While last year’s Hot Wheels Unleashed served as the introduction for many gamers to Italian racing developer Milestone S.r.l., fans of more niche racing games are quite familiar with the studio as its recent output can range from three to six games in a single year. The Monster Energy Supercross series, which began in 2018 and is already on its fifth title thanks to the magic of yearly releases, is one of the newest entries in its rotation. While there isn’t anything groundbreaking about Monster Energy Supercross 5 when compared to last year’s game, it’s a welcome entry point for newcomers and another positive iteration.
What has always set Milestone’s Monster Energy Supercross and MXGP titles apart from most racing games is the focus on controlling the rider’s body weight. By using the right stick, players control whether the player is leaning forward or backward in order to tilt the bike, which is key during the rhythm sections of tracks. The player’s body weight also plays into turning, so the actual motorcycle riding becomes a very active experience rather than one where you just hold down the right trigger and let up for turns. It all gels into a really satisfying gameplay loop where the actual racing is both enjoyable and rewarding.
While there is a lot of depth to be found here, Monster Energy Supercross 5 is also a very approachable racing game thanks to a ton of racing aids that can be turned on. If you don’t want to worry about controlling a rider’s posture, you’ll lose some satisfaction in learning how to play, but you’ll still have a perfectly good time as the game can streamline the mechanics rather well. There are also some in-depth tutorials that go into different techniques and there are even some videos (although weirdly without narration) that give some background to the events if you’re not a fan of the real-life sport. If you’re looking for a rewarding racer, then this is definitely a good one as the minutia is there to master and chasing after time attack trials against other players’ ghosts can be fairly fun.
As the name suggests, this game features fully licensed supercross tracks from the main three AMA Supercross Championship classes: 450SX, 250SX East, and 250SX West. While there are 17 different tracks, many of the locations feature two or three variants, so you’ll only actually travel to seven different venues. That means the game’s tracks can start to blend together during a 17-round season, but that problem is sort of unavoidable given the sport and its status as a licensed product. There is one generic outdoors motocross event that serves as some much-needed variety, and the ability to make more via the custom track editor, but it’s a shame that the two types of dirtbike racing are so segmented with the AMA Motocross Championship license being tied to the MX vs. ATV games and Milestone doing MXGP games.
Seeing how this is the second installment of the Monster Energy Supercross series to release on the current generation of consoles, it’s disappointing to see so much texture pop-in when paying attention to the dirt on the tracks. This is most evident when playing in first-person, which winds up being pretty distracting and detracts from what is otherwise the ideal way to play. When playing in first-person (or a more gimmicky helmet cam that has the player’s view obscured with dirt that has to be wiped off), the sense of speed is truly phenomenal, and nailing a line during a race is pretty satisfying. It’s just too bad that the best way to play is marred by graphical issues as this doesn’t look like the most taxing PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X title out there to begin with.
The career mode is quite enjoyable, although there really isn’t much reason to do more than a season in each class. Undergoing training minigames and the skill tree help make it more than just a series of races. The former focuses on passing opponents or the ideal way to hit jumps and the latter gives players a way to improve their racer’s performance. Altogether, it creates a nice loop that stays interesting throughout each season and there are also injuries to take into account as they will impact your performance if you crash too much or ride sloppily (although you can heal these instantly by spending in-game currency — which isn’t used much elsewhere beside purchasing cosmetics).
As far as new additions go, a lot of the work went into fleshing out the customization options. From helmets and stickers to fine-tuning the rhythm section of tracks, there’s plenty of user-generated content to create and share across platforms. Other than that, it’s mostly small gameplay tweaks, the addition of two-stroke bikes (that were also DLC in the last game), and the aforementioned tutorial, which is hosted by legendary racer Ricky Carmichael (who once sprayed champagne on me over a decade ago after winning at the now-defunct Steel City Raceway). They’re all fine additions, but there isn’t anything game-changing unless you’re extremely into supercross.
Monster Energy Supercross 5 does what it’s supposed to as a yearly refinement of an already enjoyable racing franchise. The added tutorials are really well done, the user-generated content is easy to access, and the actual racing can be downright thrilling when an event comes down to the final corner. Milestone is an extremely consistent studio, even if it rarely reaches any monumental highs due to its rapid release schedule, and Monster Energy Supercross 5 is no exception.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7.5 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.