Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 Review

One of the best presents I ever received as a child was a souped up, 50cc, Honda minibike. It was a gift from my dad for finishing elementary school, if I recall correctly, and he’d had my uncle — a heavy machine mechanic — tinker with it beforehand. The result was a powerful little crotch rocket for kids, which went faster than it was supposed to. I had a blast with it, although I wasn’t a very good driver and regularly ran into things that hadn’t moved in decades. Hell, I even knocked myself out once. However, it was still great fun until I sold it to a friend and used that money to buy an also dangerous trampoline, sans netting.

Perhaps it was that minibike that kick-started my like of extreme sports, or maybe it was due to school skiing/snowboarding days or video games. Either way, they’re something I’ve always liked, albeit mostly from afar and not in a glued-to-the-TV or always-attending-events way. Hell, a lot of it boils down to video games and the Olympics. I used to play almost every extreme sports game they released, including 1080 Snowboarding, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (probably my most played game of all-time) and MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael. That last disc, especially, got a lot of use in my PS2, alongside Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I grew up liking and playing extreme sports video games and that, while my favourite dirtbiking game may be MX 2002, it wasn’t my first. I still play them to this day, as I’ve barely missed any of the ones released on Xbox 360/PS3, Xbox One/PS4 and now Xbox Series/PS5. The latest in this long line-up just so happens to be Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5, which I asked to review when given the opportunity. After all, I’ve played and reviewed all of the others.

As you probably already know, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 is the latest in an annual series from Milestone, which brings the real-life dirtbike racing series to our home consoles. Like a number of other sports games, it does so by blending the line between simulation and arcade experiences, and allows the player to adjust settings in order to move the needle — at least slightly — further towards one or the other. However, it is a Milestone game and, while they certainly try to improve year after year, their games are known to be a bit rough and janky.

Like its predecessors, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 is no different, although it’s a definite improvement.

When the first two games released, I played them until I’d ‘beat’ them by completing their decently-long career modes, tinkering with secondary modes and doing as thorough a ‘play through’ as I could. I didn’t keep going back to them afterwards, but I did finish them pretty well. That was the plan with the third one, but too many other games released at the same time, so I only got partway through the career. Then, last year’s Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 released, and it wasn’t the same. To be honest, I was turned off of it rather quickly and didn’t spend a ton of time with it, because it was so damned frustrating and inaccessible. They upped the difficulty for some reason, and did so to a shocking extent. That’s why I was originally on the fence about whether I should bother with this year’s installment.

Well, if you were turned off of Four like I was, you’ll be happy to hear that things have gone back to ‘normal’ this time around. The result is a game that plays like the first three, and offers the most difficulty — and accessibility — options the series has ever seen. That’s good news for me, because I’m not great at these titles despite my experience with Milestone’s most popular franchise. Reason being is that its AI and physics are so inconsistent. Combined, both things cause me to mostly stick with easier difficulties.

With Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5, Milestone has done some positive renovating and redecorating. The previously dull, basic and uninspired career mode has seen the brunt of this work, and now offers three tiers. The first is a short tournament for newcomers, which gets your created pro initiated into the circuit, while the next two are the rookie and pro careers. Simply put, you must complete one to unlock the next, and so forth. One will make you complete maybe four events, whereas the next will be 9 or so long and the last is something like 17 events in length. How long these events are is completely up to you, too, because the first thing you do is choose whether you want the full experience (more punishing physics, a steeper challenge and qualifying races prior to the main event), a shortened experience (just the main event, with a five minute timer and two more laps after that), or something in-between.

As always, I stuck with the shortened structure.

Of course, when you begin career mode you’re tasked with creating your custom rider, be they male or female. There are a decent amount of faces and hairstyles to choose from, but the odd thing is that they’re locked in together. At least, I couldn’t find the option to change my female rider’s hairstyle after picking the face I wanted to go with. I could change the colour, but that was it. Then again, it’s not like you spend a lot of time looking at your created rider when their heads are generally covered with helmets. That is, outside of race introductions and podium ceremonies.

Furthermore, it was also surprising to always hear the announcer say ‘he’ when introducing my rider. You’d think that a game like this, wherein you can choose to be either sex, would include the word ‘she’ as an option. It certainly wouldn’t have required much more in the way of studio time and recording efforts.

Lastly, career mode introduces new systems, including a journal (which keeps track of your accomplishments, and is also full of challenges), injuries (which are said to affect your rider’s ability to perform out on the track, but can be ‘healed’ by spending a small amount of cash), an experience point system that lets you upgrade your rider’s abilities, and a new compound with its own sets of ‘workouts.’ Oddly enough, though, these workouts consist of objectives asking you to earn a certain amount of points by completing jumps, drifts, tricks, etc., collecting every letter of the word ‘SHAPE’ and maybe doing a flip.

