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Game Info:

MXGP3
Published and Developed by Milestone S.r.l.
Release date: May 30, 2017
ESRB Rating: E
Available on: Windows, XBox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Racing
Number of Players: 1+
Price: $49.99
(Humble Store Link)

A million thank-yous to Milestone for the review copy!

MXGP3 is a dirt bike racing game that allows the player to become a professional racer in the international dirt track circuit. In campaign mode the player gains sponsors and income based on their performance in races and can spend that income for upgrades and better bikes. They can also switch sponsors as their fame and skill increases. This is also how new bikes are unlocked for other game modes.

If you like customizing the look of your character in games like this there's plenty to do here. Options exist for all the clothing and accessories the rider carries, and two different outfits can be configured. This, of course, also includes sponsor logos and themes. There are also options for the rider's race and nationality as well as the team name and colors. The game did lack the ability to adjust the rider's facial features but that really doesn't matter when it's covered by a helmet anyway.

The bike selection is very wide, with the player being able to choose bikes from different category groups, engine sizes and manufacturers. The specs for each bike are displayed after selection and a showroom button allows the player to inspect the bike in a 360 view. To me, this is where things start to fall short. It would have been nice to have a view with the 360 bike view and specs combined, instead of having to click a separate button to view the bike. Also, the showroom view just doesn't look very good. As I rotated the camera around to examine the bike the frame rate was miserable, and there's just no good reason for that when the computer is only rendering a static environment. (My rig is running an Intel Core i7 with 8GB RAM and an AMD Radeon HD 7400M) I suppose it's the objects in the environment (the "showroom" looks like a garage) like toolboxes, cabinets, and a large pile of empty cardboard boxes. I don't know maybe it's just me but I'd rather have a smoother view even if the cost is less background cardboard. To be fair, the game does recommend a more robust video card than what I'm running so the fact that it even runs is commendable. It just seems strange to me that I can run other games that look nicer on the same hardware. That said, be aware of your setup if you decide to get this game. It's not kidding about the recommended hardware.

I don't mean to come off as grouchy here. It's just that this feature in games is one of the places where the game really needs to shine and look great, and it just didn't. We can blame the hardware on my computer for the slowness but my gaming rig, while admittedly ready for some upgrades, isn't a slouch and doesn't have this trouble with other games with far more moving objects in the 3D environment. I can run a race with over a dozen other riders but can't get a smooth view of a single, stationary bike in a room where the only other item of interest is a flat screen TV on one wall with the animated MXGP3 logo running.

There's a "Tutorial" section, which is good, but what I found there is less "tutorials" and more "a set of control combos to perform certain moves, presented as a list of still images with the appropriate controls listed next to them." I wouldn't call that a tutorial, I'd call it a cheat sheet. Still, I was glad to have it and it's more than we get in many games.

MXGP3
Highlights:

Strong Points: Realistic Elements, plenty of bikes to choose from
Weak Points: Heavy system requirements, unfinished feel, menu issues, low graphics quality
Moral Warnings: It is possible to deliberately knock over opponent racers

The player begins the game with a basic dirt bike and no sponsors. Over the course of a few circuit races, if the player can meet minimum performance goals, they can attract the attention of ever more affluent and generous sponsors which will allow the player to purchase better bikes.

Racing comes in a few different forms such as career mode and Grand Prix. In each, the player can choose to play as the custom rider setup in options or become one of the real-life riders in the circuit. There are plenty of race options like race length, weather, transmission, and brake setup. though adjusting the bike's transmission and suspension are made just before the race after the track has been chosen. The choice of track provides a variety of track conditions and lengths for variety.

In Grand Prix mode the full selection of bikes is available, and can be chosen from official or customized builds. The difference here seems to be that if the player chooses an official bike, they ride the bike. A customized bike has to be purchased... I had hoped it meant the player could start with the basic platform and make adjustments and truly "customize" the bike. Adjustments to the transmission gear ratios and suspension characteristics are made once the player knows the weather and track conditions, and there's a good variety of tweaks to the suspension to play with for the front and rear separately. This is true for all bikes though, official or custom.

The racing takes place on a dirt track, with around twenty other racers to compete with. The tracks have plenty of twists and turns, jumps, hills and hairpin turns to test the skill and reactions, not just the top speed, of the player. Getting around hairpin turns involves knowing how to shift weight, slow down and let the rear fishtail to get back to speed as fast as possible. Jockeying for position when in a pack, especially at the start of the race, is critical because it is possible to be knocked off the bike and lose time. This is why it's possible for the player to achieve wins in races even against players with superior equipment because skill is much more important than the bike when it comes to racing... But it certainly helps to have the best bike one can afford.

One bizarre effect I noticed is that the race timer is disconnected from the passage of time within the game. What I mean is that if you have a very slow frame rate, and the race progresses slowly, you would expect that by the time the bikes get to the first turn, only a few seconds would have passed in game. Actually, the timer goes in realtime, so it's easy to get around the first turn only to realize that two minutes have passed. The implications for players who are trying to post leaderboard level times on slower hardware are obvious. Unless you're a casual player, this game will punish you hard for not having cutting edge hardware to run it on.

