Motocross Madness Xbox 360 Review
After a 12-year interval, Microsoft Studios decided to enlist Bongfish GmbH (they’re German, if you’re wondering what the heck that suffix means) to make a new Motocross Madness, except that, instead of being a PC game, it would be for the Xbox 360, and instead of the previous character modeling style, the rider figures would use Xbox Live’s avatar system, including Avatar FameStar. Thirteen years after the second Motocross Madness game was released for the PC, and Microsoft now has a new entry in to the series. But does it stand apart as a decent motocross simulator, or is it just another gimmick that allows Xbox gamers to play as their console-based doppelganger?
One thing that really makes it different from the previous iterations is that, instead of six modes, there are only four. Two – Race and Rivals – are basically variations of the same thing, wherein a player tries competes against other racers to win, albeit Rivals is more like a “time-to-beat” event that just happens to feature opposing player models. Similarly, Exploration mode and Trick mode use similar maps, albeit they are altered to suit their respective styles. Another major difference from the other games is that there are only a total of 18 completely original areas (27 if you can consider the Trick areas as additional locales instead of Exploration area variants) instead of the 30 from the first game or the 60 from the second. This means that the game is somewhat of a brisk play for anybody that is relatively skilled at racing games, although it can still provide a challenge, especially in exploration mode.
With the regular race mode, the nine tracks are divided by locales, with three per location. The locations are designed in fantastic (as in “fantasy”) visions. The three locations that make up the whole of the game are in Egypt, Australia, and Iceland. Egypt is basically set near the pyramids of Giza, although for some reason there are also tracks that go through some random ruins that look vaguely like they are from the same area as the pyramids. The Australian setting is a coastal jungle, including a regular jungle, a theme park, and a pirate cove. How these three join to one another is a little jarring, but if logic was going to be part of the game, they wouldn’t have integrated Avatars. As for Iceland, the tracks are just as varied, but far more difficult to navigate. All nine tracks have shortcuts, although they tend to go against the player if not taken, as the opposing AI racers – or at least some of them – will definitely utilize them. In order to win later races, a player has to have the entire track down perfectly, or else be stuck as the AI dominates even when the player makes no mistakes.
In Exploration mode, those same tracks seem to be interconnected with one another. The places that connect the tracks, or that are not part of the tracks from the regular races. also seem to be the largest obstacles to gaining prizes, including money offerings and items called Skulls, which are how a player medals in Exploration mode. However, the environments are very well-designed, and although the visuals aren’t incredible – partly because of the limitations present in designing a download-only game – they do feel well-suited to the game design. In Trick session, many sections have large ramps added, and coins and skulls are replaced with extra time (Trick sessions have timers so that players only medal if they achieve a certain number of points within the time frame) and score multipliers that would normally require performing a series of tricks without crashing.
Speaking of tricks, while a player starts out being able to do only the most basic of tricks, once further skills become available (the game involves a leveling system to unlock skills, and also requires a certain level before gaining Rivals, Exploration, and Trick modes), the tricks available are all kinds of crazy. One of the more insane ones involves the bike getting a backspin misty flip while the avatar does a backwards barrel roll flip, which is all kinds of impossible, but looks completely insane on the screen. More basic moves can become modified if done long enough, and of course, there are also the more basic flips on the bike or pushing the wheels almost parallel to the ground in front of the rider. All of this adds quite a bit of visual variety to a ride, and if done properly, also allows a player to boost his or her bike at fairly opportune times.
Of course, while all of this is quite useful, it can also become something of a downside. Being too fast means that it’s quite possible for a bike to go off a jump and subsequently end up going off the track by over-shooting an angled jump. Players can also crash by improperly executing stunts and then landing flat instead of at an angle. Finally, there are obstacles and track positions that make it so that if a driver lands a jump in the wrong spot, even if they’re technically on the track, the have an unavoidable wreck. Familiarity with the track doesn’t necessarily help, either, as doing something slightly improperly can cost a player. This is also true in Exploration and Trick sessions, except that a larger percentage of the playable area is basically obstacles, though some do assist with tricks and gaining objectives. However, some of the areas seem impossible to correctly navigate in either of the two open-track modes, no matter how often one makes an attempt.
The final part of the game that is notable is the customization. There are, once a player unlocks them, six motorcycles available, each with their benefits and downsides. Using in-game money gained via races – either as prize money or from coins grabbed during the events – a player can upgrade the engine, transmission, tires, and shocks. A player can also change the paint job on each bike between three different schemes with color variations. Each upgrade changes the class, with each bike topping out at S (though that takes quite a bit of time and effort). Because of the Avatar FameStar system, there are also game-specific outfits that can be equipped, and which show up on a player’s avatar in any FameStar game, even if it happens to be motocross gear. This type of customization seems to be the ultimate reason for making this an avatar game. Of course, a person needs to have an internet connection active to gain any of the benefits from the FameStar connection, but considering the game itself is download-only, the presence of a stable internet connection is something that the developers are right in assuming.
Ultimately, Microsoft and Bongfish have made a motocross game that is not without its flaws, but which, in spite of its limitations, is quite enjoyable. Its inter-connectivity with other games is definitely a plus, and the fact that it takes its cues from a very popular and highly-praised duo of PC games is a step in the right direction.
+ Customization for the rider and motorcycle
+ Enjoyable visuals
+ Creative uses of the track
+ Tricks that make the game really pop
+ Just enough realism to still make it feel like a motocross game
+ Linked to other games via the FameStar syste.
– Track navigation can be tricky
– Limited number of environs
– AI that seems to be leveled a little high
– Obstacles placed in locations that heavily interfere with gameplay
– Download-only/Always-on features
Overall Rating: 8.0/10