There are two ways to go about realistic games. The first is to really get down the appearance and make it, stroke for stroke, identical to the real world situation. Gear.Club Unlimited does an amazing job of making gorgeous cars come to life on the screen and then puts them in impossibly beautiful scenarios where no one ever gets a ding or a fender bender. It delivers visually, but I would argue that driving enthusiasts might feel a little cold towards the simplicity of control. So the solution, therefore, would be to go the other way and make a racing situation wherein some things maybe lack a bit of polish but control and feel like you’re actually out on the track. For what it’s worth, MXGP3 does a bit of both, and is set to make motocross fans very, very happy.
MXGP3 stands for Motocross Grand Prix 3, is the official, certified and stamped game to represent motocross racing on the Nintendo Switch and any other console. Brought to us by Milestone, there is one and one goal alone in the creation of this game: make it true to life. Since they can’t mail you a complete VR kit with feedback bike and actual Monster Energy IV drip (sold separately), the team did the best they could to make the Nintendo Switch feel like you were actually bringing it down to a dirt track in the middle of a field, surrounded by bleachers, sand bags and fans who really think a flagged rope is going to stop a motorbike going 160kph from ruining their day. I really love when gaming companies and brands go hand in hand, because I feel like there must be checks and balances to ensure that the delivered product is top notch. I may not have loved how the actual baseball aspect of RBI Baseball 17 delivered, but I couldn’t ignore how indepth things went in terms of teams, players and the stadiums. And MXGP3 delivers on similar fronts and so, so much more.
For one, character creation is fun, fast and simple. Name, nationality, team, boom, done. Pick the brand of bike you wanna race, it’s all good regardless. But then things really, really start to get in depth the longer you play. The bike can be fine tuned with transmission, engine and tire changes, and different brand sponsorship that can be slapped on. There are also a ton of pre-built bikes to choose from and a huge roster of renowned and world-wide racers whom the average player will know nothing about but they are very, very true to life in their appearance on the track. The levels of detail when customizing the bikes are something that come with time and wins, so don’t think you’re going to make a Frankenbike right out the gate: just be happy they let you decide between a Kawasaki and a Suzuki without any serious penalty.
Once you get out onto the track for your first race, this is where things start to set in. There are different weather conditions that directly and harshly affect the control of the race, from dry to wet to even frozen terrain making things interesting. The land looks fantastic, like it was carved right out of the dirt and the fields and slapped into the game. The devs clearly knew that, with the name MXGP, realism was the name of the game, and fans are not going to be disappointed in appearance or function. The Monster Energy logo is just goddamn everywhere, so, if you feel compelled to grab a drink that energizes you and makes you go to the extreme, that’s not your real feelings, that’s some awesome subliminal marketing that I had already fallen for years ago.
With Gear.Club, I could basically just lay down on the gas and go to town, keeping in mind to occasionally pump the brakes and maybe slow down when necessary. That’s not how you do it in MXGP3. If you think you can just gun it out the gate, you’re gonna die. You have to think about shifting and downshifting gears constantly. You need to learn how to slide and deal with the wet or dusty ground and how that affects your grip on the road. You need to keep an eye out for other racers who are absolutely more skilled than you and aren’t waiting patiently for you to get your grip. This is something where fans of the actual sport, not just sports games in general, are going to thrive, as getting the hang of the process (speed/change/brake/downshift/speed/change) is a huge effort if you’ve never done it before. I was honestly impressed at how unforgiving the game was to my inability to figure it out, and my first race was a disaster, finishing MINUTES behind the other racers. But, when I tried again, I had a better idea of how to approach the situation. I was cautious, figuring out how fast I could safely go while still being in control and knowing I had to slow down at any moment. I only flew into the crowd a couple times, and I got right back on the bike. I appreciate the game not having a “months of intensive physical therapy” simulation, because it honestly wouldn’t have surprised me to find it. It took a long, long time to finally get even a little good. Then I made the mistake of going online.
Jesus, the online races. You know how, if you ever start to feel too cocky with something, you only need to play once against a pro in order to check yourself (also called the Rocket League effect)? That’s exactly how MXGP3 felt. When I was getting passed and coming in 4th to the AI, that was alright because those are computer players. But MXGP3 has a whole host of powerful, competent fans who’ve put time and effort into perfecting their bikes, their technique and memorizing some of the courses entirely. I highly, highly recommend putting a ton of time into getting comfortable with a Pro Controller (Joycons not suggested) before going onto the Internet and finding out how great players can be in terms of tricks and savvy.
The only downside I can really think of for MXGP3 is that it’s not going to attract new fans. Much like the NBA and NFL franchises, MXGP has some loyal, strong-willed supporters who will be thrilled to death that this amazing game is finally available on the Nintendo Switch. It’s borderline breathtaking in terms of delivery and presentation, and the attention to detail is ballistic. But it’s frigging hard to get the hang of things, and I think it comes more naturally if you know what’s expected and the basic idea of how to run a motorbike, and the average “causal” race game fan might be jarred by how tight and critical things can be. Having said all that, this is a hallmark of a title to finally have on the Switch, and I laud and appreciate Milestone for delivering such a quality product into the hands of many an eager fan.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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