There's a pretty complete set of game controls, not only allowing the player to steer the bike in ways you'd expect, but also to shift the rider's weight to deal better with jumps and turns. There's also a simple set of camera views. Controlling the bike is simple on a PC keyboard, though at times it can be hard to tell if the player's control inputs are doing anything. I presume this is largely a result of the way a dirt bike performs on loose packed dirt, since one can hardly expect to stop on a dime when braking, but it does make the bike feel very, very loose. This is certainly a characteristic of the style of racing but without tactile feedback it's disorienting. (No, I don't just mean a rumble feature.) On the advice of a fellow reviewer I tried to use an XBox 360 controller that I had in storage to play the game, but the game didn't seem able to recognize it, despite Windows confirming that the device was indeed connected and working properly. I did also notice that some keys on my USB keyboard didn't work in the game, but they do work in other games. Hard to be certain, but this does seem to be an issue limited to just this game.

The Multiplayer section is fairly straightforward, with options for AI difficulty, physics and number of laps. Since I was playing this game on Steam, I had the option to invite other Steam members from my friends list to play, though it seems strange to me that you can invite players even though they don't have a copy of the game. This is one way to find out, I suppose.

I'd like to write an interesting and informative commentary on the Multiplayer experience in MXGP3, but I couldn't find any active races to join. The lobby is as far as I ever got, and didn't find any players online to race against.

Ouch.

Judging from the leaderboards, there are players out there.  Maybe my timing was just bad?

MXGP3
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 2/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

The graphics... Hoo boy... MXGP3 uses the Unreal Engine but doesn't seem to take full advantage of it. Even with my system's graphics settings maxed out the game felt visually older than it is. It's just as well though, more on that below. The Unreal Engine just doesn't feel like it's being used to its potential which is a shame. This is 2017 and the game looked like it came out in 2005, even with all the graphics options set to maximum, which was the default when I installed it.

There are lots and lots of settings for tweaking the graphics, which is a good thing because I had to set every one of them to minimal when it was time to actually play. To get the game to run with any kind of reasonable frame rate I really had to dial the graphics down severely. The weird part is that the game looked different, but not by a huge amount. What I realized is that the particle effects are the largest change. The game is trying to look real, and one way it does this is by adding smoke effects in the background, presumably from fans grilling at tailgate parties or something, as well as colored smoke. All of this makes the environment feel a bit more real but doesn't contribute much to the game itself so I'm not sure why it's worth the performance hit. I did notice there was still some smoke in the background even when set to minimal, but at that setting the smoke may be getting rendered by some other means.

As I said above in the "showroom" screen, I won't claim my machine is a performance powerhouse, but it has run other intensive titles smoothly enough. MXGP3 really crushed it. Time attack mode was the most fun for me since mine was the only bike on the track and this was when the machine's performance was at its best.

The game music was passable, though the background music for the menus seemed to flow from lounge music to dubstep. I'm not really into dirt bike racing culture so I couldn't tell you if this fits or not. I suppose I was expecting metal. During the race is the type of standard electronic music that tunes out immediately. Noting too memorable here.

The sound effects feel realistic though the sound of nearly two dozen dirt bikes all at once tend to drown out any of the finer effects. Different bikes make different sounds but if the racer is in the pack, surrounded by a dozen other bikes, it doesn't really enhance the experience. If you're either ahead of the pack or far behind it, you have other things to worry about and aren't likely to notice anyway.

The menu controls were a bit wonky sometimes. I could use the mouse to adjust the sliders for things like music volume if I was increasing it, but the '-' symbol just didn't seem to respond. Fortunately I was able to adjust the slider with the directional keys on the keyboard. Overall the menus looked clean and were easy to understand, but hard to actually use because of this.

The game plays smoothly and didn't crash or freeze when I was playing, and my only real complaint is how taxing the performance is to the hardware.

There is an extra track available for DLC as of the time of this writing.

I don't have any serious moral issues with this game. When riding off the track one can't go on any rampages to destroy any of the scenery items or spectators. Riding off the course simply causes the player to respawn on the track at the point where they left, at a stop. It is possible to race dirty and cause other racers to crash by knocking them aside, and I didn't encounter any penalties for doing so. Maybe if I'd gone on a rampage, knocking racers out left and right, something would have happened.

The game has a LOT of corporate logos in it from sponsors, with multiple billboards on the track showing logos like Fiat and Monster. It sometimes felt like the game was more built for generating revenue from ad placement than from game sales.

Overall this can be a fun game, especially if you enjoy dirt bike racing but it really didn't jump out at me as a true labor of love. It felt unfinished, as if it could benefit from another round or two of quality assurance testing to work out the little issues I encountered. The biggest problem is that you really need a machine with the best hardware you can afford to make the game fun if you're playing it on a PC.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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