Review: MXGP 2021

I much prefer the MXGP games to the Monster Supercross games. Mainly it’s because of the increased variety of the tracks, being outdoors they get to be bigger, wider, more sprawling as well as be set in different locales than a stadium on similar coloured dirt. 

MXGP 2021 doesn’t really offer much new by way of gameplay over the last in the series but does correct some adjustments made in 2020 which return the handling to a slightly less fiddly proposition as was in 2019. 

Outside of this, there isn’t really much to differentiate 2021 from MXGP 2020. Annual iterations of these types of sports games can suffer from not much changing, but we’re getting close to the point of taking liberties now. If you’re into the sport, updated drivers, teams, liveries and tracks will be a boon, but otherwise, you’d be hard-pressed to see a difference.

Thankfully, for someone that has played a lot of these games, I can see some differences, but they’re subtle. Visually, MXGP 2021 runs very smoothly on next-generation hardware. The few visual blips and frame hitches that existed last year are gone, as clearly more time with the dev kits have helped the PS5 and Series X variants become the new, now primary release (indications are that it struggles on Xbox One and PS4, although I cannot test this). 

The aforementioned control refinement means you can slide the bike more around turns without the dreaded sticky bike wiggle (TM) that has plagued some versions. It’s still requiring driver precision, which is welcomed. It can be pretty frustrating until it all sinks in, but the Rewind functionality is back, although sometimes it’s just quicker to crash and respawn, then continue rather than rewinding, and re-attempting a blown corner. 

It’s not easy. I started on Very Easy, and still had a challenge despite some significant experiences of the MX and Monster Energy games. The graphic enhancements which make it easier to clearly see the lines, help though, although dynamic rain mixes things up as the track can change during a race, as things get a bit sloppier. Like the rest of the release, this is a subtle feature, that may not be imminently clear when watching, but you can feel the difference, especially with adaptive triggers on the PS5. 

Modes-wise, you’ll be racing and… well there are races. Championship, single race – the usual suspects. A career mode adds some earnings which follow you around, although you can only buy new gear with it which after a few wins, you won’t need much more anyway. There are duel races in-between main events, which is a nice touch but does all feel a bit routine.

A free-play area set in Wales mixes it up a bit. An open-world area lets you drive about and practice, as well as try setting your own events and races with checkpoints, or race other players. A create-a-track is the final mode, and it’s sufficient but lacking some of the more impressive track editing available in games like Dirt 5. 

It’s a shame that the main criticism here is it’s largely the same as last year, with some refinements. Given the recent Codemasters direction, there’s an opportunity here for a more narrative-driven career mode, or a reason for testing out the various bikes and manufacturers. Even the Wales mode hints at things that they could do – a Hill Climb, which I’ve not seen attempted since Excitebike 64 can be sort of recreated, but the handling model is just a bit too fiddly for it. Maybe next year!

Reviewed on PS5

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