I know nothing about Supercross. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to review Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Video Game 5.
Milestone, the developer and publisher behind Supercross, has been promoting its latest game as the perfect entry point for newcomers to the racing series. And while I didn’t doubt its claim, I felt the need to see just how approachable the game was for someone with no prior knowledge of the series — or the sport.
This isn’t going to be your typical review, but it should give you an idea if you’ll enjoy Supercross 5 — especially if you’re an amateur like me.
Let me take you back to the very beginning of my journey.
What is… Supercross?
I didn’t know if I had what it took to be a Supercross rider, and if it wasn’t for MobileSyrup managing editor Patrick O’Rourke, I wouldn’t have taken the leap.
He said to me, “Look, Kid. You’ve got camera chops, but I wanna see you put yourself out there and become the best rider there ever was.” I wasn’t sure why he was talking like a grizzled coach from an ’80s sports movie, but darn it, I was convinced. It was my time to prove my worth to the MobileSyrup team.
That very same day I was at the stadium, suiting up, and picking my ride. With this being my first time, I was expecting the coaches to break down the basics for me. What were the differences between the bikes and how they control? What are the different parts of the course I should be aware of? And what is Supercross?
Maybe I was a little less experienced than most of the other new riders they’d dealt with, but instead of answering any of my questions, I was told to get on my bike and press the gas. I was nervous, but they said I’d be fine.
It wasn’t fine.
The challenge begins
Within seconds, I was face down in the dirt. The controls of the bike were unwieldy, to say the least. They were simultaneously too twitchy and too loose. I was sent flying off my bike over the smallest bumps. I was clearly doing something wrong, but there wasn’t any feedback to let me know what that was.
I kept at it though, completing all of the recommended training. After about an hour, I was finally starting to get a grasp on the way the bike handled. Unlike other types of racing I’d done, Supercross wasn’t just tasking me with keeping track of my speed, direction, and gear. I also needed to pay attention to the angle of my bike. That concept might seem obvious to most, but using both analogue sticks to control the bike at all times just didn’t feel intuitive to me.
The training wheels needed to come off though, so I signed up for the Future Stars qualifiers. If I performed, I’d be offered a spot in the Supercross Championship. This was my big shot.
The first race started and the adrenaline kicked in. I may have hit the gate on the way out, and maybe pushed a few folks to get to third spot, but I was actually staying upright. Not only was I staying on the track most of the time, I was catching up to second place. The racer in front of me, H. Lee, was blocking my every move. It’s like they were taking the perfect path down the centre of the track at all times. When I’d try to cut them off on the inside, they wouldn’t budge at all, as if I didn’t exist. Eventually, I saw my opening, so I took my shot. I launched past both of the top riders, rocketing to a sizeable leading, and cruising to my first victory.
The remaining two qualifying races were a breeze. It honestly didn’t feel like I was racing against anyone at all. I was racing against myself. I lapped half the pack, becoming the most sought-after racer in the series.
The professional circuit
I’d come away with three victories in three races. Not only was I given a spot in the championship series, I was offered the option to sign with a team. Now, I don’t know much about sponsorships when it comes to Supercross, but I found it kind of weird that all of the contracts were the same. I don’t know who GasGas is, but they were offering me the exact same deal as both Monster and Yamaha. It’s like the teams were in cahoots. Not knowing much about any of them, I did what any rational person would do—I went with the team that had the coolest colours.
I was immediately put into the first race of the season. There I was, the prodigy of the Supercross world. I was confident. I was ready. And… I was in last place.
I shot off the start line, directly into a wall. Not a great start to my Supercross career.
“I can still win this,” I thought to myself. But the nerves were getting to me. I was in 22nd place and there wasn’t enough time to catch up. I finished in 16th place. It was a disgrace. My sponsors were expecting me to finish in first place for the season, and I hadn’t even managed to crack the top 10.
I was confused. Other than being a slightly different layout for the track, nothing was different. Sure, I’d had a rough start to the race, but it felt like the racers were going at twice the speed. Even when I’d messed up in the qualifiers, I was so far out in front that it felt like I couldn’t lose. Of course, these were the best in the world, so it makes sense that they’d be better. But this was a jump in difficulty that I hadn’t seen coming.
My team told me to walk it off and invited me to a team workout. So that’s what I did.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I joined one of the team workouts, but it wasn’t this.
Instead of stretches, some weights, or maybe some cardio, they sent me on a scavenger hunt on my bike in a random field. If I could find the letters S H A P and E, I’d not only improve my skills, but all of my injuries from my previous race would be healed.
I couldn’t tell if I was being used as an errand boy or if this was some ancient Supercross technique, but I gave it my best shot. I barely managed to get two letters. I decided to spend the rest of my week off in practice races, which I easily won. It gave me the confidence to get back out there on the main course again. After all, maybe it was just a tough race.
