In theory, MUD FIM Motocross World Championship seems like an obvious progression for Milan-based developer Milestone S.r.l. Combining expertise garnered across six iterations of the SBK: Superbike World Championship asphalt-centered series, with some of the dirt-based racing of the studio’s WRC FIA World Championship franchise, the studio appears poised to deliver an intricate recreation of two-wheeled racing atop mud-filled tracks. Yet, Motocross World Championship isn’t the stanch simulation its legacy suggests. Instead, the game’s interpretation of MX is inspired by the lighthearted extreme sports titles which proliferated during the last ‘90s and early 2000’s. Although a slew of licensed riders and genuine tracks might make the title appear aloof, in execution MUD feels like a spiritual successor to Excitebike 64.
Until the closure of THQ Digital Phoenix (née Rainbow Studios) in August of 2011, the evolution of the off-road game was driven by increasingly elaborate control schemes. 2001’s ATV Off-Road Fury tasked gamers with preloading jumps by snapping the analog stick, while the studio’s swan song- ATV vs. MX Alive stipulated dual stick steering for its knobby-tired machines. Motocross World Championship largely returns MX to its basics, challenging players to jockey for the holeshot, and sneak past opponents while rounding corners.
Recalling a mechanic which has fueled a crowd of kart racers, the commencement of each race permits players to earn an advantageous boost. After revving the engine to a full throttle state, disengaging the brake just as the gate drops allows a burning start. Just as modestly, gamers don’t have to concern themselves with the nuances of front of rear bike braking. Even cornering, which in most MX games requires perceptive throttle control, is largely eased. Feathering the brake button is effective on all but the sharpest hairpins.
Echoing this relaxed stance on realism, rider collisions occur with infrequency. As such, players can rebound off competitors when cornering without the fear of generating a disconcerting tangle of man and machine. Fortunately, the boundaries the game’s tracks pose a slightly greater threat, initiating a quick respawn (and a few seconds on invincibility) when players ragdoll against the borders or transcend a venue’s invisible walls. The game’s most remarkable departure from reality is the speed boost earned by quaffing an energy drink mid-race.
While Monster beverage-enthused enhancements add little to Motocross World Championship’s sense of enjoyment, the title’s scrub mechanic does prove engaging. While ascending a hill, the game prompts player to hold down the ‘A’ button, which shifts the rider into an increasingly horizontal position. When the button is released at the apex of a peak, the bike is bowed sideways in the air. In real life, this technique is used to truncate the trajectory of a jump and retain a higher speed when landing. With MUD, the method give players a slight increase in speed, which is further improved when a landing at a suitable angle. While the boost may be unrealistic, it does lend a pleasing cadence to many of Motocross World Championship’s tracks.
Pleasingly, the game provides players with a widespread variety of activities. With options to delve into the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme’s MX1 and MX2 championships, as well as Motocross of Nations, the title demonstrates the distinction between the 250cc crotch rockets and the 450cc behemoths. Sadly, FIM’s MX3 class is nowhere to be found. Alternatively, the title’s World Tour mode following the trajectory of a rising MX star, opening new game types, riders, skills, and tricks. While the game does abridge the 35 minute+two lap motos into more manageable playtimes, races do feature a full roster of 16 riders. Additional variants like checkpoint races and elimination heats help lend the title a bit of diversity. The sole letdown during the career mode is the game’s trick competition, which reduce stunting to pressing strings of button presses, exposing little of the danger or finesse of dirt-based daredevilry. MUD’s online component offers competitions for up to twelve participants and seems to be cultivated a diminutive, but loyal community.
Those who enjoy meticulous simulations which require fiddly precision and hours studying tuning screens will likely be disappointed by MUD FIM Motocross World Championship’s simplicity. Although a bit of real-world authenticity might make the title seem like a fussy interpretation of MX racing, in implementation the game is a breezy racer, with a learning curve far flatter and smoother than any of the title’s craggy tracks.