MXGP 2019 is, for all intents and purposes, exactly what you expect it to be. You’ll likely already know if this title is for you: if you’re a fan of the real life sport, then you’ll pick this up in no time. If not… well, while I did end up enjoying my time with it, in the early goings things didn’t look great.
Once booted, you’re presented with fairly self explanatory game modes. Season, Quick Play, Xbox Live etc. One option that stands out is Playground; It’s here where players can get to grips with the tough to learn handling, as well as take part in various extra challenges and modes that aren’t your typical race events. For players such as myself – who have no real knowledge of the real world of MX – this mode is a great place to start.
Plonked in a small-ish open world, you’re free to roam about, testing your bike’s set up and looking for markers to kick off one of the various events in game. These act more like mini game challenges, seemingly designed around short, snappy play sessions (even if the long loading screens put halt to any snappiness here). There’s 3 main events to choose from: Catch-em-all, where you need to collect several objects in a short time window; Gotta Go Faster, where you’ll need to get through checkpoints a quick as possible, and Ace in the Hole, where points are scored by squeezing through narrow gaps. All these events use the same open map that you are free-roaming in, allowing you to learn the terrain outside of competing in them. I found that this mode provided a good respite from the sometimes gruelling nature of the main Season.
Starting out, I was absolutely hopeless. Playing with the default settings has the physics set to realistic, and boy, it doesn’t mess about. Combined with some incredibly tough AI even on the medium setting, I found myself in last place repeatedly. Get to grips with it though, and you’ll find a rather well detailed handling model, allowing you to really maintain control over your bike as you duck and weave through the mud. Pre-race, there’s a plethora of options to adjust, from suspension, to gear ratios and beyond. The little blurb under each setting does a decent job of helping you set up for the race ahead, though I could’ve used a ‘recommended’ set up feature to help get the most out of my bike. There’s also upgrades to purchase to help you out, but most of these are rather expensive, so you’ll need to choose wisely.
Once I’d settled in, and found a decent set up for the bike, I soon found myself competing competently. The initial mad scrabble at the start of a race allowed me to barge my way to the front, and quite often stay there. Which was handy, as if you don’t get a good spot from the off, there’s a fair chance you won’t at all. As mentioned, the AI is solid even on lower difficulties, and rarely did I find any real way to reliably get past anyone in front of me past the first few bends.
Thankfully, this time round there’s a rewind feature, allowing you to undo the last 20 or so seconds as and when you need. This can be turned off – for the purists – but I found it an invaluable tool. Not only does crashing absolutely ruin any lead you had, but the game is also very strict on keeping within the lines. Cut so much as an inch off a corner, and you’ll be unceremoniously dumped back on the track, with any and all momentum gone. Oftentimes, I’d accidentally skip an obstacle too, with the same result. While I understand why this is the case, I would’ve much preferred a penalty system, adding seconds to your final time and calculating your position from there.
But again, once I found my groove with the physics, I ended up quite enjoying the competition. Sneaking on the inside of corners, roughing it up with the handful of riders I could catch, and just generally sliding about in the mud was very satisfying. Tracks deform under the tires of the racers too, creating divots and puddles you’ll need to be mindful of.
It’s a fairly decent looking game as well. Alongside the great looking mud, there’s some really nice looking weather effects, great lighting and realistic bike modelling. There’s some really meaty audio too, with your bike roaring into action at every turn. I did find the constant engine drone a tad too much after a while, and with no background music or even commentary, it didn’t take long before trusty Spotify covered most of my play time.
There’s also a fairly robust track editor here, featuring plenty of options for bends, jumps and straights to allow you to make pretty much any track you like. I couldn’t seem to elevate any section of the track though, so everything took place on a flat plain. These can be uploaded for others to play too, so theoretically, you could end up with more than enough user generated tracks to keep you going. Finally, Xbox Live rounds out the deal, with quick play and private matches available to test your skills out in.
Even if you’re not an ardent follow of the sport, MXGP 2019 still provides a fun, though challenging, racing experience. Great visuals, some fun, responsive handling and great track design more than make up for the difficulty and constant droning of engines.