Monster Energy Supercross 2 First Impressions

Ned Jordan
In Short
The 2108 Monster Energy Cup was the perfect place to reveal Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 2, and we were there to be among the first to play the game.

Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 2 is a long title for a game, but if you've ever seen a supercross event you'll know that Monster Energy puts its name and logo on everything at those events and it's no different with its licensed games. The game's developer, Milestone, chose to reveal the game at one of these events, the 2018 Monster Energy Cup, and I was lucky enough to be on hand to both try out the game and watch the race.

The game was announced by Ralph Sheheen, the voice of supercross on Fox Sports TV, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas during the pre-race day press event and gameplay footage was first revealed on the stadium big screen during the announcement. A few of the riders were also on-hand for the press event, including Eli Tomac, who revealed that he will be appearing in a Monster Energy Supercross game for the first time.

Once the press event livestream broadcast wrapped up and the riders were given the chance to test the track, we headed up to the stadium's club level suite to get our hands on the game and be the first people outside of the developers to play it. The game is still in development and four months away from release, so most of the game was locked from play. I was able to try out the game in two modes, though, single race and the training compound.

Single race allows you to select a pro rider, pick one of the locations of AMA supercross events from either the 450SX, 250SX East, or 250SX West circuits. I started out with a 450SX event at Sam Boyd stadium so I could play an event while I could see the actual stadium just outside the windows. While the stadium was accurately rendered, the track was different since the 2018 Monster Energy Cup was held on a special track designed by five-time supercross champ Ricky Carmichael for that event that featured two turns that went up into the stands and a stretch of track that went out of the stadium and then back in to allow the riders to build up a lot of speed. Still, the regular cup series track provided plenty of challenges of its own.

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The first thing I noticed about the game was that it looks amazing. The graphics were incredibly detailed, from the stadium and track down to the individual components of the bikes. The developers mentioned to me a few times that the graphics weren't finalized yet, so expect this to be one fantastic looking racing game when it is released. Once my first race started it became very obvious that the game's realism extended beyond the graphics to the gameplay itself. I naively thought that I could do OK on my first test drive of the game using only the throttle and brakes, but that illusion was quickly shattered as I had to keep picking myself up off of the track while the rest of the riders raced to try and lap me.

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Not one to be easily frustrated, I grabbed hold of a controller layout card to see what I was missing and found that it was plenty. Monster Energy Supercross gives you control over the clutch and gearing system, separate front and rear brake controls, rider lean and weight shift, and more. Armed with this additional knowledge I got back up on the bike and ran another race.

Once I started to use the lean control I had a lot more control on the turns and I was able to be more consistent on the landings after jumps. I also paid more attention to the game's new Dynamic Flow Aid feature which uses a blue translucent arrow to show you the best place to hit each jump and where to make your landing. I also got a tip from one of the developers to pay attention to the track as it is deformed during a race because you'll want to stick to the track ruts carved out by the other riders. I wasn't winning races at this point by any means, but I began to get a better feel for what it takes to race a supercross bike.

I spoke with the game developers after a few races and they told me that there will be tutorials and game aids available when the game is released to ease you into the game. They also pointed me towards the game's training compound mode as a good place to practice riding. When the game is released the compound will double as an online social space where you can find race locations and race against other players online. Taking their advice I gave the compound a try and it did prove to be a good place to practice jumps both large and small, get a feel for how to attack track features, and in general keep on my bike while racing. After playing around in the compound and getting a better feel how to control the bike, I headed into race events again. I found that I had improved, but still had a ways to go before I could be competitive with the other riders on the track. Given more time I felt like I would be able to become a better rider, though. I found this to be a good sign that the game was tough, but fair -the simulation of the sport realistic enough that the challenge is there but that you could get better with practice. The game won't let you approach it like an arcade racer, but I think that fans of the sport or those who ride in real life will appreciate that.

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The game features 80 real-world racers and it was at once awesome and surreal to see some of them hanging out in the gaming area trying out the game. The racer I was using while playing at one point was sitting one couch over from me and playing the game as well. It was a definite treat to see Eli Tomac play the game while Ralph Sheheen and Jeff Emig called his virtual race. It was also a bit of a consolation to see that Tomac found the game to be a bit challenging as well, something that Sheheen and Emig couldn't help ribbing him about during their race commentary. Tomac had the last laugh, though, as the next day he took home the million dollar prize for winning all three races, the last in spectacular fashion as he had to make his way up from seventh place.

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The game is challenging because the sport is challenging. I had the opportunity to walk the track that the riders would be racing on a couple of hours before the main event. The jumps are steep, so steep that they are hard to walk up and even more challenging to walk down while staying on your feet. The dirt that makes up the track is watered down, so it's muddy in that thick heavy clumpy way. After finding it difficult just to walk around the track, I gained a new appreciation for the skill it takes to ride it.

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Even though my time with the game was short and I was only able to experience a fraction of it, I found that I had fun playing it and look forward to playing the full game when it is released in February. With all of the professional riders and tracks available in the game (and the announced career mode), fans of supercross will probably really enjoy the game. And those of you new to the sport like me may just find that the game will make you a fan of the sport.

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Transmitted: 3/1/2021 6:16:10 AM