Monster Energy Supercross — The Official Videogame 4 Review: Stuck in Neutral

Monster Energy Supercross 4 — The Official Videogame has a strong racing foundation but is unfriendly to newcomers and only a moderate upgrade over its predecessors.

When something is great at many things, but not superb in any particular area, we call that it a Jack of All Trades. Monster Energy Supercross 4  The Official Videogame (Supercross 4 for short) is the opposite of this. The game is a masterclass of great motocross racing.

The core riding mechanic is exceptional, provided you are able to muster the skills necessary to take advantage of it. But because it focuses so intently on getting that formula right, Supercross 4 is also an extremely shallow game, with additional modes that are unambitious and poorly executed. It results in an experience with limited appeal outside of diehard supercross fans.  

Monster Energy Supercross — The Official Videogame 4 Review: Stuck in Neutral

As we noted in our preview, Supercross 4 is an authentic motocross game based on the real-world AMA Supercross World Championship, a series of races in which riders race dirt bikes on challenging tracks covered in sharp turns, complex series of hills and bumps, and crowd-pleasing jumps.

These contests are a series of heats where riders earn their way to the main event and accumulate points towards a place on the podium at the end of the season.

The core gameplay is outstanding but difficult. Winning races requires skillful riding. It isn’t enough to simply speed around the track and avoid crashes. You need to plan the line your bike will take in advance, and make very deliberate choices about how to approach different sections. You must shift your rider’s weight to not wreck on turns or when hitting jumps, and hitting a series of jumps at the wrong speed, for example, will leave your rider slowly bobbing up and down while the rest of the pack flies out ahead of you.

The game provides a very limited tutorial, but even that seems geared towards motocross fans who have watched enough races to know the difference between “whoops," jumps, doubles, and triples, and know strategically how to approach each. That’s a shame because races are thrilling when you are near the front of the pack, jockeying for position with your fellow riders. However, the learning curve to get to that point, even on the easiest difficulty setting, is extremely steep. 

If you are able to master the racing, then you are treated to an authentic Supercross experience. The massive rosters of over 100 real-world racers, set in 17 real-world tracks, is beautifully presented. More than 20 official teams fill the arenas with sponsors you would expect to see at a supercross event. Excellent visuals and rich audio work in tandem to create an immersive experience.  

Unfortunately, modes outside of the Championship series don’t fare as well. The single-player career mode is pretty basic. You begin in the all-new Futures category. Through races, events, and training, you rank up your rider and make your way into the rookie and pro classes. There are upgrades for your bike that you purchase, and you can join teams or find sponsors to earn more prestige.

The rider upgrades are just a few linear trees that upgrade skills like braking, turning, and performing mid-air stunts. On paper, these sound as if they add depth to the career mode. In practice, it is very linear and feels more like you are removing handicaps for parity more than you are building the next Supercross superstar. 

Most skill points come from training activities between races, and the system is frustrating. You are given three total attempts before each race that can be spread across five different training types, ranging from incredibly short races to driving through gates on a track or hitting tricks on jumps.

The problem is that you have three attempts total, and there is no way to practice without consuming an attempt. You are much better off spending your time in the easier activities. The skill tree is fairly small, and fills up quickly, making it a non-factor after just a few hours.  

The free roam mode isn’t any better. There is some fun to be had (for a few minutes) exploring and seeing how aggressively you can wrap your rider around a tree. You can find 20 collectibles scattered around the map, and there are some places you can park to launch small races or time trials. It’s all very shallow.

Worse, the experience is poorly optimized. It’s jarring to go from a beautifully rendered Daytona Speedway in career mode to the constant popping of trees on bland dirt textures in other modes, something that should not be a concern on the RTX 3090 powered PC this game was reviewed on. 

Monster Energy Supercross — The Official Videogame 4 Review: The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Top-tier motocross racing
  • Excellent visuals
  • Authentic tracks and sponsors

Cons

  • Modest improvement over prior games
  • Unwelcoming to newcomers
  • Career and Compound are disappointingly shallow

At this point, Monster Energy Supercross is a fully annualized franchise. The internet doesn’t need another dissertation on the pitfalls of this approach, but it puts this game at a bit of an odd crossroads. The best experience in this game will go to players that know how to race well. Yet it does very little to teach new players how to do that.

Experienced players who can do that probably already have Supercross 3, and the changes to this year's release are more iterative than evolutionary. Tweaking a few modes, increasing roster sizes, and refining the physics may not be enough to justify buying an entirely new game.

Monster Energy Supercross 4 is not a Jack of All Trades. It attempts to do many things, but most of them fall flat. However, what it does do well, namely thrilling and authentic motocross racing, it does with complete mastery.

This is an occasionally great game that is often mediocre, and a minor upgrade as a sequel.  

[Note: Milestone provided the copy of Monster Energy Supercross — The Official Videogame 4 used for this review.]

Our Rating
7
Monster Energy Supercross 4 — The Official Videogame has a strong racing foundation but is unfriendly to newcomers and only a moderate upgrade over its predecessors.

Contributor

Justin is a married father of two, has too many pets, and is a life-long gamer. When he's not in the virtual world he specializes in live event production, designing events for corporate clients such as Microsoft and Nintendo.

Published Jul. 1st 2021

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