MXGP 2019 Review – Custom Dirt Mounds Await (PS4)

Developer Milestone is back, and you’ll never guess what they brought this time. Yes, they come bearing another motorcycle racing game, this time only two months after the release of MotoGP 19. In contrast to the (relatively) clean racing of that game, MXGP 2019 brings the dirt with motocross-inspired racing in the mud. But has enough changed since MXGP Pro to warrant a purchase? Time to find out in our MXGP 2019 review.

Hello Unreal My Old Friend

MXGP 2019 runs on the Unreal Engine, which can handle everything the game throws at it. Mud deforms in real-time as riders roll over it, with the best lines etched out within just a few laps, much like in real life. What’s more, the dynamic weather system can turn the deepest grooves into water traps during particularly intense storms. The rain effects are impressive, but what’s more impressive is when the water stops falling. You’ll hardly notice it at first, but the storms in-game clear up slowly, and before you know it, parts of the track will be dry, while others that collected a decent portion of rain water will still have pools of rain water until several bikers have ridden over those spots. This reactive track is well done to the point that it feels natural, and since the game doesn’t draw much attention to this mechanic, you get the sense that this feature, which is no doubt hard to program, may go underappreciated. MXGP 2019 also supports HDR, though it doesn’t appear to be too optimized as colors don’t really pop out as in other games that support this.

For some riders, the sounds that bikes make as they slide and soar through all kinds of terrain are just as important as how they look. MXGP 2019 sounds the part of a dirt biking game, but the audio work is not a central focus. Different bikes have slightly different sounds, but there’s not much more that can be said for this department. There is a soundtrack, but it’s of the generic racing variety–few, if any, licensed tracks can be found here. There are no commentators to be found, save for one random guy who occasionally speaks through the main campaign, the Gran Prix mode. There’s some talk about rewriting MXGP history, but it’s such a barebones effort that you’re not missing much if your speakers are set too low to hear him. Granted, this isn’t Gran Turismo or Project CARS, nor should we expect obsessive audio detailing from a smaller studio, so this is simply par for the course, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Online Needs Work

Outside of the Grand Prix and custom race options, there is supposedly online racing. I say supposedly because I never managed to actually race online. I was able to connect to a random group of riders, but once the race loaded in to 100%, the game just sat there, unable to progress for some reason. At this point, the only option was to quit the game from the PS4’s system menu, because there is no in-game option to back out once the track starts to load. Furthermore, the online population is already pretty low–I consistently connected to the same group of riders, and we were all unable to actually start a race.

New to the series is a track editor. MXGP 2019 has introduced this feature that is a lot deeper than some might expect. Most racing game track editors drop the player in, give them a bunch of tools, a couple of tutorials, and maybe help them complete a basic, generic track within just a few minutes. Not MXGP 2019. Instead, Milestone wrote a lengthy and easy-to-follow tutorial which has the player creating an impressive starter track which actually takes more than a couple of minutes for the computer to drive through, where they utilize most of the tools at the player’s disposal. You see, beyond the requirements that custom tracks have a start, overlapping finish, and be one contiguous piece, it must also be validated, whereupon the game’s skilled AI attempts to drive through the course within three minutes. It’s not clear why there is this limit of three minutes, but if we had to guess (and we are guessing!), it’s so that online races using these custom-made courses can be expected to be finished within a decent amount of time. It’s a cool feature that also helps the player visually see how an average rider will tackle their creation.

Bring Your Own Dirt

Beyond the track editor, a new Playground area also features customizability. This is a fairly large area that players are free to roam around in while on their favorite bike. They can even start special challenges as they find them around the area. Alternatively, custom waypoint-based races can be created and shared. No doubt some insane lines will be made by the most dedicated players, as they will do things that the developer never even intended them to be able to do. It’ll be equal parts amazing and frustrating as I see a waypoint that I have no idea how to get to, tagged by someone who clearly has an amount of free time I wouldn’t even know what to do with. However, it should be noted that starting or stopping a waypoint race inexplicably involves reloading the entire Playground map, despite these races only consisting of dropped waypoints on a static map. The whole process takes a few minutes, as well.

What is it about recent motorcycle game releases that feel a bit…underwhelming? We saw this earlier with MotoGP 19. While a perfectly serviceable game in its own right, the presentation was lacking, with a ho-hum announcer and little to no fanfare surrounding the game. So it is with MXGP 2019. At a technical level, Milestone has nailed how it feels to ride around in the mud, locking into grooves carved by other riders in an effort to attain the fastest lap times. Maybe it’s the lack of fake commentators during the race, as we’ve come to expect to hear in other sports such as baseball, football, basketball, etc. Whatever it is, MXGP 2019 is lacking that certain something in its presentation to make you really excited to lace up and get on the throttle.

An Okay Simulation

While the presentation may be a little lacking, MXGP 2019 makes up for this with its solid riding. Milestone has done plenty of motorcycle games before, and at this point they have the physics realistically simulated. With all assists off and the AI difficulty set as high as possible, most players will struggle to finish anywhere near the top ten, never mind the podium. From shifting the rider’s weight around to properly applying both brakes, all while looking down the track at whatever the next set of obstacles happens to be, and avoiding crashing into other riders, there is a lot that can go wrong which the player must account for. Even turning some assists on, such as automatically adjusting the rider’s weight, activating a semi-automatic transmission, and turning the physics level to “Standard,” there is still a good challenge to be found in MXGP 2019. Above the Very Easy level, the AI won’t make very many mistakes. A replay feature is also available, for those who want to make it look like they made zero mistakes during their replay. Note that the game does reward extra XP for those who opt to not use this feature.

Naturally, a photo mode is included with MXGP 2019. It can be called up any time during an offline game, and during replays. There are filters to try out, angles to play with, all the usual tools you’d expect by now in any racing game. Getting the perfect shot of your first holeshot, or race win, or victory by a tenth of a second is easier than ever.

MXGP 2019 is a safe bet for those looking to race with the full weight of the real MXGP behind the game. It’s a mostly by-the-numbers dirt biking game, with some modernity thrown in. The addition of a track editor should provide for extra replayability once players master the built-in circuits. Though, the inherent challenge built into the game will mean that won’t be for quite a while. The new Playground area will also provide more challenge if even the user-created tracks aren’t enough. Despite the lowish energy level in MXGP 2019’s presentation, the riding is solid, the game is challenging, and the user-created options are numerous enough to increase replayability a bit. It’s a shame online isn’t working as of this writing, since without a split screen mode this means it is not currently possible to directly challenge other players.

MXGP 2019 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.

  • Good track editor
  • Solid riding mechanics
  • Includes 2019 season
  • Bland presentation
  • Generic audio
  • Broken online, no split screen