Motocross Madness Review
The long-dormant Motocross Madness IP has been revived for this XBLA exclusive that provides far more excitement than one might expect for a $10 download starring 360 Avatars. After a generation of motocross games that either under-delivered given their price or were just plain bad more often than not, it’s refreshing to see a game like this come in with very little hype and deliver a lot of enjoyable experiences.
There are four modes of play for single-player action, including a traditional series of races, time trials against the dev ghosts in Rivals mode, an exploration mode that puts goodies out in the wild for you to use your boost and trick skills to grab, and a point-based trick mode that you’ll unlock after doing well enough at these events to build your XP up to level eight. XP enables you to get new items for your avatar in this game and also unlocks bikes and upgrades for them. New courses and the like are unlocked just through progress and don’t require XP.
With plenty of variety on tap, it’s of the utmost importance that the gameplay delivers some good stuff and for the most part, that’s the case here. The racing action is exciting, while the tiered trick system is user-friendly with a bit of depth to it. X plus either up, down, left, or right on the left stick gives you four unique simple tricks, while Y is substituted for X with more time-consuming tricks. During some modes, you’ll find skulls that multiply your trick scores, and that’s usually when you’ll want to focus on Y tricks. During a race, you’ll want to alternate between X and Y tricks to build up boost.
Speaking of which, there are two kinds of boost – a basic blue-flamed boost, and an orange-flamed one that happens after you’ve filled the blue bar up. This will result in flames forming around your tires and basically gives you double the boost if you’re able to be patient and either not use much boost or just avoid it altogether. Going for tricks with boost gives you more height, but increases the risk/reward since you’re tempted to go for a tougher trick and can easily misjudge the height and slam into the ground below.
Fortunately, this one of the best respawn systems I’ve dealt with in a motocross game as it puts you really close to where you were and works nearly instantly, so you don’t have to worry about being in first and then suddenly being in eighth due to one mistake. Also, rubber-band AI doesn’t appear to be an issue, so if you’re dominating the race, it will actually feel like it as opposed to feeling that the AI is getting an unfair boost that you aren’t being afforded. The core racing action is impressive with some responsive controls, and the ability to attack using the bumper buttons gives the game a bit of a Road Rash vibe at times. Pretty much everything regarding the gameplay has a high level of polish to it, and it’s quite impressive for a downloadable game.
The graphics are a bit more of a mixed bag, with some good, some bad, and some comedically bad elements to them. The character models and bikes look good, with things like dirt buildup managing to add a sense of realism to a game with super-deformed avatars. Trick animations are nice and smooth, and transition nicely from not only one another, but also intro crash animations. The environments are pretty varied and quite impressive from afar – especially the theme park section. Unfortunately, some areas look quite nasty up close though, with low-res textures being evident the second you get near the pyramids and sphinx structures in Egypt, and some incredibly muddy-looking textures on the ice-filled area.
Then there are things that are so bad they’re good, like texture pop-in that makes things a complete smear until they load up. This is mainly evident for outfits, but will sometimes show up for the environments and while it usually clears up within a second or two of racing, it still looks a bit odd. The funniest stuff comes from clipping issues, where during the pre-race rundown, you’ll see feet going through the ground, and during crashes, massive parts of the character model will just be stuck in the ground, making it appear that you’ve lost a torso, or at least a limb or two in the process.
Motocross Madness’ music isn’t particularly amazing, but it’s serviceable during races. There’s nothing about it you’ll remember afterwards, so it’s not really essential to listen to the in-game soundtrack. It’s the kind of game that benefits from a custom soundtrack feature, but isn’t essential due to a poor default one. The sound effects are quite good though, with vrooms and such sounding powerful, while the sounds of your character flying through the air and then splattering upon the ground adding some comedy to things.
Overall, Motocross Madness is a game that plays really well but suffers from some cosmetic flaws and an underwhelming soundtrack. Still, the core gameplay is outstanding and well worth the $10 price tag. The visual problems rarely affect gameplay for more than a few seconds, and frequently result in at least a few laughs. The generic soundtrack hurts things a bit as well, but as a whole it’s hard not to recommend the game for anyone who loves motocross racing in either real or virtual forms.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
This review is based on a digital copy of Motocross Madness for Xbox Live Arcade provided by Microsoft Studios.