Complementing these things is the always there training mode, in which you can spend your off-time completing passing, jumping, steering and trick-based mini-games in order to earn experience points. They’re better than they’ve ever been, and are pretty fun. I definitely prefer them to the optional extra events, which are just optional races and trick challenges that provide more money if you win them. One thing I never needed in Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 was more money. After buying lots of the (much better and more plentiful) goggles, helmets, butt patches and other types of customizables, and all of the available bike upgrades, I still had lots of pocket money left.

What was I most appreciative of, though? The fact that the new career mode doesn’t include any more of those terrible press conferences and fan events, which made you watch the same one or two cutscenes over and over again. Those were awful, and such an odd design decision. There was nothing interactive about them.

Outside of career mode, there’s a revamped tutorial mode that teaches you the basics, a championship mode where you can choose the bike speeds and events you want to play in a custom championship, seamless online multiplayer and player created tracks, which will attempt to keep things fresh even though all of the game’s courses tend to feel the same. Then again, this game is based on a real life sport, which has rules regarding track design.

If you want, you can also create and share your own tracks. That’s never been something of interest to me, though, so I just fooled around with the improved (and more than fine) track editor before calling it a day. I’m not the creative type, and don’t enjoy games where the object is building and customizing everything. This includes Minecraft. Oddly enough, though, I’ve always been a big fan of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing.

Lastly, there’s the new compound, which is much better than those that came before it even if it does feature fenced off farms that are easy to crash into. This particular map combines a rocky and rural farming community with a boardwalk and lakeside that looks like it came out of a travel brochure. It obviously has a lengthy track or two to practice on, but you’ll be spending a lot of time riding over the rough terrain and wooden docks in order to collect all of the letters within the three minute time limit.

This all leads us to the most important part of this review: talking about the racing, itself. After all, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 is a racing game.

The best compliment that I can give this installment would be to say that it’s an improvement over its predecessors, which it is. The gameplay is faster, tighter and slightly more realistic. I also appreciate the flow assists, which show you where to jump and for how long. That said, this continues to be a bit of a rough and janky experience.

Although Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5‘s physics and racing show improvements, they’re both far from perfect. Like with the previous games, I never knew what to expect when I’d land. Sometimes I’d land sideways, on an angle, or even touch upon a barrier and be fine. Other times, I’d land normally and fall, start going up a jump and randomly fall, or tap a barrier and crash. There continues to be far too little consistency.

As with previous games, I became frustrated by this, although not to the point of cursing at the game or throwing my controller. That’s just not something I do, nor have I ever done it. I would, however, get annoyed by how easily I fell, and get slightly pissed off when a poorly timed or tough-to-explain fall led me to lose ground. While most races were pretty easy on lower difficulties, some were surprisingly competitive for whatever reason, providing yet another inconsistency.

I get that Milestone is a smaller studio, in comparison to those who create triple A racing games, so I always try to give them more leniency. I also generally enjoy the games that they release despite their deficiencies. That said, I do wish that they’d put more effort into making these games less luck based. I shouldn’t have to fight the controls so much, or be unsure of whether I’ll land or fall. It certainly shouldn’t be so easy to land on top of another rider, drive or coast on top of their heads and then drop down to the course like nothing happened. This has been a feature of all of the games, thus far, and although I fell more often than before, it was still very easy to get such an unrealistic ‘advantage’ or physics hiccup in my favour.

Now, let’s move on to the presentation.

If you’ve played any of the previous games in this series, you’ll pretty much know what to expect from the visuals and sound design. It’s all good enough, but nothing really stands out. The tracks look okay, but the dirt and mud textures are hit and miss. Meanwhile, although the riders look more detailed and the lighting on their models is better than it’s ever been, their animations are still stilted and basic, and they don’t look truly next-gen.

The sound continues to be loud and boisterous, like I imagine a real life event would be. The engines are very noisy, the announcing is sparse but adrenaline-filled, and all of the expected sound effects are accounted for. The problem here, though, is that things are a bit too loud. It’s impossible to mute the engine sounds, because the slider stops at the halfway point. Meanwhile, the licensed music — which is very basic and repetitive rock — isn’t all that audible. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because the same song kept playing over and over again.

At the end of the day, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 is a fine, decent, solid and relatively enjoyable game, just like three out of four of its predecessors. If you’re a fan of this type of game, or the real-life sport circuit it’s based on, you’ll likely be attracted to its wares and enjoy it. As is usually the case, this year’s installment is rough, but it’s a definite improvement over what came before it.

This review is based on the Xbox Series S version of the game, which we were provided with.

Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 5 is a step in the right direction, thanks to slightly improved gameplay, more accessibility and a much better career mode. However, it's still rough, inconsistent and occasionally frustrating to play.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The Good Stuff
The career mode is much better than it's ever been
The riders look better, and the lighting has been improved
It has, by far, the best compound yet
The Not-So-Good Stuff
Terribly inconsistent physics and AI lead to frustration
Still looks dated
The music is hard to hear, but is repetitive and mediocre anyway