If at first you don’t succeed, keep selling the same product over and over again, in the hopes that customers will finally buy it out of curiosity. This seems to be the approach Nordic Games, Rainbow Studios, and THQ have taken with MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore, an entirely forgettable motocross racer that bares little resemblance to the phenomenal entries in the series from around a decade ago. Originally arriving on the PS3 and Xbox 360 as a budget-priced, bare-bones dirt bike bash before being ported to both the PC, as well as current generation consoles, Nordic are now set to release the same game for a third time – albeit with a slightly different set of tracks.
Though Nordic Games haven’t secured the official American Motorcycle Association license, and therefore will not paint the in-game banners in the colors of the Monster Energy Supercross Series, physical track designs for the annual championship – to the best of my knowledge – fall under a much easier to obtain license, and as a result MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore for the PS4 and Xbox One will be re-released in a manner akin to the old Monaco Grand Prix games on the Sega Dreamcast. They can’t call venues by their real names such as Lucas Oil Stadium or Sam Boyd Stadium, nor will the game’s championship mode fall under the Monster Energy Supercross namesake, but everyone who picks up the game will be greeted with the exact tracks the series visits. THQ also appear to be playing along with this grey area, as their own press release and box art mentions “officially licensed tracks”, but they are careful not to mention the AMA sanctioning body or Monster Energy – just that they’ve licensed “the same tracks the pros race on.”
It’s a pretty big deal for motorcross fans. Aside from the officially licensed Supercross titles on the original PlayStation from both 989 Sports and Electronic Arts, modern motorcross games typically rely purely on fantasy track layouts within a mix of both real-world and fantasy stadiums, and this turns the level of authenticity down a notch compared to other racing games available for each respective console. While sim racers are used to being given a platter of real life tracks to select from in each modern simulator, motorcross game developers have traditionally struggled to acquire licenses, creating an experience similar to rFactor 2, where you’re ripping around the MX vs. ATV equivalent to Joesville or Toban, instead of real circuits like Daytona and Laguna Seca. Sure, MX Superfly from many years ago had a handful of circuits from the national tour like Glen Helen and Washougal, and the Milestone MXGP series have landed the entire European championship license, but American Motorcross seems to be a bit of a great white buffalo when it comes to video games.
Yet finally acquiring a portion of the licenses required to produce some kind of authentic game based on the 2017 professional supercross season means jack shit if the underlying experience isn’t satisfactory.
The MX vs. ATV series used to be a formidable off-road racer, and right now, it’s anything but. Reviews such as the one above outline an experience that quite frankly isn’t worth spending money on, with Steam users claiming the PC version of Supercross Encore suffers from numerous performance issues and poor design choices or fundamental mechanics that haven’t been rectified after a little over a year on the market as a fully-priced product, with a portion of that year spent in Steam’s Early Access program to sort of “cheat” the negative reviews that obviously popped up. Though the game was shipped as a finished product for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in October of 2014, Nordic were still working on optimizing the game after it had landed in the hands of PC players an entire year later – leading the hardcore motocross gaming crowd to feel like elaborate beta testers.
This extremely negative YouTube review from motocross gaming personality The White Guy was uploaded in October of 2015, though he has continued to answer questions about the current state of MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore as recently as three weeks ago, indicating the game is a pointless addition to any motocross fan’s library.
It’s really not in a good state from a gameplay perspective, and to make matters worse, rather than fixing the complaints the community have made about the title, they’ve pushed out $150 CDN worth of DLC for the game.
All of this, for a motocross game that quite simply doesn’t meet a base level of quality customers have every right to expect from their transaction. Again, Nordic have more or less pushed aside all customer feedback in favor of announcing a special edition of the game bundled with an additional set of tracks inspired by the upcoming 2017 Monster Energy Season – also planning to release these tracks as downloadable content for those unwilling to buy a new copy of the game – and it all just looks really fucking bad.
Here you have a game where basically everyone whose bought it has said it needs serious work to be even remotely enjoyable both from a gameplay standpoint, as well as a technical standpoint, and the developer has responded by basically throwing such an absurd amount of downloadable content and re-releases at the user base it’s as if they’ve permanently stuck their fingers in their ears.
What’s sad about all of this, is that there aren’t multiple competing motocross games on the market, where if you don’t like one, you can check out the rival title. This isn’t one of those deals where you can go out and get a refund for Project CARS and exchange it for something similar in Assetto Corsa; your options as a motocross fan are exploring the modding scene of MX vs. ATV Reflex – which most want to move on from given it’s age – or diving into MX Simulator, a game far too hardcore for most motocross fans.
So while it’s cool for the Motocross community that Nordic are essentially putting out the first Supercross game in fifteen years to feature an entire championship full of authentic track layouts, in the end it doesn’t mean much considering the game itself hasn’t garnered any notable positive reception in the three years it’s been on the market. In fact, a lot of people hate it, and they’re deeming this gesture as a giant slap in the face to those holding out for a solid dirt bike game.