Motocross is an exhilarating motorsport that often goes under the radar. Monster Energy AMA Supercross 4 is an immersive glimpse into this frantic and elegant world. The game continues to iterate on the bedrock from its yearly predecessors. Make no mistake, it is the Forza of motocross, with the sheer amount of upgrades and customization. Yet, the game can be a frustrating and repetitive endeavor.
Developer & Publisher // Milestone s.r.l
Platforms // PC, PlayStation 4|5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
MSRP & Release Date // $59.99, Mar. 11, 2021
Reviewed On // Xbox Series X
Let’s just get this out of the way, Supercross 4 is no picnic. The game’s tutorial gives the bare-bone basics and throws you in the deep end. Any thoughts of this being Excite Bike where you’ll turn and glide across the track unimpeded are very wrong. Controlling the bike is like trying to tame a bronco. It will take time and perseverance.
Supercross 4 was frustrating at first. I completely underestimated the game’s riding mechanics. The game does a really good job at making you feel like a novice when you first jump in. Your opponent will zip by you with ease while you’re still trying to get the hang of controlling your bike. You can say that Supercross 4 helped me appreciate the motocross sport even more than before.
Parts of Supercross 4’s challenge comes in the form of its racing mechanics and physics. Especially the latter, which is excellently represented in the title. This game is a simulation through and through and this also extends to physics. The bikes interact with natural synchronicity with the given off-road track. There is no awkward feeling that both are separate entities that do not react to one another. Additionally, there are some slight variances in the physics from the different types of off-road tracks.
Supercross 4 does feature different types of off-road terrain like sand, mud, and dirt. Each terrain type has a distinct feel to it. For instance, puddles of mud will cause skidding, while sand will slow down your bike immensely. These small touches really add to the game’s wonderful physics engine. Likewise, the riding mechanics are on point.
Realistic and Challenging Riding Mechanics
The simulation aspects will hit you before you complete your first lap in Supercross 4. The game’s meticulous riding controls mean that a laissez-faire attitude will get you nowhere fast. You have to be cognizant of every turn, dip, and jump just to stay on course. The riding mechanics are responsive and react as you would expect. As a result, you always have to take your bike into consideration throughout a track. A bend in the track ahead requires advanced fine adjustment of your bike. Otherwise, will find yourself smashed against the sidewalls. Of course, there are ways to mitigate that challenge via Prestige Rewards. More on that later.
Another way to mitigate the challenge is with the rewind function. If you botched your landing or crash into another player, you can have another chance. You are allocated up to three rewinds per race, which makes them a tactical tool. However, there is a cooldown period between each use, so you can’t spam at it will. Again, this also means that you have to use rewinds strategically during a race.
The game’s AI always is quite compelling as well. Typically, opponents in racing games will complete every lap pretty much perfectly and will adjust their speed to their set difficulty level. However, in Supercross 4, sometimes the AI makes mistakes. You’ll occasionally see your opponents crash into each other or veer off course. This adds to the realism and almost convinces you that you are racing other actual human beings.
One of Supercross 4’s strong points is undoubtedly its customization offerings. From suspensions to brakes to handguards, the game is chock-full of different customization options for your dirt bike. Take it from me, upgrading your bike should be high on your list of priorities. It will help make that initial grind more tolerable.
Upgrading handling components like the brakes and suspensions really go a long way. In fact, you could say that it’ll change the entire dynamic of the bike during races. I noticed once I upgraded my suspensions, I could nail landings with ease compared to before. Additionally, traversing a rollers section was more effortless after upgrading handling components as well. In other words, bike upgrades do make a world of difference in Supercross 4. That same energy is also found in your outfit.
Everything from goggles to helmets and even neck braces can be customized in the game. It truly allows you to personalize and express yourself in-game. However, your own character customization was far more limited and sometimes looks a bit awkward. Especially if you add facial hair to your character. It just did not look right. Thankfully, your character is almost always wearing a helmet in the game. However, you will see your bare-faced character on the menus, as a reminder of that awkward facial features.
Skill Tree and Modes Ahoy!
The main meat of Supercross 4 comes in its Career Mode. Here your custom character will try to make a name for themselves. You begin at the future prospect’s level and slowly make your way up. It is a grind in every sense of the word. The early part of the Career mode is an uphill battle. You will fight and get pummelled by the more experienced opponents. Even if you finish dead last, it is a timely lesson and one that provides important rewards. These rewards come in the form of Prestige Rewards and credits which are vital to upgrade your skills and bike.
