Over the years I’ve reviewed countless of Milestone S.r.l games. For the most part, these reviews were mostly similar and followed the same flow – and for good reason. While I have massive respect for the Milestone guys, and clearly they have a lot of passion for the games they are making, they always end up short. Their games are always lacking the slight flair and polish to push it to perfection. Granted, there have been incremental updates over the years, but for the most part, each new iteration has been more of the same.
Cue this year’s “more of the same”. Milestone is back with their latest iteration of MXGP, MXGP 2019: The Official Motocross Videogame. Yet, booting up the game I was pleasantly surprised. I was greeted with a much cleaner and more streamlined UI. It was easy to navigate and I knew exactly where I was and what I wanted to achieve. The character creation screen was, to no surprise, slick and well designed. Overall, my first impressions were that of an improved and well-deserved overhauled game. Unfortunately, this impression didn’t last. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the game, but the overhauled experience was only skin deep. Jumping into the racing, you will experience a very real sense of déjà vu.
The good news, however, is that there are some improvements to last year’s MXGP Pro. Even though this was a solid game (like most Milestone games), it had some shortcomings such as texture issues and frame rate drops. These are fortunately nowhere to be found and MXGP 2019 runs buttery smooth. Making the jump to Unreal Engine 4 wasn’t without a hitch, but with each new iteration Milestone manages to iron out more issues. Texture blur while racing is less severe, and pop-in and clipping is non-existent. The draw distance, and the visuals around the track, is significantly improved. I’ve always criticized Milestone games for looking good on track, but once your glaze drifts from the racing line, the quality of graphics significantly drop off. This is less of an issue here, and the graphics on and off track look pretty impressive. Wet weather will cause mud to stick to tires, and water will pool up on track. The track will even chop up and degrade with each lap. In the past, these effects were mostly visual, but this time around the bikes will react to these conditions. The mud will even splatter on your rider’s visor, but a quick tap on the PS4’s touch pad wipes this off. Weather conditions can change during a race, which is a nice touch, but unfortunately the track conditions react to these changes immediately, which takes away from the realism.
It is also the most complete MXGP game to date. Players have access to all the riders, teams and bikes from the 2019 MXGP and MX2 championships featuring all of the 2019’s seasons races, from Neuquen all the way to Shanghai. Sadly, not all of the official tracks are included, with Palembang in Indonesia and the Monster Energy FIM Motorcross of Nations not being present, despite it being in previous games. Unfortunately there is no formal story mode, but after customizing your racer and gear, choosing your ride and your sponsor, you’ll race through the typical racing calendar of 18 rounds of two races. You can swap and change your sponsor as much as you like during a season, but sticking to one nets you greater rewards. You level up your Prestige as you go along, with a higher prestige allowing you better and more lucrative sponsors, which in turn allows you to purchase new gear and upgrade your bike.
Apart from the official races, you can also create your own Grand Prix or championships. The Playground is your own virtual playground, and gives you the ability to mess around and hone your skills. You can also post waypoints with which to challenge online players by posting a time, and having them beat it. There is even a robust track editor that lets players share their creations with others. Even though it is functional, its use is a little unintuitive and cumbersome to use. Granted, should you put in the effort, there is certainly fun to be had.
You will notice that I haven’t mentioned the bikes of their handing. Well, this is because its one area Milestone has perfected. Last year Milestone went a slightly different direction by delivering a simulation-focused MXGP Pro. This year Milestone went back to the franchise’s roots. Nuances like rider balance, scrubbing and line precision don’t seem to matter as much, and in general the game is (slightly) more forgiving than last year’s title. Hardcore racers might find this infuriating, but this is not to say that the game is easy. It is still a technical game, and zooming around the sandy, muddied tracks certainly isn’t easy. There is a definite learning curve as you get to grips with driver weight and brake management. The AI is also well designed, albeit extremely unforgiving. Once you lose your place on the track, you will have to know your stuff if you plan on making you way up the grid. As is typical with Milestone games, you can customize your experience and you can adjust your level of realism.
MXGP 2019 s a step in the right direction since Milestone adopted the Unreal Engine. Its new additions unfortunately doesn’t hide the fact that its more of the same. The game feels extremely familiar. That said, despite its familiarity, the level of polish makes this the best motocross game to date. I realize that I say this at the end of every Milestone game, but MXGP 2019 is (again) a step in the right direction. If this trend continues, it is only a matter of time until we finally have the perfect motorcycle racing game.