Uh-wha??? Al’s covering a sports game? Did he lose a bet?
I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Maybe…. Anyway! While I’m definitely not a stereotypical sports guy, I do have a thing for racing games. Although I tend to prefer the more arcade-style variety, I have a great appreciation for the subtle skill that goes into real-life motorsports. I could never do it myself, but it’s fun to watch. But now that we got the chance to sit down with a preview of the Steam version of Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame 4 (or MESTOV4 for short), it’s time to hop on my virtual supercross bike and see if I have what it takes to play with the biggest names in the sport.
My quest begins in Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. I’m treated to a fancy introduction by an AMA announcer and my adoring fans cheering me on. The moment of truth is at hand. The starting gate drops and I rocket forward! Then the first turn comes up. I press left. My bike doesn’t go left, and I crash. I return to the track, hit the first bumps, and… crash. And crash some more.
That’s when I figured out, “Oh, this game is realistic” and I simultaneously realized I probably don’t have a future as a famous motocross (supercross? is there a difference?) rider. I came in last place of 22 “very easy” AI riders, getting lapped multiple times.
Fortunately, some help is available here with the Rewind feature. These races are very long compared to the typical experience of less realistic types of racing games, and one mistake or wrong button press can put you impossibly far behind. The Rewind feature lets you turn back time a limited number of times to undo mistakes, saving you from possible keyboard or controller-throwing rage and repeated race restarts, for those of us who aren’t total supercross masters (like me). I’d first seen this done in a completely different genre with Fire Emblem: Three Houses – another game notorious for causing the player to repeatedly restart levels rather than accept the otherwise permanent impacts of small mistakes. But you can turn this off if you don’t need the help, and it’s not going to work in a multiplayer setting by its very nature.
Now now, don’t worry! I kept at it. This is definitely not one of those games where you can keep your finger on the accelerator and blaze through the course, and after a few hours, I started to get the hang of it. Lots of subtle tapping of the movement keys and the accelerator and brakes, and I was navigating the jumps, turns, and whoops a lot better. I have to say, for a genre I’ve not touched whatsoever after Excitebike on the NES, I had a good time playing, once I figured it out.
After many hours and finally finishing a race in *not* dead last (still “very easy” though!) I began to explore the game’s many features and options. It features a very nice track editor (A feature first pioneered way back on the NES with Excitebike!) that was fairly easy to use with lots of track features to choose from. I also rather enjoyed using the Photo Mode to take great screenshots with tons of options for filters, focus and adjusting camera angles (but it would be nice to be able to use the mouse to do this!).
Further illustrating the game’s position as a simulation are the many bike customization options and difficulty settings. By default the game provides some assistance by automating certain things like the rider weight-shifting, but people who know their supercross can turn these things off and be in total control. You can also customize how the bike handles with various parameters like the the stiffness of the wheel springs and such.
This game is tough and unforgiving for beginners, but it is feature rich and is sure to please hardcore fans of the sport. If I could offer some pre-release feedback, it would be to make the tutorial more robust to better ease in beginners curious about the sport, explaining the control nuances a little more. The current tutorial doesn’t do a whole lot beyond explaining the Rewind feature and how to get a good start. I will say that the graphics were pretty impressive and the game runs well on my now middle-of-the-road PC.
If you’re a serious supercross fan, I’m no expert (really, I’m not), but this game has the potential to really please you when it launches on March 11th. For newcomers, I think it needs some minor adjustments to be more approachable. But if you’re persistent enough, even a new player can expect to get a lot out of the experience this game offers.
Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of Milestone.