Motocross-Madness-XBOX-360-Review Motocross Madness XBOX 360 Review

   15/04/2013 at 11:04       N H       8 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
 - Motocross, Madness, Racing, Avatar, Bongfish

There are some games, and indeed, franchises and genres, that simply pass you by. Motocross Madness, as was, is one such example of both: the games themselves, and motocross in general – in gaming, and without.

So this game, what I understand is a return, if not a revival, of the Motocross brand, came out of nowhere for me, and it appeared, warm, jolly, slightly soulless, on my 360 without me quite working out how, or why.

If my confusion at being given a copy for review sounds facile, consider this: Motocross Madness is one of those games that does absolutely nothing wrong (bar a few, noticeable technical issues, in particular a glaring texture meld, a la Gears of War 2), but, equally, does nothing very remarkable either. It just... exists, a perfectly serviceable game with perfectly benign intentions, and it looks at me, and I at it, and there we are. What I am saying – in gaming terms – is: solid, working, functional, well-designed, but does not excite passion.

Let me elaborate. Motocross Madness is a bright and bouncy racer, stunter and time-trialer. You roar about on a variety of bikes, all upgradeable by earning cash (and XP) from competing and doing well in various events. Each bike does different things better than the others, and you get fed a steady stream of rewards after each event, giving you the opportunity to buy upgrades and customise your rider: who, you will spot immediately, is your avatar. The game is part of the Avatar Famestar series, which had also completely passed me by, and, like so much of this game, is inoffensive and offers another avenue of bar filling and challenge beating. 

The events are divided by region – Egypt, Australia and Iceland, offering the three ecosystems of all warm, fuzzy gaming: the desert zone, the temperate zone, the ice zone. Each has three race tracks, that form the foundations of the region's wider offerings: stunt tracks and exploration modes. Whilst racing and time trials take place on tracks and their short-cuts, stunt and exploration offer wider vistas to explore, leaving you to find the best routes, either to collect trick multipliers, time extensions and boost bonuses in stunt mode, or collect coins and golden skulls for XP and cash in exploration. All of these modes, other than Rivals (TT), can be played online, and offline, in split-screen (although, sadly and strangely, there is no Live Guest profile available, so the second player has to have a Gold account to play online split-screen). Of the four, stunt is my favourite, whilst exploration offers a nice change of pace, a type of mode rarely seen in racers. It doesn't trump the nostalgia-riddled memories I have of San Francisco Rush 2049 (yeah, you know the one), but it's good all the same. Race and Rivals are as expected, spiced up by short-cuts, coins (for cash) and jumps, with the usual stunts giving you the usual boost bonuses.

If I sound as though I lack enthusiasm, it's because I do. The game does little wrong that is serious – except for the handling being a bit off here and there, and some jumps leading to unavoidable crashes, and the aforementioned texture pop. These are joined by the strange tonal decisions: the ruined Chernobyl that is found in Iceland, the pirate theme of an ocean bay in Australia, the street racer vibe of the post-event summary screen. Also, you unlock abilities with XP, meaning you won't be a fully functional racer until you've sunk a few hours in. It feels like an artificial way of extending the game's life. The aesthetic of the game feels a tad confused set against the gameplay: it might be aimed at children and their parent gamers, but it's a bit too tricky, I feel, for the younglings, whilst not that challenging for the (experienced) adult.

At the same time, it does many things right: the same post-match screen, in split-screen, features the avatars enjoying an affectionate scrap. The game features a 'Club' mode, putting your friend's times and scores front and centre, and giving you a group identity versus other clubs online. The exploration mode, handling bothers aside, is good fun in a pair, working out how to collect the (shared) items. There is nothing so wrong with the game that you'll hate it. Rather, there's nothing so right with it that you'll love it.

Of course, the flipside with such a game is that some might really fall for it, and enjoy beating the well-designed race courses and upgrading the great-sounding bikes. But I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly – and nor can I warn you off with no qualms. I have no idea if it's a good or bad motocross game vis a vis others, let alone its predecessors. It's a very nice game: and nice, as my old Home Economics teacher always told us, is a boring word.


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