Such is Nintendo Switch’s popularity as a platform, that within two years of its launch we have no less than three motocross and supercross-related games. For such a niche corner of the racing simulation genre, the world of two-wheeled mud shenanigans has been scoring holeshots and podium finishes on handhelds for quite some time. However, the last outing – Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame – stalled right out of the gate with some missing modes and a noticeable visual downgrade.
Longtime developer Milestone has clearly taken this feedback on board with Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 2 and attempted to provide a Switch port that offers a little more parity with those versions releasing on other consoles. This time you’re getting access to the Track Editor mode that was cut from the previous instalment in the series, along with full support for online multiplayer and the addition of the new sandbox 'Compound' mode. So if you’re a supercross fan with a love for Switch, you can rest assured you’re getting a far more complete package this time around (including, unsurprisingly, a few concessions as well).
The aforementioned Compound is one of Supercross 2’s best new features, even if it’s one that’s not quite fully-realised yet. This sandbox area offers a place to practice the finer points of the game’s mechanics. While its looks might be a little rough around the edges, its physics are just as on-point as ever. If you want to know how to nail the rhythm needed to ride whoops correctly, how best to lean into a turn without throwing your rider off, and the cleanest way to land after a long jump, this is the place to do it. You can unlock more of these areas – and items to customise them with – by completing challenges in Career mode and time trials, giving you plenty of reason to try out other modes.
It’s a shame this couldn’t have been utilised as something of a social space, where players could meet up and practice tricks and take part in ad-hoc races. There’s just so much potential here, and while the Compound isn’t quite the finished article yet, hopefully Milestone will iterate on it in the right way in future MXGP/Supercross titles. Still, with the robust Track Editor included this time around – which enables you to build your own circuits from scratch and upload them online for others to play – there’s a lot here to keep you occupied.
Career mode is back, this time with over 80 official riders from across the Supercross divisions – as well as the option to create your own with a limited creation suite. In an attempt to emulate the much grander career modes of Madden and the NBA 2K series, you’ll have a weekly agenda that extends far beyond race day. You’ll hit the Compound to train certain skills (such as landing a jump or making the perfect turn) and level the better you perform, you’ll race an AI-controlled rival in Challenges and head out on promotional duties (with the latter being nothing more than a brief glimpse of your driver leaning on his back and a nice reward for your troubles),
The overall presentation is also much stronger this time around, with an extra effort to recreate the energy drink-fuelled machismo theatre of a real supercross event. Having commentators Ralph Sheheen and Jeff Emig on-board adds to the authenticity (even if their delivery is a little stiff and limited only to pre- and post-race cutscenes) and with plenty of real-life courses from the current pro circuit, ardent fans will be grinning with glee. Sure, it’s not a touch on F1 2019 or other big-budget racers when it comes to presentation, but if you’ve played the series before, you’ll know it’s a small step in the right direction.
On Switch, performance is mixed between docked and handheld modes. Frame rates for both sit around the 30fps mark (with the latter dipping into the high 20s every so often) with only the occasional bit of chug when playing on the go. Graphics are surprisingly decent when playing in docked mode – the lighting model is more dynamic and texture detail (such as the sheen and slickness of mud) really stands out. Some of these details are still present in handheld, but with a noticeable dip in graphical fidelity.
For all its improvements when it comes to feature parity, Supercross 2 does retain some technical and mechanical issues Milestone really should have addressed by now. Loading times are still painfully long, with minutes going by as you stare at a green loading bar that fills at a rate so slow you’ll start thinking the game is outright taunting you. This isn’t just a Switch problem either – prolonged loading times have dogged the other console versions as well, so you’ll have to learn to kill time regardless of where you choose to play. Oddly, of all modes, the track editor is by far the fastest for loading times.
There’s also way too much of a grind involved in unlocking cosmetic items for your rider. Despite having found a steady pace of doling out in-game credits in the MXGP series (see MXGP 3 on Switch for an example of this), the Italian studio has made the bizarre decision to gate off even the smallest of items behind grossly-inflated prices. There are no microtransactions here, so you’ll have to grind through multiple careers to earn enough to get your hands on the good stuff. It’s something Milestone could patch in a future update, but it’s still an odd choice to include.
Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 2 is a vast improvement in many ways upon the first game. The inclusion of a track editor, the reinstatement of online multiplayer and the sheer level of authenticity on offer will impress both longtime supercross fans and casuals looking to spray mud on two wheels. Visually, it’s a noticeable step up and while it does occasionally chug, the frame rate holds fast most of the time. It’s just a shame those monstrously long loading times and a needlessly grindy unlock system takes away some of its shine.