You may not know it, but motocross is growing in popularity globally and viewership numbers are steadily climbing. Sure, a lot of this growth has been attributed to its mostly-American variant – Supercross – but where other motorsports are losing fans, dirt biking is on the up. Funnily enough, racing games focussing on two-wheelers haven’t quite managed to set the world on fire. Not that there aren’t enough of them. MotoGP, MXGP and Supercross all have official licensed games, and the developer behind all these games – Milestone – also has its own original motorcycle racing IP (Ride), but none of these get anywhere near the same attention or acclaim that is showered on popular car racing games. The reasons for these are plenty, and they’re all nicely summed up by MXGP 2019.
MXGP is essentially the pinnacle of motocross racing, featuring the top racers and the most powerful bikes. Think of it as the Formula 1 of dirt bikes, and like F1, its grand prix events take competitors to all parts of the world, minus the snob value. And MXGP 2019, the latest in the series from Milestone, is a faithful recreation of the real-world competition, featuring riders, brands, bikes and tracks from the actual MXGP season. Unfortunately, the game does little apart from mirroring the real-world events, leaving limited avenues for new players to ease themselves in.
The meat of MXGP 2019 is the Season mode, which takes you through the 17 grand prix events from locations ranging from Argentina and Italy to the Netherlands and Portugal. You’ll start off with signing a team contract, and as you progress, you’ll be able sign new contracts that net you more XP for podium finishes. You have plenty of race options, depending on how much time you want to devote per grand prix, but even the shortest race type should take you about 5-10 minutes per event. Podium finishes will earn you cash, which can be used to customise your rider and bike, while XP increases your Prestige level, helping you unlock new contracts. It’s all pretty standard stuff and it’s well implemented, but there’s no real major incentive to earn more XP.
MXGP 2019 is best played with its advanced simulation and body weight settings turned on, because that’s when it really shines
The Playground mode is MXGP 2019’s attempt at not taking itself too seriously. Here, you’re set free in a sandbox environment set in the French countryside. Aside from free-roaming, you can enter a series of skill challenges, or create custom routes for other players to try online. It’s a fun distraction, but we didn’t really end up spending too much time here. The game also includes a fairly detailed track editor, and although there is a tutorial included, creating a track demands the sort of time investment that most players probably won’t bother with, especially given the variety of tracks already included in the game.
When it comes to on-track action, MXGP 2019 can be tough as nails. We had to initially drop the difficulty down to ‘super easy’ and turn off advanced simulation and rider body weight controls just to be able to get to grips with the game’s steep challenge. As the season progressed, we were able to turn the simulation and body weight settings back on but even the game’s second-highest difficulty setting (medium) puts up a stuff challenge. Unless you’re familiar with the series, we’d recommend starting with assists on, but once you do get to grips with it, MXGP 2019 is best played with its advanced simulation and body weight settings turned on, because that’s when it really shines. The AI is rather impressive too, punishing your mistakes without rubberbanding to you when you’re doing well.
Performance-wise, MXGP 2019 is a mix bag. It certainly isn’t the best looking racing game out there, but the frame-rates held steady – although we were playing at 1080p on a PS4 Pro. A major annoyance though are the load times. Races take a bit too long to load up, and even once you’re in a grand prix, which features two races on the same track, it loads before each of the races.
MXGP 2019 can be a lot of fun when you get into it, but there’s little on offer here outside the Seasons mode. Expanding Seasons into a deeper career mode – along the lines of F1 2019 – would have gone a long way towards welcoming new players. It feels like a missed opportunity because the base gameplay – once you get past the initial learning curve – can be quite rewarding, and deserved more engaging game modes to carry it. Motocoss, with its windy tracks, big jumps and the close quarters action, has been begging for a thrilling action racing game. Sadly, this isn’t it.