MUD: FIM Motocross Championship Review (PS Vita)
When it comes to motocross games, there have never been a ton of options for us to choose from. And with the MX vs ATV franchise in THQ limbo, we have even fewer options. Luckily, Namco Bandai and developer Milestone have given us MUD: FIM Motocross World Championship: a motocross game with solid gameplay, but a few issues that severely hurt it.
Released last year in Europe -- but just now coming to North America -- FIM Motocross features racing gameplay most people will easily recognize. Its transition to the PlayStation Vita is outstanding, as the gameplay feels just as smooth as its home console counterparts.
When it comes to racing games, the A.I. and handling models are vital to your experience with them. Terrible A.I. and poor handling can force any player to put down a game in an instant. Fortunately for everyone interested in FIM Motocross, you don't have to worry about that; Milestone did a superb job programming the A.I. They start out as rather easy to compete against with them ramping up the difficulty with new set of levels you unlock.
When it comes to how the bikes handle, their handling model feels right, not too loose, but also featuring a challenge on certain tracks. Going around tight corners never felt like you were going to fall of the bike and you can even upgrade your riders agility, which helps you corner said corners a little easier.
The game does a decent job of letting you know when to scrub, which is you twisting your bike to get more air on a jump. Getting a perfect or good rating after performing a scrub gives you a little speed boost. That is something that the last few MX vs ATV games never did, leaving you to try and time your jumps with little-to-no success. If you are a hardcore motocross fan and you don't want to game to notify you when to scrub, you can turn that feature off.
The A.I. and handling model are what makes the gameplay so pleasant to play. You never feel like you're fighting the game to get a win in a race. Now, if only a better career mode was included in the game...
Official Mode is where you go through a quick race or a championship. Championship has you going through 12 different countries, each compiled of a few events. This particular race type will require you to have a lot of free time. Luckily, the Vita can be put into sleep mode if you want or need some time to rest.
I hinted at the career mode and it's time we discuss why it's so bad. MUD World Tour plays as the main career mode. To start off, you are given one character -- or as the game calls them "heroes" -- with three more being unlocked with the coins earned after completing races and various objectives.
Since coins are your main source of currency, that is how everything is unlocked in the game -- from new events, to characters, to even the equipment for your driver. This is one of the main problems with FIM Motocross; there are times where you have to play the same race two or three times just to earn enough coins so you can unlock the next tier. It would have been great to have each tier be unlocked based on how you finish in each race. Then, let the characters and their abilities be what the coins are used for. With what they have in World Tour mode, you have to make a gut decision on what to spend the coins on -- upgrading your driver or competing in new events.
Believe it or not, playing cards is also a big part of the World Tour. These cards are ways to get sponsors for bigger coin payouts and for equipment such as helmets and speed boosts in the form of energy drinks (yeah, energy drinks).
World Tour features 55 total events spanning the likes of the United States, Spain and the Czech Republic. Races are not the only event types featured, either. There are checkpoint, head-to-head and trick events. Those trick events do a decent job of providing a break in the career mode that mainly features variations on a race. Starting off in World Tour there are only four tricks at your disposal, with other tricks having to be purchased from the trick shop. Thankfully you don't need to know each trick off the top of your head, every trick is viewable via the pause menu.
The way unlocking each new level and event is handled really hampers the game. To have such superb gameplay and have it be tied down to this dull and repetitive career mode structure just hurts the whole product.
Online play is supported for up to six players. The gameplay is definitely fun to play, so it's disappointing to report that finding an online game is impossible. This could be due to it being only a digital title on the Vita in North America or that it's newly-released, but still, we would love to have opponents to race against. After a week of trying multiple times a day, we were unsuccessful in finding anybody else playing. Once we actually find a lobby with other players, we will be sure to report back our thoughts.
When compared to recent motocross games, FIM Motocross does hold its own and is actually better than the last few MX vs ATV games. What ends up holding it back is the structure of the career mode. The events are entertaining, but the way you go about unlocking them can be a chore. It's also sad that there is no online audience for it, so if you're thinking about buying it for the multiplayer, you will be sorely disappointed.
Even with all that said though, the gameplay is still superb; it's just a real shame that the wrapping around it is so monotonous to go through. Add that to the multiplayer that almost nobody knows about and you have a game that is just short of being good. As a person who really likes the gameplay, I honestly hope Milestone makes another in the series, because I know they can improve these aspects of the game to make it a staple in this genre.
Learning Curve: As for most racing games, the learning curve is very minimal. FIM Motocross does a nice job of even telling you what to do in certain areas; so if you're new to motocross games it does a good job of providing training wheels for you with tips and tutorials.
Visuals: A mixed bag. When racing on certain tracks, the ground textures look fine. Then, on some tracks they look awful. The ground and mud textures are the only things that are inconsistent when it comes to the visuals. Each driver, bike and the scenery surrounding them all look top-notch for a Vita game.
Audio: Bikes sound good and the soundtrack is actually quite nice if you are a fan of metal and punk rock music. Unfortunately, once in a race, the music is so low that you will need to turn down other sounds to be able to hear it.
Customization: In the World Tour mode you can customize each individual character and their powers, such as endurance, instinct, agility, and strength. You can also switch sponsors, what your rider wears and more.
Value: In North America, the only way to download FIM Motocross is via the PlayStation Vita's digital store. So when asking $30, the game better be packed with tons of content and ways to enjoy the game -- and it is, especially if you enjoy racing the same tracks several times over.
Bottom Line: You can't argue about the stellar gameplay that is featured in FIM Motocross, but most people will loathe the structure of the career mode. That is what ultimately keeps it from being a great, or even a good, racing game.
Score: 6.5 (Above Average)