Monster Energy Supercross 5 review - Enough in the tank for a thrilling ride - Dexerto
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Monster Energy Supercross 5 review – Enough in the tank for a thrilling ride

Published: 14/Mar/2022 14:00

by Sam Comrie

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Milestone’s Monster Energy Supercross franchise has been riding away with mixed results since 2018, but this year’s offering is a turning point with some impressive torque underneath the mechanics.

Back in the early 2000s, THQ dominated the motocross gaming scene with titles such as MX 2002 featuring Ricky Carmichael and MX vs ATV Unleashed. While each release may not have been a revered classic, the genre has maintained a loyal cult following over the years. Since 2018, racing titans Milestone have held the keys to MX’s rival, Monster Energy Supercross.

Between their MXGP and MotoGP releases, is the Monster Energy Supercross franchise worthy of a spot in the Milestone pantheon? Or are they just lifeless cash grabs? It may feel like the latter at first, but thankfully, Monster Energy Supercross 5 proves it has more than enough fuel in the tank left for a thrilling ride.

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Monster Energy Supercross 5: Key Details

  • Price: $59.99 / £59.99
  • Developer: Milestone S.r.l
  • Release date: March 17, 2022
  • Platform: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X

Monster Energy Supercross 5 trailer


Going full throttle

Compared to the likes of more traditional racers such as Need For Speed or Forza, the Monster Energy Supercross franchise has managed to carve itself a niche alongside the likes of the aforementioned MX/ATV titles. Going in for the feeling of realism and with a steep learning curve, it can feel like Milestone’s latest offering is out to drain any fun out of the experience. The game’s initial tutorials are concerningly sparse, throwing patience out of the window in favor of dropping players into the deep end. Sometimes tackling difficult mechanics head-on is a surefire way to adapt quickly, but Supercross 5’s tutorials lack detail and a guiding hand for newcomers.

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It can feel like you’re ready to leave the game in mud in its introductory moments, after racing around the exact same tutorial track from last year and struggling to see where the innovation is. Then something magical happens as you dig deeper into Supercross 5. As you begin to ignore the supremely lackluster soundtrack of ultimate dad-rock anthems and master the art of whoops and bends, there is a pretty great experience to whip through at full throttle.

Once you’ve managed to grasp the basics, Milestone offers you a multitude of choices when it comes to uncovering the pro within. Single Player modes include the standard exhibition events you’ll be familiar with, but Career Mode is where you’re likely to spend a lot of your time.

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It’s nothing exactly new to the racing genre, or sports games in general, but Milestone’s streamlined approach here is welcomed as you forge your path to glory. Career Mode will enable the chance to flag down sponsorship deals, blast around indoor and outdoor tracks, and upgrade your customizable rider. Customization is unfortunately quite basic, with only a few presets to choose from when it comes to creating your own racer. The Skill Tree aspect of Supercross 5 is decently prepared with a range of upgrades, even if it is fairly easy to acquire the best of them early on.  As you compete against the world’s toughest racers, you’ll be maintaining your Rider Shape throughout Workouts or using your post-race credits to heal injuries quicker.

Rider Shape is essentially your well-being and can have an impact on your rider’s physical performance, rather than the bike itself. Workouts act as a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-style companion to races, allowing you to race around the Compound from SuperCross 5’s Free Roaming mode. You’ll have just two minutes to gather each letter for the word ‘SHAPE’, acquire points for tricks and pull off specific moves mid-air. There is a real potential for the Free Roam mode here, which can be explored solo or with friends, to implement more locations and hidden nooks to uncover. The forest/holiday park-style map available at launch is serviceable but nothing more. Hopefully, Milestone will take us to some more vibrant places in the future.

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An image of Monster Energy Supercross 5's workouts and skill tree
Milestone S.r.l
Supercross 5’s Skill Tree eases the game’s difficulty, while Workouts allow you the chance to speed through a bigger environment.

Scrub, Whip, and Whoop

But what about the actual sensation of racing itself? Despite Supercross 4 releasing just over a year ago, it is commendable just how polished Milestone’s 2022 effort feels in comparison. Handling is far more improved and nuanced, ironing out the frustrating and unbalanced feeling present in Supercross 4.

Whether you’ve purchased a handful of Skill Tree upgrades or have competed with a basic setup, utilizing the game’s dual analog stick turn system rewards precision as opposed to powerful inputs. Pushing each stick all the way to your desired direction will probably punish you with a mouthful of Loam soil. Even in the face of ill-detailed tutorials, Supercross 5’s trial and error gameplay loop can turn into a winning chain of events with persistence.

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Mastering the art of popping a perfect clutch is awesome in itself, as you attempt to gain the top spot in a Holeshot. Weaving through the first track’s apex activates your competitive urge to leave AI opponents in the dust. The Dualshock 5’s rumble adds a palpable tension to each choice you make around the track too. Milestone achieves the feeling of dirt kicking up through your tires with ease, using the R2 trigger (throttle) to fight back with power through the adaptive triggers. The controller’s touchpad lights change color depending on where your speedometer is sitting; a neat touch that some will appreciate.

Overlaying these implementations is the game’s sound design, which has an array of options to weak within the menus for audiophiles searching for the precise setup. The nasal-like tone of your bike pierces the mix up front, while the clatters and pings of debris hitting your tires or body ripple accordingly. Stadiums roar with excitement as the audience foley drives your determination to win. It’s a shame the game’s soundtrack doesn’t reflect this intensity, as each of the licensed songs induces a cringeworthy twinge at any given moment.

Monster Energy Supercross 5 screenshot showing a line of racers
Milestone
Monster Energy Supercross 5 sees you take to the skies, but it’ll take some practice to get down safely.

Supercross 5’s second-to-second gameplay is full of decisions that work in tandem to push you to your limits. Should you play it safe with lower speed on a corner? Or should you attempt to drift past your rival at the risk of a serious wipeout?

Whether you succeed or bail completely, Milestone makes sure your tenacity isn’t wasted through the returning Rewind mechanic. Tap R1 to gain some hindsight on your movements, choosing when to resume the race. Three Rewinds are offered at the start of each race and must be replenished through tricks such as Whips, Scrubs, Drifts, and even the odd flip if you’re feeling the Evil Knieval within you. Successful landing them isn’t a linear feat though, as every track will have its own variations of Whoops (raised terrain) and jumps. Both of them require an appropriate weight shift with both analog sticks to maximize your jump height potential and chance at a smooth landing.

Supercross 5’s approach to racing feels alienating to begin with. Some players might be looking to jump in quickly for a few races and then move on. In that respect, Supercross 5 is all about practice. There is undoubtedly a niche for racers that rely on the penchant for realism rather than arcade-style fun. Milestone wants you to put in the grind to understand the intricacies of Supercross 5, which can be a detriment to newcomers seeking something outside their comfort zone.

An image of Monster Energy Supercross 5 Career Mode
Milestone S.r.l
Gracing the podium with a well-earned victory never loses its novelty.

Rating: 7/10

Monster Energy Supercross 5 is easily Milestone’s finest installment in the franchise, after a few years of diminishing returns.

What Supercross 5 is missing in its surface-level game modes, it makes up for with thrilling racing at its core. Patience and a level head are needed to persevere upward through its demanding skill ceiling but it’s wholeheartedly worth the pursuit. It’s hard to tell whether future installments will offer enough innovation to keep the franchise riding on, but for now, we’ll be tearing it up for fortune and glory.

Reviewed on PS5