Ask Daniel Ricciardo what his favourite form of motorsport is and you might be surprised by his answer.
Combining stunts, the challenge of off-road racing and the intense competition that comes with all two-wheeled motorsport, it’s easy to see why Ricciardo and countless others are such big fans of the sport.
There are two major international series when it comes to motocross racing: the FIM-sanctioned MXGP series that races in large scale outdoor circuits across the world, and the US-based AMA Supercross Championship, that races around compact courses in major sports stadiums across the United States.
The fifth entry into the Supercross series developed by two-wheel racing game specialists Milestone is the second to be released on current-generation consoles PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S|X. As an officially licensed title, all the teams, riders and circuits of last year’s Supercross season are available. As you’d expect, all the big names are available to race as or against – Eli Tomac, Cooper Webb, Jason Anderson, Chase Sexton, you name it.
Thanks in no small part to the stadium based circuits in the series, supercross racing can be incredibly frenetic with massive jumps, tricky rhythm sections and high banked turns to master – and that’s before you have to contend with the pack of other riders around you. The sheer volume of obstacles, hazards and other bikes to contend with can make the nature of racing in Supercross 5 pretty overwhelming if you just jump right in.
Thankfully, if this form of motorsport is new to you, there are more options and tutorials than ever before in the series to not just teach you what scrubs and whips are, but how to do them too. You do have to seek out the comprehensive tutorial section in the menu, but it’s what the series should have featured from the first entry. Thankfully, if you’re a veteran of the series or as big a motocross fan as Ricciardo, you can easily ignore it all and just get on playing.
Just as with any self-respecting officially licensed racing game, the main meat of Supercross 5 is the career mode. After creating your own rider using the surprisingly complex editing system, you can choose to start as a young prospect, as a 250cc wildcard rider, or jump straight into the premier class and the 450ccs. With each step, more gameplay elements unlock, such as the ability to sign sponsors, create your own team and even form rivalries.
Racing can take some getting used to, especially if you’re used to cars or circuit racing games. Going as fast as possible is not always the quickest route – it often pays to control your speed deliberately over the jumps and whoops as when you get it wrong, you’ll sacrifice all your momentum and lap time with it. Thankfully, controlling the bikes and keeping clean on all the jumps is easier than it ever has been thanks to some smart riding assists to make jumping easier and provide visual suggestions for how to tackle trickier sections.
Once you get to grips with it, there are advanced physics options and other choices to help give you more control over your bike and offer a greater challenge. Although if you’re a competent racing gamer, you might find that even the medium AI difficulty might be too easy sooner than you think. In a peculiar quirk, your rider can even get injured if you bail too hard, too often, with your performance limited by what you have hurt and how badly you’ve hurt it.
You can earn XP for almost every major action you achieve out on the course and earn money that you can spend on some of the literal hundreds of real world helmets, gloves, suits, boots and other gear to customise your rider. You can also upgrade your abilities, providing boosts to cornering, scrubbing and other areas in the career mode.
Outside of career mode, Supercross 5 includes all the standard race, championship and time trial options you’d expect. Like the MXGP series, Supercross 5 also features a wide open free-roam area called the Compound – a fantastic space for you to get to grips with your bike at leisure or simply just enjoy riding around free from the demands of racing.
As well as all the courses in the game, you can create your own circuits using a handy track editor, where you can make pretty much anything you can imagine – as long as it fits within the confines of the stadium and you can validate it by completing a clean lap. Just do not expect the AI to perform as competently as at the official tracks.
As the game uses the Unreal 4 engine, it’s a decent looking game, but maybe not as impressive as Moto GP 21 or RIDE4 graphically. While the game uses haptics with the DualSense controller on PS5, it’s not implemented as effectively as in Gran Turismo 7 or F1 2021.
The game lacks a lot of the high end presentation and pizazz of games with higher development budgets, but it also offers plenty of welcome features and details that higher profile franchises are sorely lacking.
If you can get your head around the mindset needed to ride these bikes at speed and can overcome the fact that racing will feel more like a battle between you and the track rather than against the other riders, Supercross 5 offers a fun and surprisingly deep single player racing experience. Hardcore motocross fans will naturally be able to point to countless details that they wish were more authentic or improved, but that does not stop this from being a fun, accessible racing game that can be very satisfying when you get into a rhythm.
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Monster Energy Supercross 5
Published: March 2022
Price: £59.99 PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X
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