Motocross is a pretty popular sport around the world, and has seen many games of its nature. When motocross games are mentioned, immediately “Excitebike” and the “MX vs ATV” series comes to mind for fans of the genre. In September of 2012, Italian developer Milestone S.r.l. (whom have a background in racing games) decided to release their first motocross title for the PS Vita, “MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship”. The game was only available in Europe but thanks to Namco Bandai Games, they’ve localized it to North America in February 2013 as a digital download title on PSN. Is it worth driving through the mud for or should you stay clean away from it?
MUD’s gameplay borders on a mix or arcade and simulation, which actually works pretty well. There are three main modes of play: Official Mode, MUD World Tour and Online. Official Mode will have you participating against real racers in either a Quick Race, Championship or Monster Energy FIM MXoN. You’ll be able to choose whether you want to race the MX1 or MX2 classes in these modes. These affect the speed of the bikes, with MX1 being a 450cc class and MX2 being a 250cc class. Quick Race will let you jump into a race and adjust the settings, such as choosing your rider, difficulty and race type. The race type is interesting as it doesn’t exactly mean you’ll race three laps or so and be done. Instead, you’ll choose a set amount of minutes you’ll race and when that time runs out, you’ll have to complete “X” amount of laps afterwards to complete the race. It’s a bit different than what you would expect from your typical racing game but it’s a fresh way to go into races. Championship Mode will let you tackle races to make your way to the top spot against official racers using a points bracket. You’ll be able to customize it as well with the amount of races (3 being the minimum, 12 being the maximum), the tracks you’ll want to race on and the order of them. You can also save your progress in between races. Monster Energy FIM MXoN has you participating in a single event to represent the nation of your choice against the best of the best.
MUD World Tour is the heart of the game and where you’ll be spending most of your time. In this mode, you’ll have a team of four fictional characters, with only one available at the start and having to unlock the rest as your earn points. The events are broken down into tickets and levels. There are 15 ticketed events, each containing roughly 3-4 levels. There are four special event types you’ll be partaking in aside from your standard race events: Checkpoint Race, Head to Head, Trick Battle and Elimination Cup. Checkpoint Race gives you three minutes to try and clear as many checkpoints as possible on a track. Head to Head is essentially a one-on-one against another racer, and these events tend to be the most challenging and demanding. Trick Battle will have you doing as many tricks as possible in trick arenas within your three minute time limit. The more tricks and combos you do without bailing, the more points you’ll be awarded. Lastly, Elimination Cup has you trying to take the top spot while avoiding the clock from being eliminated in the last position. As you complete events, you’ll earn points that you can use for a variety of things. Points can be used to unlock ticketed events and levels within those events so that you can keep advancing. You can also purchase new tricks to use for Trick Battle mode, netting you more points but adding more complexity. Additionally, you can unlock the rest of your team and also upgrade their skills. There are four categories to upgrade: Endurance, Instinct, Agility and Strength. Endurance will give you more boost when using an energy drink (that’s your reserved, yet limited boost you can use), Instinct will give you more boost power when “scrubbing”, Agility makes you turn faster and Strength makes your rider endure bumpier terrain without falling off the bike. Each of these can level up to 10 points so that your rider can become the ultimate racer. Also, you’ll be able to purchase equipment items and cards. You can purchase helmets but those are mainly just for cosmetic purposes. If you purchase a Team, this will change your sponsored uniform, as well as boost your rewards depending on the position you place in an event. You’ll do the same for your Trick Crew, which will have similar effects as the Team element but only for Trick Battles. You can also upgrade your Energy Drink, which increases the boost capability and the amount that you can carry into a race.
