Will a Supercross legend like Jeremy McGrath be enough to project Milestone’s game into the Olympus of motor simulations?
In the last two decades US Supercross has been dominated by stars like Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Chad Reed and James Stewart. One of the legends of the specialty is its own Jeremy McGrath, a Californian who earned the crown of “The Supercross King” in the 1990s thanks to stunts such as the famous “Nac Nac”. “Showtime” (one of McGrath’s nicknames) was the testimonial of a series of videogame productions at the end of the old millennium: Jeremy McGrath Supercross ’98, Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000, Freestyle Motocross: McGrath vs Pastrana and Jeremy McGrath Supercross World were published on the main platforms of the period (PlayStation, PC, Nintendo 64, PlayStation 2, DreamCast and GameCube). After making a comeback in the new millennium with Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, a title dedicated to two- and four-wheeled offroad for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, ten years later the good Jeremy gets back in the saddle as protagonist in the new Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 6, the series dedicated to fans of the Stars and Stripes championship signed by Milestone. A franchise that seems to be booming as evidenced by the over 2,300,000 copies sold so far.
Between simulation and arcade
The latest episode of the Milestone simulation does not differ much from the outline of the last few years: there are both protagonists of the 2022 season – in this specific case we are talking about 80 riders, 29 official bikes and 17 Monster Energy Supercross AMA tracks (in the 450, 250 East and 250 West categories) – and a large number of game modes, able to satisfy everyone the palates.
In recent years Milestone has tried to make the series enjoyable for newbies and veterans: SX6 therefore remains the usual compromise between simulation and arcade and requires time to better master the two-wheeled racing cars and the best driving techniques. The Milanese team managed to further expand the content offer, working above all on optimizing the physics engine and AI.
If last year it was possible to learn all the secrets of Supercross under the supervision of his majesty Ricky Carmichael, in SX6 it’s Jeremy McGrath’s turn. To make Career more engaging, the development team has added the phenomenal “Showtime”, always ready to dispense advice and suggestions and to test the aspiring champions with a series of challenges created ad hoc.
Jeremy beats Ricky as a mentor? The Californian seems to be a little more involved and present than his illustrious colleague, even if we are far from the type of interaction we have experienced in other videogame sports productions. The Career is divided – as in the previous episode – into three chapters that reproduce as many American championships: in the first “Futures” three races are held, the practical and theoretical lessons are unlocked in the “Supercross Academy” (the tutorial) and the “Journal” , a sort of diary that keeps track of all performances (jumps, perfect starts, race wins, successful whips and more). We are also granted the possibility of enhancing our alter-ego, since after each race we obtain skill points to invest in multiple parameters. In the second chapter, called “Rookie”, 9 races in the 250 East category and 10 in the 250 West category are tackled: also in this case you can unlock other skills, workouts and even improve the form of your champion, thanks also to algorithms which work better than last year’s version. After having checked the market offers, we come to the final chapter, called “Pro”, in which the entire US championship is disputed and you can enter the “Rivalry” mode.
Rhythm Attack, the big news
In addition to the usual Career, players have the “Championship” available (characterized by almost infinite customization, in which you can also share the challenge with a friend in split-screen); then we also find “Time Attack” and “Single Event”. For those who don’t like duels at the last corner and merciless skewers, Milestone offers a more playful package composed of the “Supercross Academy” (a robust tutorial that will allow you to challenge Jeremy on a couple of occasions), the “Free Roaming” option, ideal for those who want to have fun doing stunts in total freedom in the new Supercross Park, and finally “Rhythm Attack”.
This is an absolute first: a spectacular head-to-head between two riders on a long straight full of whoops, where the winner is whoever crosses the finish line first. The addition of cross-play (with a rank system) in the multiplayer sector is appreciable, which does not differ much from the options of last season. There are also some editors that allow you to create tracks, customize helmets, stickers and anything your champion may need (including his physical appearance).
AI is less destructive and more rational
The development team gave a nice rearrangement to the physics engine and above all to the AI. Even in SX6 you have to pay attention to the weight of the bike and the horsepower available, and a minimal inattention is enough to end up against one of the innumerable trackside protections. Overall artificial intelligence, bikes and tracks have improved compared to the previous chapter (here you can find the review of Monster Energy Supercross 5).
There is no shortage of shouldering to the opponents and skewers at the last corner, but the four difficulty levels available have been calibrated more carefully, and above all the AI shows a more credible and less destructive behavior. The so-called “trains”, unfortunately, are always there, while the falls caused by the wicked behavior of the pilots guided by the GPU have decreased: the AI finally notices the presence of the opponents and tries to avoid them or attack them cleanly. As always, it is advisable to stay away from the protections that delimit the race track: in fact, it is enough to hit them to end up off the track or fall. Each driver has his own driving style and a certain level of performance, but drivers powered by artificial intelligence don’t always seem to be able to achieve credible chronometric performances.
The setting of the bikes is even more exhaustive, even if to go fast (and win) you need to find a good compromise between pure speed and rhythm in the jumps: to remedy an error there is always the precious “Rewind”, as well as a series of aids that allow you to configure the experience based on your prior needs and abilities. If you aim for a realistic experience (without any kind of help) it is good to remember that the first few races will prove to be an ordeal: it is too easy to go off the track or be bottled up in the big group. In short, a gradual approach is advisable.
The implementation of the Unreal Engine still doesn’t convince: Played on Xbox Series X Milestone simulation is not a product capable of flexing the muscles of the current generation. The good thing is that at least the framerate remains solid, even if certain problems – such as the questionable deformation of the terrain – continue to remain unresolved. The animations of the riders on the bike have improved (while the falls have left us somewhat perplexed), as have the arenas, which appear less bare and more alive.
Even the presentations of the races appear convincing, with the big screen reproducing what happens on the track in an undoubtedly spectacular way. If anything, the faces of the pilots and umbrellas are disappointing, with a not exactly realistic appearance. On the other hand, nothing to complain about the excellent reproduction of the two-wheeled racing cars and the sound quality of the hard rock tracks with a high concentration of energy.
Monster Energy Supercross 6Xbox Series X Analyzed VersionThe judgment on SX6 does not differ much from that of the previous episode: Milestone continued on the path traced last year, focusing on an even more accessible and customizable driving model to satisfy a wider audience. In terms of content there is not much to complain about: the spectacular “Rhythm Attack” has been added, cross-play has been implemented in multiplayer and some tweaks have been given to the other game modes. A refinement work that involved a bit of the entire Milestone simulation, especially the AI and the physics engine. Despite the addition of a mentor like Jeremy McGrath, Career fails to be at the level of other motor productions. The same goes for the technical sector which still does not excite. And it’s a pity: with graphics fully in step with the times and a Career mode of much greater depth, Milestone’s racing would have been a little gem.