a number of assists and options to choose from, but if you are new to these games or a rusty rider you will probably choose to use the default settings, which has basically all of the assists turned on. The ‘Tutorial’ is not actually very helpful, though. It explains the mechanics behind setting up for the start, and points out the flow line assist which guides you through a recommended pattern for the jumps, but it doesn’t explain anything about weight positioning of your rider or setting up for jumps, which is pretty crucial.
Pre-loading your bike before jumps is essential to gaining enough distance to clear many of the triples and obstacles, and scrubs which are used to reduce height gained off a ramp, barely get a mention anywhere. This failure to instruct players on how the core mechanics work could prove frustrating to anyone hoping to just pick-up and play Supercross 3. Challenge mode goes some way towards helping you learn these skills outside of racing, but it only tells you if you have done it right, not how to actually do it.
The following gameplay is from one of my first races, with default settings (full assists).
I like to think of myself as a competent gamer, but when I tried the tutorial race with the default settings, and already well versed in Milestone’s motocross and supercross games, I found it more difficult than I thought it would be to find the flow around the track. All too often you can find yourself failing to get the distance to clear a set of jumps, whilst the AI rider alongside you clears them with ease.
After experimenting with some of the assists to find what was causing this problem, we discovered one of the main contributing factors was the semi-auto gears. The game heavily favours second gear, and it has a habit of dropping back to second while you are landing small jumps or lining up for ramps. This can destroy any momentum you have, and it causes you to come up short on a lot of the big jumps. Switching to manual helps, but it gets a bit awkward when you need to be constantly using the right stick as well as hitting the buttons to shift gear, steering and controlling the brakes and gas.
If you aren’t dextrous enough or are unable to competently perform the finger gymnastics needed to use manual gears as well as the right stick in tandem with the left, it can be a very frustrating experience, as you will constantly find it impossible to maintain the flow around the track as your opponents flash past you, even on the easiest difficulty. If you do manage to find the flow, though, it’s deeply satisfying pulling off consecutive sets of triples around the tracks, but far too often you come up short on jumps and lose any momentum you had.
There is a definite adjustment period when you start Supercross 3. It’s not as simple as just steering and applying the gas or brakes. Control is just as dependant on judicial use of the right stick as it is on the usual inputs: Rider positioning is essential, with it enabling you to make sharper turns or ride faster on the straights, and positioning yourself for landings is just as important as loading up for jumps.
Exiting turns is also tricky, as the way the camera moves around makes it difficult to determine when you are lined up straight enough, and you will find you often launch off at weird angles and come crashing down outside of track limits. Even after over twenty hours of gameplay, we still had to frequently rewind to try to line the bike up on corner exits.
On the occasions when it does go right, it’s actually a lot of fun. In addition to tackling the flow in different ways, you can employ other skills to help get around your opponents. Make a turn tight down the inside and, although you won’t have the pace to triple some sets, you can effectively block an opponent running a wider line and bring yourself back into contention. Likewise, running wide onto the berms allows you to avoid an opponent on the inside and garner extra speed to make the pass down the straight.
If you successfully learn to master the controls, and with a bit of experimentation fine-tuning the difficulty to your level, it’s possible to have some very tense and close races, with the final result uncertain right up to the last corner. Playing and winning on the higher difficulties is immensely satisfying, and thanks to the well-implemented (and necessary) rewind ability, you can negate the occasional misjudged jump or landing while you are honing your skills.
There are plenty of things to do in Monster Energy Supercross 3. Single-player has a full career mode, single event mode, time attack, a free roam compound to explore, custom championships and a series of challenges for you to attempt.
Career is simplified but actually all the better for it. With other games relying on R&D trees, post-race interviews and the like, it’s nice to just choose a bike and ride for a change. There are three championships to choose from, with 250 East and 250 West available from the start, and the 450 championship is available after you have completed either of the other two, with actual riders from the real-life series rendered in-game. You can choose between a manufacturer or sponsor team, with the former offering bespoke racing suits to unlock, and the latter a credit bonus for each race, and midway through each season, you get the option to switch teams. That’s pretty much it. Simple, but effective.
Single events, custom championships and time trials are exactly as you would expect, with a choice of settings and options for tracks, race length etc, and time trial has ghosts that you can choose to compete against, including from your friends list. It’s nothing particularly new or exciting, but it affords plenty of options for pick-up and play gameplay outside of the career mode.
The compound is a pleasingly fun addition to Supercross 3, with an expansive free-roam arena available for you to cruise around. There are a few tracks incorporated into the compound, with single race and time-trial events to find too. It’s also available for multiplayer, and as well as a basic free-roam mode, it has checkpoint races and a treasure hunt mode, which are both very good fun with friends.
Multiplayer is well supported, with plenty of options to join others’ lobbies, as well as hosting public or private lobbies of your own. At the time of writing, the player base was limited to other reviewers so there weren’t many games to join, but those we did ran smoothly, with no real hiccups or instances of lag to comment on. There is no ranking as such, but you can see other riders prestige levels, and how many miles they’ve ridden, so there’s still the opportunity for bragging rights. If multiplayer racing is your bag, there’s likely to be plenty here to keep you coming back.
Track selection is very good on Monster Energy Supercross 3. In addition to the official tracks, which do a good job of recreating their real-life counterparts, there are also all the tracks available that people have made using the track editor. The track editor is surprisingly good and has a lot of flexibility in options available to you. Unlike the help offered before you begin the main game, the tutorial for building tracks is actually very comprehensive, although it’s still pretty straightforward as far as editors go. With a bit of time, it’s possible to make some very good tracks. Indeed, even at this early stage, people have already begun recreating up to date versions of real-life stadiums, and over time there will no doubt be a huge number of tracks to choose from and race on in all of the different game modes.
An area of the game that truly shines, is the graphics. Running at 4k HDR on the Xbox One X, Monster Energy Supercross 3 is an astoundingly good looking game. The level of detail is phenomenal. Stadiums look suitably impressive, with fireworks bursting into bright blooms of colour before and after races, whilst zooming right in reveals beautifully rendered bikes, right down to the smallest sprocket. Riders move around realistically on their bikes and react realistically to the bumps, jumps and jostles of the racing. Wet, muddy races are also a highlight, with the spray from your tyres building up a coating of mud on your rider and bike as the race progresses, and the reflections from puddles are excellent.
Bike sounds are quite accurate too, although your opponents’ bikes are particularly muted, with the main sound being the braap braap of your own ride, with no option to change the mix and bring the other bikes into the forefront. There is commentary during races, but it’s restricted to the tannoys, so you only catch a snippet when you’re in the right place. The music is a mixture of hip-hop, trap and rock, and although it plays during races. It’s not particularly loud, so it’s easy to zone out, but if you don’t like the rather limited selection of tunes, it’s easy enough to just turn the music off.
Monster Energy Supercross 3 is a game that takes a lot of perseverance before you can truly enjoy it. The presentation is superb, there is a lot of content, and when it goes well, it’s great, but before you reach this point, it can be deeply frustrating as jump after jump comes up short, or when you crash because your bike launches off a ramp at an unexpected angle. It could be because you aren’t moving the rider’s weight correctly, or maybe your timing is off, but with no clear instruction on how it works, or any indicator of what you’ve done wrong, it can become very annoying, very quickly.
There is no shortage of content in Monster Energy Supercross 3. From the numerous official and custom tracks to the varied game modes and well-implemented multiplayer, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained. The awkward camera rotation hindering accurate corner exits and constantly losing the flow while you are mastering the controls can make it very frustrating at first, but if you can persevere past this, it can be a beautiful, entertaining and challenging game with a lot to offer.