It had been a while since I'd played a quality motorcycle racing game, so I was excited to get my hands on MXGP3 from Milestone.
You can obviously deduce from the title that this is the third game in the series that allows gamers to recreate the experience of racing motocross bikes against the best riders in the world competing on all of the courses in the FIM Motocross World Championship. As a new player to the franchise I can't compare MXGP3 to previous versions, but I can say without a doubt that this is a seriously fun racer that offers plenty of options and challenges.
The heart of the game is Career mode in which you create your own rider, choose a bike, secure sponsorship and hit the circuit, hoping to win the season championship. I started with a Kawasaki KX 250 and a small sponsorship deal and was quickly sent to the track.
I am a huge fan of racing games such as the Forza and Gran Turismo franchises, but it was clear that handling a 4-stroke motorcycle over and through the dirt mounds and muddy twists of a motocross track was nothing like piloting a 700-horsepower supercar around a smoothly paved road race course. I quickly found out there was going to be a learning curve before I was going to win any races.
Fortunately, MXGP3 is pretty forgiving on newbies and there's a good system in place to learn the ropes. The Compound is a test track of sorts where riders can hone their skills on an empty course. To be honest I had a hard time just getting from point A to point B without incident when I first hopped on my virtual KX250. Controls for throttle, steering, brakes (front and back), rider weight, gears and a clutch, were all quite overwhelming in the beginning.
You can dial back the difficulty to allow for automatic shifting and assist with both braking and weight transfer so you can mostly focus on steering and acceleration. After a few minutes I was able to get around the track without careening into a barrier or flying out of bounds.
With my confidence bolstered I went back to the track to challenge other riders on the circuit. I was quickly humbled. Races consist of 22 riders. When the gate drops, all 22 motorcycles sprint toward the first turn to get the hole shot and lead the pack. The course narrows dramatically from the starting line to the first corner, and space quickly becomes a premium. At The Compound my only concern was steering my bike around the track. Now I suddenly had 21 other riders fighting me at every turn and obstacle.
MXGP3 offers the option to restart a race, a selection I chose multiple times as I repeatedly collided with my opponents trying to negotiate the first couple of turns. Also, similar to Forza, you can rewind after a mistake for a do-over if you miss a turn or crash into a foe. My first couple races I was happy with finishing anywhere but last place, but after a few more I was in the top 5 consistently and even took first place once.
The races are challenging but even as a beginner I could feel myself closing the gap with each race. What seemed to be an almost impossible-to-control game at first quickly quickly transitioned into a very fun racing experience over the course of one evening. The difficulty is scalable assuring that the challenge grows with your skills.
All of the drivers from the FIM Motocross 2016 season are included, and the ability to choose from among all of the brands of motocross bikes is awesome. As you progress through your career you earn better sponsorships (which come with harder-to-achieve goals) and you can customize the look of your bike and rider.
At the track you can tune your bike to fit your riding style and the course. I didn't get too heavily into this, only gearing my transmission lower for more acceleration at the cost of top speed. But there are plenty of options to tweak your bike's characteristics to give racing sim lovers plenty to stay busy in the pits.
Overall MXGP3 is a fantastic simulation of motocross racing, one that will earn a long life on my Xbox One's hard drive.
My only complaints are that load times between races seem excruciatingly long, and that newcomers could be turned off by the relatively steep learning curve to control the bikes.
MXGP3 is available now for $49.99 on Playstation 4, Xbox One and Windows. Check out the trailer below.