MXGP 20 – The Official Motocross Videogame is like a hot chocolate from a Cadbury sachet. A renowned name, distinctive taste and straightforward preparation. But wouldn’t you rather be drinking a large mug of hot chocolate served to you by your local café, sprinkled with soft marshmallows and whipped cream? Yes, of course you would.
The official game of the real-life FIM Motocross World Championship, MXGP 20 features expertly replicated bikes, riders, teams and tracks to deliver an authentic experience. Utilising the license, it has a career mode where you can take your rider from the bottom of MX2 to MXGP glory, vehicle upgrades, online racing, a track editor, time trials and even an open-world area to explore.
If you had a checklist of all the things you wanted from a yearly motorsport video game, MXGP 20 would tick most of them. Somehow though, the result is a little bit plain.
Through the main mode, Career, you start out in the feeder MX2 class using slower bikes in 17 double-header race weeks. You initially create your own rider from a selection of heads and input your name. You can then choose to create your own team, or sign for an existing one. Women’s MX, which has been around since 2005, is not included in the game.
If you sign for an existing outfit, such a Husqvarna team in my case, you can still edit elements of the livery. For instance, you sign a sponsor that provides you with cash post-race, and their logo can be added to your bike. Items such as handlebar grips and chains and can be painted in the colour of your preference.
As you progress through each race, you are given experience points (XP) based upon your performance, helping you rise through Prestige levels. Higher levels mean you can unlock sponsors that pay out more MX Credits and credits can be spent on bike upgrades which improve your performance. The aim is to do well enough in MX2 to be promoted to the main MXGP class of motorcycles for the following season and eventually win the coveted world champion crown.
That all sounds enthralling, a nice work-reward cycle. Unfortunately, the vehicle upgrade path isn’t detailed enough to keep you engaged. You can buy a new front brake disc, for example, from a range of 15 different types. But you can only ever get two bumps in performance. You buy one set that gives you ~10% better retardation, or you by a more expensive set that delivers ~20%. But that’s it.
A Brembo or an EBC disc provides the same bump, and this also applies to items such as tyres and suspension. There’s no development of part departments nor any team management, and therefore any real incentive to invest is lacking.
The net result is a career mode that plods along like a walk across a Lake District field. In the rain. At night. Sure, you’re benefiting your health by being active, but it’s a trudge.
On track, your AI opponents are at least livelier than the progression structure. When you find the right difficulty level, you will discover closely matched opponents that aren’t afraid of overtaking and sometimes even take a different line around the corner lap-to-lap.
There is a tendency, however, for the top two or three riders to disappear off into the distance and on certain tracks, like Russia, the whole field rides too slowly. You feel like a motocross master after smoking them, only to be back mid-pack at the next round on the same difficulty level.
Much like your rivals, the handling characteristics can be benign. You have two options, Standard or Advanced. In Standard, it takes a big impact to dislodge your rider from the bike, and the dirt berms are forgiving. Switch it up to Advanced, and for me, the difference isn’t big enough. You get more wheelspin exiting a corner, and your rider’s propensity to fall off in a crumpled heap increases, but the challenge level doesn’t really ramp up. MXGP Pro from 2018 was a bigger challenge for those who are looking for a sterner test.
That’s okay though, MXGP 20 is an approachable game to ride, and once you’ve learnt your way around the tracks, bumps and difficulty presets, you’ll no doubt find a level where you can win races, even if you haven’t played an MXGP game before. I would like to see more visual aids for absolute beginners, though.
This theme of solid underpinnings, but little to inspire, continues outside of the main mechanisms, too. To developer Milestone’s credit, there is a full mode where you can create your own track, entitled Track Editor. You can select from three base environments – Apple Orchard, Plain Woods.
Then, the canvas is yours. Sharp corners, long straights and massive jumps can be added, and you can even share your creation to the world. Despite a lack of an in-depth tutorial, the process is easy to pick up and you’ll be creating your muddy masterpiece in no time at all.
The use of these created tracks though is a missed opportunity. For one, you can’t add items to your levels, such as trees or tyre barriers, which would liven things up a little. Secondly, the deluge of user-created content is relegated to a sub-menu within Grand Prix or Time Attack modes, the only places they can be used.
Unlike DIRT 5’s Playgrounds mode, the most popular user-created levels seem to be short tracks with titles such as ‘XP booster’ and online leaderboards are notable only by their absence. Speaking of online leaderboards, they don’t even feature in the Time Attack mode, rendering it a football boot without studs.
It’s not just a lack of network connectivity through the game that lets the side down, but the online competitive gameplay too. There is only one option, to join lobbies from a list, and one game mode, a race. You cannot select race options, even if you are host, but rather there is a vote on track, weather and length. Worse, the servers are often barren making it hard to find competition, despite it being close to release.
So far, whether it’s a career path that lacks enough options, a track editor that feels superfluous or the basic online options, MXGP 20 feels like a game from a bygone era.
Which is pertinent, as this game has made it onto ‘next-generation’ hardware. Playing on a PS5, there are rapid loading times, dynamic 4K resolution and 60 frames per second. Mud splatters onto the screen, shirts ruffle in the wind and light glistens off the track puddles. All of this, though, highlights an ultimate lack of visual fidelity to the surfaces. In the rain, the mud looks malleable, and your rear tyre creates a path, but in the dry sometimes the gravel just likes like a block that’s been covered in brown felt.
You also get DualSense functionality in the form of the controller light changing colours as you go up the rev range, the R2 trigger bouncing when you’re on the rev limiter and a rumble feeling that is befitting of a dirt track.
This all culminates in the Playground – an open-world map set in the luscious Norwegian countryside. It’s the best-looking part of the game, with a deep forest and running streams adding to the character. In some ways, the visuals here have the next-gen feeling that’s lacking elsewhere. In this area, you can create your own Waypoint Challenges to share with other players, find races to take part in and just generally explore.
But there’s not really any need to. There aren’t any bike liveries or customisation items to find, nor any hidden classic bikes. The XP and credits you attain don’t make a big difference, plus the races feel lacklustre. If you complete a Waypoint Challenge, the game boots you back to the main menu and not back to the world. I think you may open this, try it for a few minutes, and not got back.
The Playground perfectly encapsulates the mood of MXGP 20. On the surface, easily playable, nicely presented, ticks the boxes – but scratch beneath the surface and it lacks the depth required to elevate it into the upper echelons of racing video game greatness. If you are an MXGP fan, there’s fun to be had with the officially licensed content, but I’d like to see the series reach beyond what is a solid, yet unspectacular, yearly release.
|Release date||16th December 2020 PC, PS4, Xbox One |
14th January 2021 PS5, Xbox Series
|Available platforms||PC (Steam), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series and Google Stadia|
|Best played with||Controller|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.