If you're a newcomer to the world of motocross then MXGP 2, the sequel to the rather disappointing MXGP, will lend you training wheels in the beginning. The game offers up a tutorial which teaches you to control all those hefty horse powers through some bumpy tracks. To control a vehicle on two wheels through muddy obstacles is much harder than you might imagine, and it certainly provides a different challenge to what you'll face in the average, four-wheeled racing game. You need to keep your focus to maintain your stability.
Unfortunately we can't tell you how it feels to race these bikes on tracks in real life, since we've never experienced that. We can only measure it against our expectations and some preconceived notions. MXGP 2 manages to live up to these fairly well, and it wouldn't surprise us to find out that this is indeed how the sport feels in the real world (with a lot more muscular effort, of course).
One of the negative aspects of the previous title, was the inability to control the bikes and riders mid air. Milestone listened to its users and did something about that for this year's iteration. If you get the angle right as you take off into a jump, you can adjust this mid-air just like Tim Gajser and his competitors do. It takes some time to master, but it can be done. The most important thing is to learn the tracks so that you know how to enter a turn when you can't see the exit.
Without a doubt, we're bigger fans of motor vehicles with four wheels than two, but we have enjoyed various MX-games in the past. That being said, the best part of the MX vs ATV-series was the supercross where you could have some fun and do tricks on a closed track. MXGP 2 is focused solely on the racing aspect of the sport, which can be a little tiresome after several hours behind the bars.
Just so we're clear, this game is mainly about the career mode and not the online element, unlike many other games in the genre. Milestone is not known for having the best servers for it's games, and MXGP 2 is unfortunately no exception. There are a lot of connection issues, not least graphics that make you think the game has had a seizure, no matter how stable your internet connection. Combined these made the online mode almost unplayable for us. Career mode, on the other hand, is fortunately much better.
Through the career you are able to chose from either becoming a factory driver, or going private with your own sponsors and objectives. This is where all the licenses come to good use. Even if all the brands aren't represented, there is a good amount of parts and manufacturers to help you modify your bike down to the smallest detail. Another new mode for this version is MXoN, Motocross of Nations. You will be able to represent your country against other nations. Even though not all countries are represented, most known riders are.
Graphics wise, MXGP 2 is average at best. It doesn't have the most impressive visuals and it really doesn't feel more technically advanced than a PS3 title. The crowd is pretty well done, and this is something of a saving grace, but it's not enough. And on top of that, the sound effects are just terrible.
When we reviewed Dirt Rally we commended it for its audio. You can really tell what a rally car sounds like in that game. With MXGP 2 you get the exact opposite for the bikes. We're tempted to say that when we placed playing cards through the spokes on the wheels of our bicycles as kids, we got a more realistic sound than what Milestone has been able to create in this game. It sounds more like a bunch of vacuum cleaners are running through the mud than motorcycles, and even if that could be amusing on a late Saturday night, fans of the sport will not appreciate it. When it comes to motorsport, audio is half the experience.
To sum it up, we can't say that you won't be able to enjoy MXGP 2, because there are positive elements, but for us it was a case of too much of the same. It's solid but unspectacular, and ultimately we'd rather fire up Dirt Rally for some four-wheeled racing than spend more time gripping the handlebars here.
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