Platform: Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade)
Price: 800 MSP
Reviewed by: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
2013’s Motocross Madness is not to be confused with the 1998 classic; while they share many traits and a publisher, they are separate titles. The new Motocross Madness is the released version of the previously announced Avatar Motocross Madness – a largely offroad-based biking title, with your Xbox Live Avatar as your rider. So will Bongfish Games’ title send your avatar proudly flying across your screen? Or will your avatar be hiding their face in shame because of the surroundings it has been placed in? Let’s find out:
If you ask any of my friends who have played Red Dead Redemption, GTA, Saints Row or any racing title with me in the past, they’ll all be able to tell you the same thing – I am a terrible driver and should most certainly be a ‘designated gunner’ because of how frequently I am involved in hilarious and horrifying accidents, often simultaneously. However, my experience Motocross Madness was not entirely spent flying off my motorcycle, because the control scheme is incredibly simple and well-laid out.
You have your basic accelerator and brake buttons on the Xbox controller’s trigger keys, your left-analog steers and your right-analog controls the camera, and the A button is your boost button. There is no handbrake allocation, but rather your B button is a drift button – drifting earns you points and is one of the actions which can fill up your boost bar, the others being performing aerial tricks and picking up boost tokens (only available in events). In the air, your X, Y, B, LB and RB buttons act as trick selection buttons, while moving the left analog stick in one of four directions acts as a modifier. LB and RB control Flips and Whip tricks, X controls simple tricks, Y is advanced tricks and B is insane tricks, which can only be performed once you’ve filled your boost bar.
This simply laid out control scheme works wonders for the title, as you will not be constantly searching for button combinations or contorting your hands into uncomfortable positions to do simultaneous actions. The control scheme is also fairly ambiguous, as it merges a racing layout with a Tony Hawk’s: Pro Skater-esque trick layout, which means that it is a control scheme which remains constant throughout the title’s multiple game modes, namely:
A classic race against 7 opponents on one of the title’s 9 tracks, based in one of three areas and environments (Egypt – Desert, Australia – Woodland, Iceland – Snow). Races get progressively more difficult as you progress through the Career’s stages, against strong AI with progressively faster bikes.
Rivals is basically a time-trial mode, where you are allowed 3 laps to beat the developer’s times on a track. It uses the same tracks as the Race mode, but you are alone on the track with the ghost replays of your opponents. After beating the initial time trials, you are given the ability to play the race again against benchmark times from other players on Xbox Live.
Exploration is exactly what it claims to be – a mode where you can explore a set area. These areas contain the titles 9 tracks on 3 different maps, namely Egypt, Australia and Iceland, and the areas between them, filled with ramps, slopes and collectables which will earn you money and items if you retrieve them.
The trick session mode takes the 9 race tracks’ areas, opens them up and fills them with ramps, jumps and tokens which allows time extensions and trick multipliers. As with the Rivals mode, you will first be evaluated against the developers’ scores and then will have the ability to test yourself against online scores.
Yes, you did not misread. There are only 9 tracks included in-game and judging by the main menu, there will likely be DLC tracks released in the future. However, this is not a major problem, as the majority of your time will likely be spent in the exploration or trick modes, which both have fairly expansive environments to explore, but it does take a lot of the appeal away from the title in the long run. There is a fairly simple levelling system which extends the title’s longevity by offering rewards for the more XP you earn from performing in events. This XP unlocks vehicles for purchase, abilities and items for your in-game avatar.
I had 2 major complaints about the title’s gameplay though: Firstly, while the environments are fairly well-designed, there is a noticeable problem with invisible walls causing falls (and no, this was not just my bad driving), often when you are trying to turn a corner, specifically in races, where drifting too close to the barrier will either cause you to be bumped – often into the air – or where you will inexplicably fall off your bike. This becomes frustrating in 6-minute+ races where your lead is often narrow, and where losing time near the end will cause you to lose.
This problem continues in Explore, where getting within about 3 to 5 metres of the slingshot walls (the boundaries of the playable zone which will fling you for about 500 feet on average for trying to escape the playable zone) triggers their effect. While the launch effects are quite entertaining from the ragdoll physics of your character while falling, this is painful when trying to reach a skull near the edge of the map as you will have less space to either gain speed or launch in without being ricocheted off the invisible walls.
