If you happen to be familiar with BlackBean Studios, it’s no doubt through their series of officially licensed rallying games, WRC and it’s clone of a sequel. While their games are built on a solid foundation, very little else is added to the product, resulting in a game that has the potential, but lacks the ambition to be great.
But can MUD successfully switch gears, resulting in a game that actually happens to be exciting and fun to play, for once?
Time to get dirty
So here we are, two wheels less, more mud, helmets and generation X-disguised corporate sponsoring. Much like with the rallying scene, BlackBean has little to no competition, providing ample opportunity for them to set a benchmark or two in the process.
Unlike said previous games, MUD represents a more arcade-styled approach to the sub-genre, swopping realistic physics for a looser approach on the tracks. That’s not to say that players can hold down the acceleration trigger and drift around into first place, as MUD happens to be ridiculously sensitive, when even brushing slightly against a wall can rob you of precious seconds in a race.
That’s one of the first problems prevalent in MUD, as the more realistic style of straight-line racing, which focuses on finding the right line to ride, throttle control and scrub starts gives way to a more arcade-influenced turning model, which over-steers at a moments notice, resulting in less drift, and more wall-crashes.
MUD walks a fine line between the two modes of play, but unfortunately, it fails to pull off this crucial component, resulting in races being harder than they should be, due to these handling annoyances.
Energy drinks make an appearance for the sake of teh moneyz, one can assume. Drink one down during a race, and you somehow manage to ride faster, as if your rectum had been magically transformed into a NOS delivery system.
Gameplay itself has several modes up to play around with, tossing the vanilla standard that BlackBean generally serves players for a serving topped with sprinkles and several other flavours. You’ve got your regular races, arcade modes, elimination gauntlets, showdowns and of course, the much-touted career mode. This forms the core of the MUD experience, as you’ll take on the MX 1 and 2 world, with one of several, generically extreme riders.
84 real riders, dozens of official teams and bike manufacturers await you across a series of championships, and the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. And all in all, it looks pretty authentic. Riders and bikes have more logos and endorsements than a box of cigarettes, with the tacky Generation X theme being thrown over everything in site.
Excuse me while I kiss the sky
Checkpoint Races, Head to Head, Elimination Cups and Trick Battles also form the crux of the game modes on offer, but Trick Battles happens to come off second best here, with inputs feeling unresponsive, while the vague timing of the gameplay model will leave players scratching their heads in confusion.
At least multiplayer performs sublimely, with a seamless, lag-free setting that will have you racing against ghosts of your friends and online competitors.
Opponent AI puts up quite a fight though, in MUD. You’ll find them challenging, skilled and aggressive as you jockey for a top spot, and the second that you slip up, they’ll be there to capitalise on your mistake.
On the visual side, MUD keeps things mundane, with passable visuals, but they’re hardly pushing the boundaries of what a console is actually capable of. Tracks retain tire tracks and treads, riders sit stiffly on their bikes, while the design isn’t too inspiring too begin with.
It’s a common theme in MUD, as the game walks a fine line between trying too hard, and giving up halfway in the middle. I’m not saying that the game is a complete waste, but only the most die hard of Motocross fans will get any enjoyment out of it.
It’s a mundane experience, that provides fleeting thrills, moody controls and little to no real motivation to actually carry on with the next race. Everything just feels so manufactured, much like the actual motocross industry today, and a natural feeling of enjoying the bike, of wanting to win a race for the sake of winning, is just missing.
It’s a solid, yet dated official attempt at the genre, that falls into far too many pitfalls that have become associated with BlackBean games in the past.
I’ll be honest here, and say that this game handles like an American muscle car. In a straight line, it’s beautiful, powerful and responsive. It all goes to hell, however, the second that you take a corner.
Sure, these faults can be tweaked to a degree in the menus, but when you have to take those steps, then you’ve obviously made a few design errors along the way. BlackBean, if they continue with the franchise, need to make a decision regarding which style of handling they’re going for, and settle on either arcade or authentic.
Design and Presentation: 5.9/10
Bikes and riders may boast authentic details, but that’s about all the game has going for it. Riders are stiffer than Viagra robots, the tracks all look too familiar, and the textures can be downright horrible at times when they pop up, while an overly emphasised grunge soundtrack blares in the background alongside tacky endorsements and generation X advertising.
With all the faults listed above, for those fans who truly do enjoy the action in front of them and appreciate the authentic environment,they’ll be in for a treat, because MUD has plenty more where that came from, with its various modes and challenges.
Throw in some solid multiplayer, and at least something was done right when they developed this game.
Overall (Not an average): 5.9/10
I love bikes. I’ve been on a few motocross tracks already for fun, so I know what it feels like to experience the sheer thrills and adrenaline that one feels when tackling a muddy corner or using too much throttle to go over a ridge.
MUD touched none of those buttons for me, and while the game isn’t the worst thing ever made, it’s one of the most boring games I’ve ever experienced, and will most likely only appeal to those gear-heads who found previous Blackbean games such as WRC to be exciting.[Reviewed on PS3, played on normal difficulty]
Last Updated: June 12, 2012