First Impressions: Getting Muddy with Milestone’s Newest Racers

Nico Faraguna
Xbox PlayStation
Xbox PlayStation Games

I’d consider myself to be a fairly big racing enthusiast. Both in the real world and across the video game landscape. I grew up going to motorcycle races. Watching professionals pilot crotch rockets into windy chicanes and lay their bodies parallel to the ground was probably the coolest thing I ever saw. It sparked a love for racing that is still present today. When I had the opportunity to demo a couple of racing games, GRAVEL and Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame, I eagerly agreed.

My gaming career has had moments of obsession with racing games, specifically sims. DiRT Rally, Gran Turismo, Forza, etc. My penchant for hardmode, realistic racing made me feel closer to those professionals I witnessed live or on the TV.

However, all those titles eventually left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Spending hours grinding to get better at approaching sections of track to shave off incremental times got… tedious. It was easy for me to get frustrated and distracted with some more attractive genre to sink time.

Arcade racers are somewhat a relic from the past — once a saturated genre, it’s no longer as present or popular in the current AAA climate. Looking back to my frustrations with racing sims, I realized that I needed a more casual experience to alleviate my failures. Unfortunately, GRAVEL and Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame weren’t around when I needed them most.

Milestone has been around for decades, making a plethora of motorcycle and car racing games. This year it’s releasing two titles in close proximity to each other.

GRAVEL

GRAVEL, an off-road racer that has shades of classic arcade hits like Cruis’n USA and SEGA Rally Series, takes you across the world with several different disciplines.

  • Cross Country – Wide, sweeping lines with checkpoints make this mode a personal favorite. Surfaces can vary from sand, dirt, and water. The backdrops for some of these locations are absolutely beautiful.
  • Wild Rush – A more classic lap race format that has exotic landscapes and terrain. Somewhat similar to a very “arcady” version of the DiRT series.
  • Speed Cross – The only discipline that involves some asphalt. Players can expect tight chicanes, track replicas, and even some jumps.
  • Stadium – Shades of Off-Road, the classic arcade game came to mind while playing this mode. Jumps, hairpins, and fishtailing makes Stadium races a balance between chaotic and entertaining.

In addition, a story-driven career mode is available for those interested. Players race through the ranks in order to meet the boss of the aforementioned disciplines. Upon defeating the rival, you’ll unlock the next mode. Nothing too innovative, but the gameplay is solid.

For those with a competitive edge, like myself, the multiplayer facets of GRAVEL were most appealing. A fun, rompy racer that shouldn’t be taken too seriously but still has room for fans of the racing sim genre. Players can choose from a robust list of car types and liveries to suit their styles.

Hardcore players will also be happy to know there is a fairly deep car tuning system. You’re able to play without assists, adjust suspension, etc. Or, like myself — I played the game on default settings that had a plethora of assists on and it was a blast, albeit too easy for my experience with racing games.

However, if introducing friends to the racing genre, GRAVEL appears to be able to shrink skill gaps. It makes it entertaining and competitive between friends, regardless of experience.

For racing fans new and old, this might be a title that can bridge the arcade and simulation styles while still being serious enough for those who need.

GRAVEL will be available on PS4, XBOX One and PC on February 27th.

Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame

Switching from four wheels over to two — the folks at Milestone have partnered up with Monster Energy to bring Supercross racing to your living room, with Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame.

For the uninitiated, Supercross racing is a form of “motocross.” Riders on dirtbikes navigate a closed course off-road track full of jumps, chicanes and other terrain obstacles. Riders start on an even line and jostle for positions throughout the multiple lap race. It’s a mix of speed, precision and risk.

Motorcycle racers have come a long way since Excitebike. It’s no secret that the niche has struggled to gain popularity — especially lately. Hopefully Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame will start a trend in the opposite direction.

My time with this title was mostly spent with its track editor feature. It’s probably one of the most intuitive and robust track builders I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. Unlike other “build your own environment” features of some games, the track editor for Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame is a breeze to use.

The variety of track features means you can make countless unique tracks that will never be the same. You select from a pre-set of stadium types that will determine the background and size of your course.

Once you’ve selected your stadium type, you’ll be given the option to select from multiple track pieces to start creating your course. Whether you want to make something abstract, fast or technical; the track editor makes it possible without you pulling out your hair.

Perhaps the coolest part about all of this? You can share your track creations or download others online.

The track editor isn’t the only customization feature of the game. Players will be happy to know that they can fully customize their rider, bikes and team.

As for the gameplay itself? It does a wonderful job of juggling arcade and simulation gameplay. A true motorcycle simulation experience is difficult to produce without making it incredibly unfun and tedious. The physics in Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame work out well — you’ll need to master proper braking, powerslides, optimized jump angles and descents.

I found myself crashing somewhat frequently, but the spills were well warranted. The game packs a surprisingly high skill ceiling, while still being accessible for newbies.

If you want to get your dirt biking fix, you won’t have to wait long. Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame will be available on February 13th on PS4, XBOX One and Nintendo Switch.

Nico Faraguna
I enjoy playing PC games, watching motorcycle racing, and eating good grub
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