The second, and far more serious issue, is that the title currently fails to launch often. When you enter the title from the Xbox Home screen, you will often be greeted with a black screen, no access to your Xbox Dashboard and no response from any button on your controller. This would be a minor irritant if it only happened once or twice, but a quick Google Search will tell you that this is a fairly common problem and one that I experienced 7 out of 8 times I tried to start the title this morning (after the 8th time, I didn’t quit to try again). This is a massive issue, as its frequency means that you may not get to enjoy your download if you buy Motocross Madness – at least until it gets patched.
Graphically, the title packs a few surprising punches, in addition to looking quite good from the start. Firstly, the environments are well-built, although I feel the snow map would be better suited to Greenland, which often looks more like this, than Iceland, which usually looks more like this. Other than that, the maps show off some of the landmarks of their countries, Iceland has volcanic incursions, Australia has surprisingly open woodlands, and Egypt has desert dunes and the remains of ancient society (Yes, you can go flying off the Sphinx).
The title also has little touch-ups which really add to the experience; when riding through surfaces like snow and desert sand, your tyres will leave tracks and if you crash and respawn, you will often be able to see where you previously rode, and possibly avoid a further accident. Other than that, the title features dust physics – a feature which really sets off the environments while you tear them apart, adding to the title’s immersive value.
The title’s sound effects are spot on – tyres crunching against different surfaces such as ice and snow sound distinctive, as do the differences between 2- and 4-stroke engines (as my neighbours should well know by now). Otherwise, the menus’ soundtracks are lively and energetic as are the soundtracks in the trick, races and rivals mode, however, in Explore, the soundtrack is nowhere to be found. This creates a desolate atmosphere on the Iceland map, but given the title’s frivolous nature, I felt that omitting a soundtrack from the Explore mode made the title quite dull at times. In addition, the menu soundtracks while lively, are slightly limited, and quite soon you will become quite tired of them. So while Motocross Madness’ sound effects are excellent, its soundtrack performance is quite hit-and-miss
The multiplayer allows local and online competitive modes and allows you to compete in the title’s Trick, Explore and Race mode, with only the Rivals mode omitted due to its obvious singleplayer-only functionality. The local modes surprisingly only offers the option for 2 players instead of 4, while the online modes offer up to 8 players in a race/trick session/environment. The multiplayer does suffer from lag, and I have not been in a lobby of 4 or more players where either I or one of my opponents weren’t constantly disappearing or jumping from the lag. However, if you do get into a stable lobby with minimal lag, especially in a free roam lobby, in can be highly entertaining. However, much like the singleplayer, the multiplayer is highly limited by the amount of tracks and maps and will get stale fairly quickly.
As with the multiplayer, the entire title does become stale quite quickly, and with the constant errors when trying to start the title, I really can not see this title being in anyone’s current games for more than a couple of weeks. This is unfortunate, as the title is entertaining, and could have really benefited from a few extra tracks and more players in split-screen, as an inexpensive title such as Motocross Madness with a fair selection of tracks could have made a good distraction on a lazy Sunday afternoon or with a few friends over.
Motocross Madness has the basic structure to be a really entertaining title. It has simple-to-learn gameplay which is fun and can be applied across a multitude of game modes, it has some spot-on sound effects and it has some awesome graphical touches. Unfortunately, it gets let down by a plethora of errors, from invisible walls and barriers setting off separately from their marked boundaries, to a common error where your game outright refuses to start.
The sound and multiplayer are both very hit-and-miss: the sound effects are excellent, and the multiplayer is excellent in its concept, however the soundtrack disappears in the exploration mode and gets quite repetitive and the multiplayer lags too much to actually be enjoyable. As a comparatively cheap title, I am inclined to not be too harsh, but the many flaws of Motocross Madness ensure that the only place I will be seeing my avatar is on my Xbox Home screen.
Lasting Appeal: 5.5/10
Value for Money: 6.5/10