Demo Driver 8: MXGP – The Official Motocross Videogame
You know, I’ve gotten several demos where I’ve had nearly the same complaints about different games, but this is the third vaguely-European hyper-simulationist sports title I’ve played now. The first was early in this feature, when I took on RACE 07 and found it lacking in pretty much everything I would want in a racing game. The second was Don Bradman Cricket 14, which may very well have had everything I want in a cricket game, I don’t know. It runs slightly afoul of the fact that I don’t really want a cricket game at all, but still.
And here we are again with MXGP – The Official Motocross Videogame, which seems to be much like RACE 07 except that now I’m playing a man on a little bike instead of a man in a car. I guess that the whole simulation of sports thing is a fairly big field for developers there, since this is now officially a trend. If you’re expecting to have a game in which you have fine control over your bike, the movement thereof, and your rider, well, here you go.
To the game’s credit, the demo kicks off with, mercy of mercies, a tutorial video. I realize that this is no substitute for kicking off with an actual tutorial, but Belphegor be praised, it is bracingly hard to find one of these hard simulation games that feels even the slightest inclination toward explaining all of its various bells and whistles at all. I’ll take a video. I’d take a damn screen of text and set of diagrams, at this point.
In short, the big selling point here is that you can control the rider as well as the bike itself, thus letting you take part in such intense maneuvers as tilting your rider to the left whilst you are turning to make for a sharper corner. To its credit, this is not quite as mindlessly tedious as it might sound, seeing as there are reasons for playing it safe or being a bit more aggressive. Lean too much and your bike will topple over, causing your driver to realistically fall to the ground and then realistically pop back into place in the track a half-second later, wholly uninjured and mostly just dirty.
By way of education, I frequently try and fail to use bikes in games like Saints Row because I start driving them, don’t pay attention, and wind up taking a sharp turn which results in a nasty spillout and usually a dead police officer or two. The bright side is that Saints Row is a game that sort of happens around you, and if there was a way to say “screw the bike” and just start firing a rocket launcher at whatever piqued my interested around the track in MXGP, I did not find it. Perhaps it’s the B button.
As you have probably guessed, I spent a substantial portion of my time in this game bouncing about and falling off of my bike, but I rarely felt as if I had been somehow cheated. Instead, I felt like I had tried to do something too complex, or I’d made a mistake, or in some other way like it was my fault. The sample course that’s included is also a charming example of what the tracks can be, mixing it up between straight segments, bumps, full jumps, and so forth. There is a whole method to the madness in this sort of course, but obviously I knew virtually nothing about it and had to fall back on the tutorial videos and hapless guessing.
The other drivers in the race definitely lean more on the “aggressive” side, I’ll say that. There are no options to directly attack another racer, of course, but neither do there appear to be rules against driving into someone else’s bike and kocking them off, which happened repeatedly.
As always, I’m of two minds about this sort of game. On the one hand, the marvelous element of video games is the fact that we need not replicate reality, that it is possible and even desirable to make games that branch off into bizarre new directions. But the simulation does appear to be, if not an accurate one, at the very least an involved one. So it hits its marks, at least.
Beyond that, it’s far less annoying than I would have expected from a game so dedicated to simulation that I have to worry about the exact angle of my man on a bike whilst ramping hills. Sure, my general preference is that what should matter at that point is whether or not I can pull off a sick guitar solo and launch rockets from my bike, but I did feel as if the control added a layer of subtlety to the gameplay.
Or I would, if I were capable of actually playing the game at the level the developers intended.
The game outright tells you that the only way you’ll get good at the tracks and the various features is practice, and that seems fair. I don’t have the patience to give it, but it’s not misleading, at least. If I awarded games any sort of rating, I would give it moderate stars for the actual gameplay, which is wholly functional if you like that sort of thing and completely unengaging otherwise. For the demo, though, I’d give it high marks for really making an effort to show off what players can do and why.
Also for exceptionally detailed dirt effects. Seriously, you’re filthy after half a lap. Imagine the ubiquitous blood splatters of Dragon Age, except it’s dirt and mud instead and there are no cutscenes. And no dialog. That actually gets away from me a bit, but you see the meaning.