MX vs. ATV: Supercross is a game of ups and downs. The name tells you all you need to know about what it is and although it does that one thing well enough, don’t expect to be doing anything other than racing motocross bikes and ATV’s. You are given one type of gameplay with two kinds of vehicles and that’s the whole package.
When you first start it up there isn’t a lot to choose from. You can play a single race or go into career mode, which is just a series of eight single races where the game keeps an accumulated score based on where you finish, and you can unlock mostly useless ways to customize your rider and vehicle of choice.
With no tutorials available I jumped into career mode, on a step up from the easiest of four difficulties, and pretty quickly found myself struggling to stay out of last place.
If you are a fan of supercross and appreciate the subtleties of the courses, this may not apply to you, but for most people every course is a series of bumps. Some of the bumps are big and some are small, but that’s what every course boils down to and your success is based upon being able traverse them smoothly. You want to take off from one and land in the downslope of another, which is not what I was doing during the first couple hours of playing this game.
I tried taking corners differently, I tried following the few tips shown on loading screens and I tried using the brake strategically, but nothing helped and instead of gracefully flying from one jump to the next I would take off from one bump and then slam into the front of the next one; over and over and over again.
I dropped down to easy mode but still struggled to finish at the top consistently, that is until I discovered the secret to this game. Here is the one tip they don’t tell you about and that is essential to succeeding. The clutch can act as a boost and as soon as I figured this out I was destroying the competition on easy and consistently finishing in the top three on my original difficulty choice. By just tapping the clutch before a jump you get a small boost that makes the difference between slamming into the next bump and losing all speed, and clearing it easily.
Once I figured that out the singular type of gameplay became quite fun. I felt like I was in control of my success and started making my way through career modes and unlocking bike upgrades. But after clearing what is, essentially, easy and normal and moving onto hard or very hard the game landed on a plateau again.
The upgrade system for the bikes and ATV’s isn’t deep at all and choosing between exhausts or suspensions becomes more about aesthetics than performance. Once you unlock anything beyond the stock parts, they simply improve whatever stat they are tied to 100 per cent and there is no downside; no give and take between, for example, power and traction. Even kart racers have a little depth.
At about five hours into the game I felt like I had maxed out my vehicles of choice, and the rest of my play-time was laid out before me. I wasn’t good enough to be consistently winning on the harder difficulties, but at that point it seemed like the only way to get better was to learn the courses; it became more about complex pattern memorization than a great understanding of the mechanics.
Visually, it’s not very interesting, and if you are someone who pays attention to that, the dirt textures that suddenly pop-in added detail as you approach each and every bump on each and every lap can be jarring.
The racing in MX vs. ATV: Supercross can be fun once you spend some time using process of elimination to understand how you should be driving. The motocross bikes and ATV’s feel different with the former being a little more nuanced and the latter feeling more like a casual kart racer. But there isn’t a lot of game here and even supercross fans might struggle to get a lot of enjoyment out of it.