It wasn’t. I immediately fell to last place again. I was bailing on the simplest corners, getting caught up on the smallest hills. Over the course of the race, I managed to improve my place to 6th, but my overall rank was still well outside of the top 10. The problem wasn’t the handling, though. I was using several assists that made it so that even an amateur such as myself could get through the race with only a crash or two. They helped me to control my braking, level out my bike in the air, and not spin out when accelerating. The problem was that I was zoning out.
Even though the races weren’t very long, every race felt the same. After 30 minutes of racing around nearly identical dirt tracks, in indistinguishable stadiums with mediocre graphics, I was losing interest even as I flew through the air. And that was going to get me in big trouble.
If I didn’t improve my standing, I was going to be fired from my team. I was climbing the ranks, but if I finished in first place, would it be enough? Just like with the contracts, it was assumed that I knew everything about the process. I was just directed from one text menu to the next. So I skipped training for the week and headed right into the next race.
Time to rewind
That’s when I remembered — I had a hidden power. The power to rewind time. Much like my time as a professional Forza Horizon racer, if I crashed, I could turn back the clock and fix my mistakes.
As usual, I crashed on the very first turn of the race. I activated my rewind ability and absolutely nailed the corner.
I thought I’d be on my way to my first professional victory. Instead, I overcorrected my steering and bailed on the next jump. And as it turns out, you can only rewind three times. I was still in trouble. I was crashing every couple of laps and with dozens of laps in a race depending on the amount of time on the clock, even three rewinds weren’t nearly enough.
I ended up in 13th place. Another devastating finish for the number one draft.
The power of looking good
It was time for a change. A major change. I knew what I needed to do. It wasn’t training. It was practice races. I needed cosmetics.
Using what little money I’d earned from the races, I went out shopping. Starting with the helmet, I went big and bold. Neon blue with a dragon. That would grab attention. If they’re looking at my head, they’re not fully holding onto their handles. Then the goggles. Matching blue with just enough tint so that I can still give side-eye as I pass them. Intimidation factor, 9 out of 10. And most importantly, I bought butt padding. But not just any butt padding. I wanted the other riders to know who was on top. When I crossed that finish line, I wanted them to read what they’d be calling me — Daddy.
It should be mentioned that the cosmetics in this game are purchased using currency earned through play. You won’t need to break out your wallet for a new helmet. And the cosmetics, outside of your bike, don’t affect your performance. At least, not according to your stats.
Feeling like a superstar in my new gear. I got back to racing. I was in serious danger of not being in contention for the podium if I didn’t win this next race. It was do or die. And I did it. I kept it clean, clear, and under control.
Unfortunately, not understanding how the points worked in Supercross, I was already out of contention. My team fired me and I didn’t earn my bonus. Oof. Not a great look.
But this wasn’t the end. It was just the beginning. They would call me by my true name. They would call me Daddy!
Beginning of the end
That’s the end of my story, though. While my career was far from over, my time in the spotlight was done. I managed to claw my way to the number one spot the following season and I even managed to collect all five letters in the weekly workout minigame. But my interest had waned.
Every race is the same in Supercross 5. Sure, there are slight variations in the layouts of the courses, but they always feel the same. From the announcer’s introduction to the canned animations, there’s very little to the Supercross 5 experience. Every race begins and ends the same way.
I needed to create my own story to add an element of drama to the experience because it’s sorely lacking across the board. Even when you pull off a photo finish, it doesn’t feel like an achievement. For a game that retails for $80 CAD on the PlayStation Store, there’s very little here to justify that cost.
Once I’d wrapped my head around how the game controlled, the gameplay was decent, but only in short bursts. Though races only last around five minutes, there’s not enough variation to the experience to hold my interest — especially when the AI racers are this basic. They almost never react to your presence, taking the course as if they take the exact same route every single time.
The graphics aren’t up to par with other racers, either, especially on PlayStation 5. The characters’ faces look like rejects from Epic’s metahuman program and the menus feel like they’ve stolen their UI from NHL 2003.
For Supercross enthusiasts, Monster Energy Supercross 5 might hold some entertainment value. There are plenty of names from the Supercross circuit in the game, cosmetic items with lots of detail, and haptic feedback that enhances the immersion. There’s also a rivalry system, though I never felt enticed to engage with it, and even split-screen multiplayer. But it just isn’t enough.
Just because I love hockey doesn’t mean I’ve been happy with EA’s recent entries in the NHL series. And when compared to other sports titles that have a wealth of options from proper story modes to online suites and management modes, Monster Energy Supercross 5 feels like a budget title that has an audience because it’s the only title on the platform for its audience.
I had a couple nights’ worth of fun with Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Video Game 5 learning about the world of Supercross. It didn’t convert me into a fan of the sport, but I never expected it to. I just wanted it to provide a fun gaming experience. And that’s where it failed me the most.
Image credit: Milestone