by Howie Howard
previewed on PC
Two-wheeled dirt racing
Monster Energy Supercross 4 is the latest iteration of the Monster Energy Supercross series which first hit the track in 2018 to much fanfare. Since then, the series continues to be very popular with motocross fans across the globe. The 2021 version covers the entirety of the 2020 season, and it features some of the biggest names in both the 250SX and 450SX motocross classes. Yes, it does pay to have the backing of the sports major sponsor because real life riders, equipment, stadiums, and other things can be used in the game. Monster Energy Drinks sponsor various sports, but they are especially known for their backing of the high-octane sports.
If you aren't an aficionado of the sport, supercross takes place on a manufactured dirt course most often in a stadium type of venue. It comes complete with rough terrain such as bumps, hills, and tight turns. Throw in some mud and twenty-one other competitors all jammed on to a narrow lane and you have the makings of some very exciting action. With that said, Monster Energy Supercross series does an excellent job of providing a game that covers every aspect of the sport. The visuals look great and each course and stadium, complete with cheering fans, sets the tone perfectly for a whole lot of fun.
When initially starting the game the first order of business is to create a character. The player character can be either male or female and there are different heads that can be used. I say “heads” because the body for each gender is basically the same. However, the character's height and the number on their jersey can be adjusted. The character's skin color, eye color, beard and hair color can all be chosen. Just like with the character, the motorcycle needs to be created and the choices are numerous with all of the popular brands represented. I picked Kawasaki because it was always my favorite. At this point in career mode character creation, only the motorcycle's paint scheme colors can be changed. Further character customization can happen as prestige points are earned. As the game moves forward, new equipment such as helmets can be purchased. Of course, the bike can be customized as well with new parts. If playing single races, you can pick your favorite rider out of some one hundred real life choices.
Monster Energy Supercross 4 is not an easy game and for beginners as it is more of a simulation rather than an arcade racing game. I would describe the game as being a sim because in order to ride the bike gears need to be shifted and front and rear brakes must be manipulated. In fact, everything that riding a real motorcycle entails has to be done properly in order to win. Of course, there are difficulty settings that can make things a bit easier but its still not like going for a ride around the block. When out on the course just trying to keep a straight line can be challenging. When difficult race conditions are added into the equation things can become rather frustrating. Since I initially had difficulty keeping the bike on the course with not being able to time the jumps properly, I found myself going off the course or over the handlebars time and again. With practice things do get better, they did for me.
The game has different modes of play. There are single race, career, and a free riding mode where you can go for a ride in the country. When playing a single race your favorite Supercross rider can be selected as your avatar. As experience is gained in career mode the player can advance through the Future, Rookie and Pro categories. In free riding mode, if the co-op function is initiated you can go for a ride with a friend. I enjoyed this mode because it was easy and free from race pressure. It felt like I was out riding in a pleasant landscape. In addition, new tracks and challenges have been added to this forth incarnation of the game. Plus, track creation has returned!
There are challenges that take place in the training part of career mode. When three attempts at the different training programs are finished, points are awarded which are used to upgrade rider skills and attributes. Completing the training challenge is not easy because certain parameters must be met, such as staying on the course. Training can be taken once per game week and the races happen once a week as well. Races allow character prestige points to be built up which can be spent to upgrade the bike and to purchase new rider equipment.
Practise makes perfect
When initially being handed this game to preview, I was a bit hesitant because I'm not all that good when fast twitch game play is required. That might be due to the fact that I generally use the keyboard to control things. Perhaps if I were using a controller, gameplay would have been easier and quicker to master. Even with that said, the game was a positive experience. Just like with the previous games in the series this one has a lot to offer. Remember that it is more of a motorcycle racing sim rather that an arcade game. I wish there was an arcade option because then it would appeal to the action arcade crowd as well. Nonetheless, Monster Energy Supercross 4 should be on your game buying list come March of 2021 if you are a motorcycle racing fan.