When I booted up MXGP 2019 and greeted by its slick character customisation, I thought things had changed. See, Milestone has been making MXGP videogames with the FIM Motocross World Championship licence for years, and they’ve featured the smallest, most iterative of upgrades in all that time. Even when they moved to a more modern piece of development software with Unreal Engine 4, the meat and potatoes of it all remained functionally the same. If you thought FIFA was the same thing every year, MXGP games would have you reeling.
So yes, the new production values on the menus alone had me convinced that finally, finally, Milestone had given their latest MXGP game the thorough overhaul that the series rightly deserves. Soon after creating my character, choosing a sponsor and heading on to a race track, I realised I was wrong. Starting a race, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of deja vu, feeling like I’d played this game before. In truth, I have. For years.
Sure it looks a little better now, no longer looking like the screen’s been smeared in vaseline. The mud that sticks to tyres as you make your way around the track looks a little more like actual mud now instead of resembling a remnant of last generation textures. The window dressing’s changed, but the game plays as it always has. It’s a technical game, and zooming around the sandy, muddied tracks isn’t especially easy.
There’s a definite learning curve as you get a handle on using both front and rear brakes, manually shifting driver weight around with the second analogue stick. Once you do get the hang of it, MXGP 2019 is a frequently thrilling ride. There’s something electrifying about getting the holeshot, zooming around an increasingly dangerous, dirty track, skimming around corners and flying off of ramps in your quest for first place. As ever though, you’re able to tweak the game to your own style, favouring a more arcade experience where weight management is handled automatically, or going for the sim experience with all of the assists off. The handy, Forza-like rewind feature also makes mistakes less punishing.
To be fair, it’s not exactly the same game with a new sticker on the label. MXGP 2019 been updated with the 2019 season, letting you play through the racing calendar in a way that mimics the real one. After choosing your sponsor, customising your gear and tinkering with your bike, you’ll race 18 rounds of two races, for 36 in a season. You don’t have to placate your sponsors all that much either, as you’re able to chop and change at will between races – although sticking with a sponsor will net you greater rewards. The game also includes the MX2 circuit, with its age and engine limitations if that’s your thing.
There are two big new modes that make it worthwhile if you haven’t picked up MXGP in years. The first of those is a robust track editor that lets players share their creations with others. It’s a functional editor, but one that I found a little too unintuitive to use. Where games like Super Mario Maker 2 do all they can to enable creators to make new things, this track editor is a little on the cumbersome side. It’s a powerful tool, but one that I found too finicky to use.
The other new mode is definitely a step in the right direction. Called Waypoint, it’s a free-form, not quite open-world experience that’s like a much smaller scale take on Forza Horizon. It gives you a series of interconnected tracks a semblance of open-world around them. You’re able to ride wherever you like, stopping at waypoints to enter different races and events. The typical things are represented, including checkpoint races, normal races and timed ones, and it’s about the most fun I’ve had with the series, just about ever.
I appreciate that Milestone’s actually attempted to add something new this year, by way of the track editor and the sorta open-world Waypoint. They’re both steps in the right direction, but it’s really time that the meat of the game was given a bigger, more exciting overhaul. The biggest problem with MXGP 2019 is that despite the slicker presentation and the somewhat decent representation of Motorcross is that it’s just soulless and bland.
Last Updated: August 27, 2019