The MX vs ATV series holds a very special place in my heart. I probably spent as many hours playing On the Edge as a kid on my PSP as I did GTA: Vice City Stories because it fulfilled an off-road racing gap in any library that no other games did. After that came other, less successful iterations like Reflex which, while deeply flawed, I still managed to lose myself in.
Jumping into this super-sized edition of the latest entry in the series for the first time, I was excited at the prospect of playing more Indoor tracks, which were my favourite in Reflex, with upgraded physics and more customization options.
While in the end I did get both those things, along came a stream of issues and unnecessary fodder that hinder the experience greatly.
Supercross Racing is the highlight of the game
There are a few different racing modes in Supercross. The classic outdoor Nationals, Indoor Supercross, Rhythm Racing, Waypoint Racing and Free Roam are all available from the get-go. This is essentially the classic MX vs ATV formula with a few new additions and, like the title suggests, a much greater focus on Supercross Racing. This 2017 Official Track Edition in particular is home to a refreshing extra: it follows this year’s real Supercross season, giving players access to every new track in the form of free DLC.
This is essentially the classic MX vs ATV formula with a few new additions (…)
I should say this new direction pays off and saves the game from a worse impression, seeing as THQ Nordic stayed true to the series’ tradition of making most other modes utterly secondary and not much fun. The game’s loose physics aren’t suited to the fast, irregular tracks of the Nationals series and the Waypoint races remain just as empty-feeling as ever, while the new Rhythm Racing mode can be hit or miss depending on how well you can deal with the janky scrubbing animations.
Whipping and scrubbing your way through the game can be fun – when it’s not acting up
As someone who always appreciates simulators more than arcade racers, Encore made a terrible first impression. Speed, cornering, crashing tolerance and jumping all felt completely off at first and it took me a while to get the hang of gameplay. I quickly realized that, in order to enjoy the game, I simply needed to throw any hint of realism out the window and appreciate it for what it is.
Having said that, Supercross Racing is where the game truly shines. These tracks are very well designed and provide a healthy mix of fast straights, tight corners, rhythm sections and huge jumps. Their narrow limits, smooth terrain and rhythmic feel provide a much easier time in dealing with the game’s physics than any of the other modes and allow you to perfect some crazy heart-pumping lines throughout the different Championships in Career Mode or a quick race here and there.
The frantic first person camera is not very user-friendly but it’s good to have the option
For as fun as Supercross can be, I was still disappointed in seeing the series’ physics engine hasn’t evolved much along the years. Cornering can still be hit or miss, with a slight flick of either analog stick turning you around in an instant; the clutch isn’t as much a clutch as it is a sort of mega powerful turbo function which positively shoots you into the stars from a standing point and, while scrubbing and whipping with no restraining animations can be really fun and smooth, landing sideways from a triple jump and just moving along like nothing happened made me chuckle in a not-wholly-positive sense.
The AI also seems to be stuck in time, seeing as it is just as linear and unforgiving as I remembered it being in the past.
(…) the series’ physics engine hasn’t evolved much along the years.
The clutch mechanic is a full-on arcade slingshot
And yet, even with all its fundamental issues, I still found myself enjoying Supercross Encore. When everything’s clicking, the game is really good fun. Nailing a rhythm section perfecty or managing a fast lap feel great, as does trying out different lines and seeing which one pays out.
I also appreciated the varied customization options for both the rider and bikes. You can unlock and purchase riding gear from lots of official brands, as well as upgrade your bikes aesthetically and in terms of performance. This made a real difference on the track, providing further incentive to keep winning events.
When everything’s clicking, the game is really good fun.
The game’s soundtrack stays in line with what series veterans have come to expect, which mostly translates to generic pop-rock-ish tunes which I gladly soon turned down in favour of the roaring engines.
There are a lot of customization options to suit your style
MX vs ATV Supercross Encore: 2017 Official Track Edition is a mixed bag. It tries to provide a slew of varied game modes which end up mostly vague and tedious, the exception being the great Supercross races. The fact that the game’s most recent version delivers extra content in the form of the real 2017 Supercross Championship circuit as it develops is an excellent bonus and allows you to upgrade your MX or ATV in anticipation of each new track. The sometimes still unpredictable physics and exaggerated gameplay are hard to get used to but, when everything is working, Supercross can be spectacular – for its dedicated crowd.
In the end, I came back to Encore not in search of realism but something much more simple: fun. And in that sense, despite all its flaws and only within Supercross mode, the MX vs ATV series continues to deliver something special.
Note: this review was based on a copy provided by the developer