Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3 (which I shall refer to as MES3 going forward) doesn’t offer a huge advancement from its predecessors, has an extremely limited audience, and sports a title so long that my Steam library window cuts it off before it reaches the halfway point. It has a useless tutorial stacked in front of gameplay that is not easy to pick up or understand to casual players. It’s not even the game with the most aggressive Monster Energy drink placement released in the last few months. It is, however, lots of fun to play and incredibly easy on the eyes. It delivers a strong sense of speed and its hectic races deliver the goods, making it the first big surprise of 2020 for me.
Dirt bikes are cool
I will not waste time by listing out the complete feature set for MES3, but the short pitch for the game is that it offers a fully-licensed 2019 AMA Monster Energy Supercross season, complete with real-life bikes and riders. It follows Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 2, MXGP 19, MotoGP 19, and RIDE 3 as the latest two-wheeled adventure from the folks at Italian developer Milestone. These guys crank out a dizzying number of bike games, but have managed to improve on the formula with each new outing and MES3 continues the trend.
Players can opt for single events, time trials, or go into a Career mode and experience the full-season competition. Both riders and bikes are customizable and MES3 adds the option to use female riders for the first time. Their face models are about as creepy as those found on their male counterparts, but who plays these games for faces?
The action is found in the dirt and for this outing, most of it takes place across a variety of arenas and a few outdoor events. Those who are series veterans will be instantly familiar with the basics of bike handling as the game handles much like MXGP 19 and MES2. Minor physics changes have improved the feel of the riding experience. The game offers the choice of Standard or Advanced handling modes, with Advanced being the clear winner, as it offers the player full control over weight distribution and in my experience, makes the tire to dirt interactions feel better (though I know next to nothing about dirt bike racing).
Rider weight distribution and throttle control determine how fast you can take corners and what happens when you launch off dirt ramps. New or casual players will lay the bikes down in the mud often, but MES3 repays an investment into learning the nuances of its control mechanics. The first time you successfully manage to skim your bike over a whoops section without losing speed is quite a thrill. Maintaining top speeds without casing the bike on the backside of a landing is the name of the game and critical for success.
Under the bright lights
A large part of the fun in MES3 comes from the overall in-event presentation. Running on Unreal Engine, the game uses all of the standard graphical effects in a way that is more than the sum of its parts. Great character models and outstanding lighting help make MES3 a pleasure to look at. The indoor stadium and night events, in particular, begin to approach a look that would be nearly indistinguishable from the real thing on TV if not for the animations and the overall darker look of the proceedings. The helmet cam is really good, with a narrow field of view and the simulation of head movements helping to enhance the on-track excitement.
On my PC, the game ran flawlessly. I had every option cranked to the max and never experienced a hiccup. On the GeForce GTX 1080Ti, I was able to run at 4K with a 60Hz lock and system monitoring showed that the GPU was only at 50% utilization. Players with low-budget and mid-tier hardware should expect to run MES3 with all the bells and whistles. The crown jewel of the visual would definitely be the HDR implementation. While it was impressive in MXGP 19, it borders on transformative during indoor and night events in MES3. Rider outfits offer vibrant colors and the stadium lights offer a piercing contrast to the dimmed backdrop of the crowds. In replays and during certain race moments, it is possible to forget you are watching a game.
All is not perfect on the tracks. Sometimes, AI riders seem to tap your bike when it doesn’t look like there was touching and can cause you to lose speed or send you off a launch to broken bones. Track border blocks line most parts of the tracks and they look like they should just be plastic-covered foam or something similar, but making contact with them would indicate they are made of solid steel sometimes. The game is quick to reset your bike for what seems like the smallest off-track detour, while other times you are given a five-second countdown.
I do wish the accidents and wipeouts were more spectacular, with the lack of bike destruction or breakage being disappointing. Exaggerated rider ragdolls would also be fun, but a bit out of place in a game with a more sim-like focus. I’d like to see more track deformation and better globs of dirt or mud particles. Maybe future installments can make use of DXR features like the ray-traced debris seen in last year’s Control. The biggest knock against MES3 will be that the game is largely the same as previous installments and returning players won’t find many new additions to the admittedly strong formula. If you already bought four other Milestone bike games in the last year, does this one really warrant the price?
I am probably higher on Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3 than I would be on most games, but I feel like the enjoyment I have playing helps to push concerns to the side. I am looking forward to messing around in multiplayer, particularly with the test track compound free-roam. This title will lack the casual arcade appeal of bike classics like Motocross Madness and some prospective customers will most likely be suffering from bike game overexposure, but I encourage newcomers and those curious about the sport to dive in. The PC version is outstanding, with great performance and no stability issues during my testing. I am a sucker for speed and when it looks this good, how could I resist? 8/10 Italian pinched finger emoji
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher. Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3 was made available for Steam, Stadia, Xbox One, and PS4 on February 4, for $49.99.
- Oustanding HDR-enhanced visuals
- Solid handling model rewards time investment
- Online free-roam in compound
- PC version runs great
- Largely the same game as its predecessors
- Extremely limited niche appeal
- Physics/track object quirks