It may be hard to believe, but sports games were once instantly accessible. I could pick up a virtual representation of a game I barely knew the rules to and get some fun out of messing around. Perhaps it was the primitive control schemes or the evolution from arcade games. At some point, that all changed. Sports games became caught up in simulation, control schemes modernized, and the entire genre turned into a niche. Still, every once and a while, it’s good to still peek in and see what’s going on. Can it ever be like the good old days again? Probably not, but there’s still some fun to be had for a complete novice in Monster Energy Supercross 2.
First off, despite the name, Monster Energy Supercross 2 has very little to do with energy drinks. Instead, Monster Energy sponsors the entire Supercross league, a specific brand of motorcycle racing that has held events since 1974. Once the gate drops, racers swerve around snaking dirt paths and time their jumps carefully to zoom into the lead. Developed by MXGP developer Milestone, Supercross 2 succeeds at fully replicating the closed arena racing that this league has to offer.
Monster Energy Supercross 2 review | Drift sessions
This all means that gameplay is rather complicated. Holding on to first place means staying conscious of your rider’s weight distribution on the bike. The right stick controls where you sit and correct positioning can be the difference between a perfect drift and wiping out. It also means you’ll have to manage your speed going into hills and corners. Spending too much time in the air can mean opponents can zoom past you down below. Blasting into a corner means slamming into barriers or skidding off the track and none of this will help you get into the winner’s circle.
While I did eventually get a hang of what Monster Energy Supercross 2 wanted me to do, I never felt comfortable doing it. Getting into the rhythm of shifting gears and looking ahead for hills and corners takes a lot of focus. The controls seem unintuitive coming in and I never felt like I was truly in control of my bike. Perhaps that’s part of the simulation. How much control can a racer have jetting along at 50 miles per hour? Either way, there is definitely depth here for those who really want to put in the effort.
The tracks in Monster Energy Supercross 2 feel authentic. I can’t say that they are accurate representations, but they’re set up in a way that makes me believe that they are. Stacked barriers fall apart as you hit them and dirt clumps around well-worn corners. Everything surrounding the action presents well, and that’s obviously where the focus went. Anything not important to the driving, like the character models, is far less pretty. There’s a good reason why the drivers have giant glasses and masks on whenever they’re on the track, and it’s not due to realism.
Monster Energy Supercross 2 review | Calling in the pit crew
There’s a bit of announcer audio before each race, but it doesn’t call out any of the racers by name. Instead, it’s simple generic banter that’s easily skippable. Players can compete in single races across the nation or get into more long term events. If you want to go through qualifiers and heats, go nuts. If you want to just hit the main event every time with your favorite rider, that’s here too. There’s also a campaign where you can make your own racer and climb the rankings, but beyond a few extremely brief cutscenes, it’s just another way to load into the same races.
The limits of the non-gameplay elements are quite noticeable especially in some of the customization options. You get a grid of 12 faces to choose from and you can shift some colors around. If you want to get any of the custom glasses or hats, you need to spend in-game currency; a lot of in-game currency. As someone who is never going to dig deep into this type of game, it immediately put me off. It’s not welcoming to see that even the bare minimum of customization options requires winning multiple races and fully engaging.
Monster Energy Supercross 2 review | Losing the training wheels
Of course, that assumes that you’ve got the skills to win a race. Right away, I turned every difficulty slider down, as I’m starting from ground zero. Monster Energy Supercross 2‘s tutorial took me through the basics and did a good job of telling me where I should focus while driving. Even with all that, it was tough to get out of the pack when racing with AI. While it goes over the basic mechanics, it doesn’t explain scenarios where you’d want to do this or that, similar to the issues that fighting game tutorials have had for years. With a bit of effort, I picked it up enough to have some success but the game should have been more helpful.
I see the appeal in Monster Energy Supercross 2. For all the limits concerning presentation and graphical fidelity, you can feel how precise the gameplay can be with all the cranks turned to 11. If you’re looking for an accurate simulation of Supercross, this is going to satisfy. Even though this is a sequel, it feels like a foundation that can be built upon in future games, and I hope that Milestone expands the feature set the next time out. Maybe the studio can even throw us novices a bone.
GameRevolution reviewed Monster Energy Supercross 2 on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the developer.