The game’s mechanics and physics are solid for the most part. The controls are easy to pick up on, with the throttle controlling with the R button and brakes with the L button. When you approach jumps, you’ll hold down the X button to prepare for a “scrub”, which lets you tail whip the bike in the air. Holding it down until the meter around the X button fills up and letting go at the right time will net you a boost. Letting go early will give you a “good” rating with a short boost, while letting go at the right moment before hitting the ground will give you a “perfect” rating with higher boost. You’ll be able to rotate the camera with the right analog stick, as well as look behind you to see where the other racers are. The track designs are really well done, with a mix of official and fictional tracks. Either way, they all feel unique and are entertaining to race on. The AI racers are competent so don’t expect them to go easy on you during events. The Online mode is entertaining, if a bit barebones. You’ll be able to race up to five other racers (excluding yourself) in either a Quick Race or Monster Energy FIM MXoN, but completely omits the other modes that are available for World Tour mode. You can include AI in your online sessions, as well as choose if you want collisions to occur between you and the other riders. When joining a session, you may jump into one that’s already in the middle of a race. However, what’s neat is that you can see the progress of the event with a race meter above the the opponents’ names and see who’s in the lead while waiting. Once their event is done, you can ready up to join in on the fun. You can also check their online stats while in the lobby. There’s no voice chat functionality unfortunately so unless you have friends to play and party up with, you won’t be able to communicate with one another. It ran pretty smoothly for the most part, unless other racers had a weak connection. Even then, they weren’t lagging around much at all and the controls were precise online.
The game has some issues and questionable design decisions however. First off, the physics can be a bit wonky at times. There were times I was racing on a straightaway and the bike would randomly flip forward and cause my rider to fall off. Also, Trick Battles had completely different handling than races, where it felt like the bikes were turning on ice instead or dirt/gravel. The Trick Battles require button inputs for tricks but sometimes weren’t very responsive and landing would seem unpredictable as to whether you land or bail. While in racing events, there was no time showing how long or fast your race time was until after you completed a race. Also, there was no mini-map of the course, which felt like a strange omission. The real bizarre omission was the lack of a speedometer to show what your speed is. Shouldn’t a racing game show the speed you’re going? Lastly, when playing MUD World Tour mode, there’s no indication of whether you’ve completed an event or not, only that you’ve unlocked them. It gives the progression an odd feel. Issues aside, MUD FIM Motocross World Championship is a very enjoyable game and has a “one more race” feel to it.
Visually, MUD is a pretty good looking game. The colors are bright and vibrant, the riders and bikes are detailed with good animations, and the environments are well detailed with animate objects. Even the crowds placed outside the track are all unique models that animate separately from one another, as opposed to cheap cardboard cutouts or completely lacking models that are thrown in. There are little details such mud sticking to the tires, bike and rider, and the flaps on the front and back of the bike shake when revving the engine. The screen can also get dirty with the mud splattering on there occasionally, which is certainly a nice touch. The switch-off is that the trees in every environment looks like the old PS2 era where they’re made of paper and lack any detail. Also, there are some visual pop-ups in the distance, but never of anything on the track itself, only the details outside the track. Lastly, there are no trails of the bikes driving on the terrain, and any of the dirt picking up from the tires looks a bit cheap. Thankfully, the framerate is very smooth and stable, never dropping at any point of the gameplay. It’s a very good looking game, that almost hits the stride of looking great but the few inconsistencies hold it back.
The audio department is decent but nothing to write home about. The sound effects of the bikes sound more or less as you’d expect, which is perfectly fine as it gets the job done. The engines sound loud and very crisp. The soundtrack on the other hand consists of forgettable licensed songs that aren’t all that catchy, except for maybe one or two. Custom soundtracks will definitely help you enjoy the events a bit more so be sure to load up some songs on your Vita. The sound isn’t bad at all, but doesn’t do anything above average.
Replay Value: 4/5
MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship has a great amount of replay value. The MUD World Tour has a lot of events to tackle, with plenty of upgrades and unlockables to achieve. The Official Mode lets you race in MX1 and MX2 series classes, whether it be a Quick Race, Championship or Monster Energy FIM MXoM Race. Lastly, the Online Mode will certainly increase the longevity. There were a decent amount of people playing at the time of my review and if you’re going for trophies, the online will have you coming back for quite some time.
Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10
MUD – FIM Motocross World Tour doesn’t do anything particularly great, but what it does do is provide an entertaining experience. While there are some questionable design decisions and a weak default soundtrack, the game itself is very enjoyable, especially if you like MX racing. There’s nothing bad here in MUD, but there’s nothing great either. For $30, if you enjoy MX racers, I say give it a shot as I did enjoy my time with it. It won’t blow your mind with anything in particular, but it will definitely keep you engaged to come back for more.
+ Solid mechanics
+ Decent visuals with nice little details
+ Well designed courses
+ Great replay value
– Other visuals details such as trees look like early PS2 era
– Forgettable soundtrack
– Trick Attack feels stiff
– Lacking some necessities for a racing game (i.e. mini-map and speedometer)
– No online voice chat
A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us a review copy for “MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship”!