MXGP 2021 is the latest entry into motocross sports from Milan-based developer, Milestone. Milestone features a decorated portfolio of racing games, featuring franchises such as MotoGP, Monster Energy Supercross, and Ride.
MXGP 2021 attempts to leverage Unreal Engine and assets of its aforementioned titles to create a simulation motocross rider. And it does. The game is a simulation achievement, but this may not be good enough except for the most dedicated motocross fans. MXGP 2021 lacks the competitive spirit and presentational elements to match the game’s superb technicality.
MXGP 2021’s Game Modes
MXGP 2021 features a Career Mode, Quick Play mode, and Free Roam.
Career mode is your standard vanilla career campaign, featuring a decision-making tree that will impact your career progress. Gamers can earn cookie-cutter XP points and level up your created rider’s gear and bike. The grind is serious and it takes hours of effort to build up XP points. Further, the parts upgrades do not make a significant performance difference, and that is okay. In doing so, the player skill will drive the skill gap and not performance tuning and parts.
Quickplay features Grand Prix, Championship, and Time attack modes. The time trials are my favorite way to learn the game’s physics and get zen on the track. Time trials make your only competition yourself, lap after lap, and that can be a very fun way to improve your game. Time trials also allow you to test out each track and give it some run to see how well you manage what each course has to offer, along with global leaderboards to compete with. I’ve enjoyed racing around the Aguedo in Portugal. The colors are bright, airy, and well-balanced. The lighting in the sunny, coastal region provides dynamic shading. It is a joy.
Free Roam allows gamers to explore the terrain in an open-world style setting. It adds waypoints or drop points to mode and it allows gamers to traverse old castle ruins and have a less intense ride.
Track Editor also returns and there are a number of community tracks to download. When gamers jump in to create, there are four different biomes to choose from: Apple Orchard, Woods, Plains, and Quarry. Milestone leveraged SpeedTree studio suite to create varying terrain types, heights, and various modules to drop into the track.
Milestone’s attention to these modes is welcome, but I am afraid the time and investment may come at the detriment of what matters most – creating a competitive fast-paced, explosive racer, which I will dive into next.
MXGP 2021’s Simulation Gameplay
MXGP 2021 plays it safe. It knows its core competency: bike racing. Milestone has taken the Unreal 4 Engine and without fail, has produced a technically sound game. MXGP 2021 succeeds in creating realistic bike physics.
Cornering is challenging, and takes on different traits depending on the track, weather elements, and bike performance stats. Tires spin out, slide, and lose traction in the right moments to add notes of realism. More importantly, successfully cornering is rewarding. Negotiating the terrain, throttle, brakes, and understanding your bike’s physics takes time to master, but it is worth the challenge. Momentum is a difficult programming task, and Milestone handles this challenge well.
The learning curve for each track, complimented by the simulation physics, is likely the game’s best achievement. Gamers can fine-tune suspension and adjust throttle and brake modulation and responsiveness to the controller. All of these aforementioned dynamics combine for just enough depth. The AI racers make up for a lack of visual aids found in the game – follow the AI racers as they take optimal lines most of the time, and are hyper-competitive.
Continuing, MXGP 2021 succeeds in mapping body weight and bike weight to the control sticks wonderfully. Bodyweight is mapped to the right stick, and the bike’s steering is mapped to the left analog. Veteran sports gamers will feel right at home with this game design choice, as it follows the likes of EA’s Skate, snowboarding classic Steep, and other actions sports titles.
Now, for the shortcomings.
Simulation motocross, as it is presented in MXGP 2021, is not conducive to an adrenaline-inducing racing experience. The races lack the speed and excitement that racing games desperately need to develop intense competition on the track. The simulation aspects are presented well – physics, collisions, and the bike’s interactions with environments all function sufficiently, and at its peak, phenomenally, and yet this might be the issue. In an attempt to mirror real-life, the game takes no risks. MXGP 2021 has no personality.
Ultimately, the gameplay rides too slow and is hyper-technical. Milestone is a victim of its design direction to create a simulator of a motocross sport whereas perhaps more flashy presentational elements are needed.
MXGP 2021’s Presentation
For a simulation racer to succeed, the visuals must be photorealistic and feature simulation engineering or bike customization. MXGP 2021 doesn’t quite hit the mark. The visuals are clean but occasionally underwhelming. The animations are efficient, yet the game lacks an animation library to keep the game fresh, lap after lap. Mainly, the canned animations of spin-outs and wrecks look and feel unrealistic – a significant juxtaposition and departure from the game’s excellent bike physics. Further, the terrain deformation does not update in real-time. Deformation of the track is a huge component of the simulation aspect even if done subtly.
A bit of body language personality and voice acting for the riders would go a long way and here, but no such personality exists. Personality for our avatars is at the core of successful games in this era – games must go a bit beyond customization of gear. Otherwise, we have no relation to the avatar, no personal connection, and accordingly, we will lack a personal investment in the rider and game. Additionally, the women’s MX division is completely absent. Unacceptable for a fully-licensed simulation title.
MXGP 2021 ’s customization tools are fun; building out a created player and gearing them up is enjoyable, but the impact of the tuning and parts customization is underwhelming and does not feature a sense of direction. Comparatively, MotoGP ‘20 features a guided skill tree to develop your bike’s different constituent parts: engine, frame, aerodynamics, electronics. This valuable R&D feature was left out of MXGP 2021 . Even more notably, the bare-bones user interface of the game is also inferior to its “big brother,” MotoGP.
MXGP 2021 remains slow-paced and fails to capture the intensity associated with being a professional extreme sports racer. MXGP 2021 can feel like a robotic computer simulation all the way done to its core.
MXGP 2021 lacks the competitive spirit and presentational elements to match the game’s superb technicality.
MXGP 21 Review Verdict
MXGP 2021 succeeds at creating a realistic motocross simulator. The learning curve requires patience. The game is at its best when you are running through tracks at full speed and with a high level of learned skill. In short, the game requires a tremendous amount of patience to be competitive and subsequently, to enjoy. With that said, the game needs more explosiveness and intense competition to make it great.
The game’s presentational shortcomings hold it back from being a special title. If Milestone can take that next step, then the MXGP series holds a promising future. For now, the previous iterations of the title are likely your best value. MXGP 2021 is an annual title update to the series more than a stand-alone, new game.
Note: A copy of MXGP 2021 was provided to SGO for the purposes of this review. The game was reviewed on PC with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q
MXGP 21 Review
MXGP 21 is a simulation achievement, but this may not be good enough except for the most dedicated motocross fans.