GAME NAME: Motocross Madness
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360 (XBLA)
RELEASE DATE(S): 10 April 2013
This is not the Motocross Madness that you are used to. The original games were closer to being a motocross simulation title, with access to open areas that could be screwed around with at the player’s leisure. In this new Xbox 360-only release players will see a similar shape to the Motocross Madness from days of yore but this is a very different animal.
For starters players will be taking their Xbox avatars along for the ride, whether they want to or not. Part of this is because Motocross Madness ships with Avatar Famestar support, a feature that some people must like since it appears in several other XBLA titles. The other part is that Motocross Madness is tailored visually to suit the inclusion of the player avatar, the environments are far cartoonier than the original games were and boast sometimes comically oversized (and sometimes undersized) features.
There is no hint of simulation here, developer Bongfish have taken a motocross title, levered in some kart racing mechanics and then somehow added the trick and boost system from SSX into the mix. Overloading your boost lets you bust out uber-tricks that are impossible in normal mode and those tricks look like they should be performed with a snowboard… just saying. For good measure players will have access to Call of Duty-style perks, unlocked by a leveling system, and a range of unlockables for the six available motorcycles as well as the avatar/driver. As with the bike upgrades, which do make a difference to how each bike handles, players can unlock and buy gear for their rider but these clothing additions are merely cosmetic. But that’s not all.
There is a definite online component to Motocross Madness. There are multiplayer events, both in split-screen and an actual online mode, but there is also the MXM Bike Club, where a group of friends can get together to complete objectives. Indeed, the only way to complete most of the objectives is to invite other players to join the Club. What the point of this is isn’t really certain, Clubs can move up in the world rankings based on their performance but this feature supposes that you’ll be playing the game long after you have decimated the single-player component.
And, who knows, maybe you will be. But the single-player side of the game is remarkably short. If you were expecting something more extensive for your 800 Microsoft Points investment, you will be disappointed. There are only three locations to choose from and each of these has three actual race tracks. So you have nine tracks combined for Race and Rival events and the whole Egypt, Australia and Iceland environments are used for the Trick and Explore events.
So far, there isn’t much variety (and the game will be constantly asking you about being connected to the internet if your line happens to be playing up but this doesn’t spoil a run around the track) so the big question is: is Motocross Madness fun to play? For the amount you’re asked to part with to bask in the boost-collecting, jump-tricking, coin-harvesting, skull-finding cartoon of a motocross game, absolutely. Despite its short length in the single player, Motocross Madness will have you out beating times, collecting cash and upgrading your bikes. It is possible to complete the entire game with just the starter bike, provided you max out its stats early but this has the effect of making all but the final race the simplest task you’ll come across all year. Far more entertaining, at least in short bursts, is roaming the countryside in the Explore mode, hitting jumps and generally exploring the world in between the tracks.
The legs on this title will come from online play but is Motocross Madness going to build a solid online community? Microsoft definitely seems to want one but the answer is almost certainly no. Friends may play together for a while but the gameplay is too generic to really last in the face of something better. That isn’t to say that it won’t be fun while it lasts or that you won’t load up the game from time to time to ramp off the Sphinx and try and land in the Nile. But it is a slightly above-average effort that is priced almost perfectly for what you get.
Motocross Madness for the Xbox 360 isn’t going to win any awards, by any stretch of the imagination. It has enough there to keep you busy for a while and the gameplay is good enough to get you to come back to the track from time to time but once you have the whole setup nailed the challenge just vanishes. If you’re riding for fun, alone, or trying to beat other player’s best times on a certain track some of the entertainment value returns. But if you’re not keen on that then Motocross Madness will become an almost-forgotten game installed on your console’s hard drive in short order.