Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 Hands-On Preview
I’ve got my weight forward on my dirt bike with the throttle wide open. I’m ready. The gate drops, and I, along with 21 other racers, shoot out, jockeying for position. We speed to the first turn, and I’m near the back of the pack. I shift my weight to the outside, then come back in hard. Everyone else is carried wide by their speed, but my tight angle cuts inside of the pack, and I accelerate to the front. I’ve got the holeshot, the leading position at the start of the race, and just like that, this is my race to lose...
Moments like this are at the heart of Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4. I had an opportunity to go hands-on with the latest entry in the series recently, and it looks like it has the potential to be a strong next step for the franchise.
It Starts with a Feeling
In Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 (Monster Energy Supercross 4 for short), developer Milestone’s expertise in motorcycle racing is apparent from the moment you start your first ride. The bikes have a tangible sense of weight and power. The tracks, replete with bumps, jumps, and grooves carved by other bikes, give constant feedback as you go. Different surfaces, such as dirt, sand, and mud, change the way bikes accelerate or turn, and effective use of blur at high speeds gives a strong sense of velocity.
The act of riding is a blast.
The gameplay straddles a line between sim and arcade, with options to skew further one way or another. By default, the game provides some assistance with shifting your rider's weight, braking, and managing your transmission. There is a rewind function that lets you redo the last several seconds of the race a limited number of times, or you can turn all of that off and switch the assistance features to full manual control for a truer to life experience.
Racing itself is a much more cerebral endeavor than you might expect. Passing your competition requires careful positioning, and the amount of time you spend with your bike in the air, with little to no control, means you are often planning several moves ahead. It’s almost like chess, just with a 450cc four-stroke engine tucked between your legs.
Real World Championship
I started my preview with Championship mode. This series of races is based on the real-life 2020 AMA Supercross World Championship, sponsored by Monster Energy. You face off against hundreds of real-life supercross stars, including Ken Roczen, who is making his much-anticipated debut in the series.
The mode itself is pretty standard for a racer: you accumulate points based on your finishes over a series of races and try and finish in the top spot. The series of races takes place across 11 stadiums, with 17 different tracks and optional qualifying races.
The authenticity of the presentation goes a long way toward making Championship Mode shine.
One of my first races was in State Farm Stadium, where the NFL's Arizona Cardinals play. The stadium is painstakingly recreated, complete with crowds, signage, and title banners the Cardinals have won over the years. The announcers are convincing enough before and after the race, and the fanfare is very true to life for a Supercross broadcast. Even the moving lights on the truss around the starting gates move realistically. It all adds up to an immersing presentation.
The free roam area in Monster Energy Supercross 4 is called “The Compound.” Only a small subsection of this area was available for the preview, but it provided a fun palette cleanser after all the racing. The area I was in had a steep hill with switchbacks, a pair of sizable jumps, and rocks strategically placed to use as impromptu ramps. I was compelled to repeatedly race to the top of the hill and launch myself off of a cliff, attempting aerial stunts as I went.
This was especially entertaining in the updated first-person mode. Even now, I can’t help but smile, recalling riding through the rain as my tinted goggles accumulated dirt, the sound of the rain drumming on my helmet, and being totally absorbed in the world before promptly wrapping my rider around an unseen tree.
The Track Editor is back as well and is easy to use, with a well-designed tutorial to walk you through creating your first track. All tracks need to contain certain elements, such as a starting gate, and they need to be verified as well, which requires both you and AI players to complete one lap around the newly-created track successfully.
Once that tutorial was done, I set about creating my own track with one very specific goal: to see if I could launch myself into the stands. I particularly appreciate that you can jump quickly between editing and testing a track. One long straightaway and a large hill later, I was officially flying into the cheap seats. Success! It was a fun distraction, and I'm interested to see how much the Monster Energy Supercross 4 community embraces the track editor.
Racing to the Future
Monster Energy Supercross 4 has plenty of new features as well. Next-gen consoles and high specification PC's will have support for dynamic 4K and 60fps. There will be an extensive new Career Mode, with skill trees and progression, and online multiplayer with dedicated servers, though neither of those modes were available for this preview build.
Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 has the potential to be a big step forward for the franchise. The riding feels great, and the modes I saw in the preview are all well-crafted and enjoyable. Whether or not the game truly steps into the upper echelon of racing games will depend on how compelling the career mode progression is, and how strong the community around this game grows, but early indications are that this is a game to keep your eye on.
Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 releases March 11 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Stadia.
[Note: Milestone provided the copy of Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 for the purpose of this preview.]