Interestingly enough, Supercross 4 incorporates a skill tree to upgrade your rider. Every time you complete an event, you are rewarded with XP or Prestige Rewards and gain Prestige points. You can then allocate these points to specific skills like landings on banks, the strength of your brakes, etc… There are also journal challenges that reward you with credit that you can spend on upgrading your bike. You will want to improve it ASAP if you want to compete.
Since you begin as a novice, it is a baptism of fire. Every failure is a lesson and will help your rider gain more XP and unlock new skills. Naturally, as you rank up and enter more competitive ranks, you gain access to newer and more useful skills. Supercross 4 does an excellent job of making you feel like a rookie who’s trying to make a mark in the world. However, because races are so challenging they can be quite draining, and it gets repetitive after a while.
Tracking Editing and Compound
The game also brings back the hit Compound mode. Here you can just chill and ride around a gorgeous New England-inspired island. You can ride solo or with three other players at your leisure. But, if you are feeling competitive, you can also race other players as well. It is worth visiting the compound in Supercross 4 from time to time. Especially since Career Mode can be mentally exhausting at times. So, the Compound is a great place just to ride for the sake of riding.
The final mode of note is the track editor. If the 17 tracks do not cut it for you, then you could always design your own. It is completely revamped from the previous iteration. The track editor now composes new modules and customization parts (like the starting grid, finish line, and leader pillar) that really let you personalize your experience in the game. Again, this only adds to the immense depth and replay value of Supercross 4.
Graphics, Presentation, and Performance
When it comes to the AV department, the game looks great on the optimized Xbox Series X version we tested. Besides the resolution bump, character, and bike textures are detailed and well-realized in Supercross 4. Even little touches like flailing shirts and dirt-soaked clothing add immersion to the overall presentation. Race intros in particular are quite the spectacle.
Special effects really pop and are a sight to behold. It feels like a pro-wrestler entering the ring with exorbitant racer unveilings. Fireworks illuminate the pitch-black stadiums in beautiful radiance. Though it must be said that some of the side NPCs look uninspiring. Even the grid girls in Supercross 4 looked meek at best. However, the audio is more of a mixed bag.
The bike sound effects sound punchy and really reverberate. Crowds noise is adequate but nothing to write home about. Yet, again it is the pre-race intros are where Supercross 4 really steps up its audio presentation. Commentators hype up the race and make you feel like you’re actually watching a motocross event. But strangely enough, once the race begins, the commentators decide to take a break and the rock and heavy metal soundtrack kicks in.
Sure the soundtrack does its part to build adrenaline in the race. But the absence of commentary during the race feels like a missed opportunity. This really takes away from Supercross 4’s presentation quality because commentary is a staple in any sports or motorsport game. On the flip side, when it comes to the game’s performance it was outstanding.
The Xbox Series X optimized version of Supercross 4 performed admirably compared to the Xbox One backward-compatible version that we also tested. The latter suffered from some minor graphical hiccups here and there. Most notably a bizarre micro stutter soon after the start of the race. There were also some slight cases of terrain pop-in, but nothing too detrimental. Whereas the Series X version purred like a cat. Rock-solid 60 FPS gameplay, higher resolution, and better texture quality were some of the immediate benefits of the optimized version. There was even a delta in the HDR performance.
HDR performance was more inconsistent in the backward-compatible version of Supercross 4. It didn’t really add much to the overall graphical presentation and often resulted in awkward jumps in brightness. For instance, if you approached a special effects flame, the brightness just peaks to an uncomfortable level, then dips down after passing by. HDR performed better on the optimized Series X version. Though it wasn’t the best implementation of HDR in a game, the Series X version definitely had the better and more consistent HDR performance. There were no sudden flashes of brightness like the backward-compatible version.
Final Thoughts on Supercross 4
Supercross 4 is undoubtedly the Forza of the motocross world. It is an immaculate representation of this form of motorsport. However, its grueling riding mechanics and difficulty truly make you feel like a rookie when you begin. There are some great ways to upgrade your ride and express yourself with player and bike customizations. If you are patient and put in the effort the game is extremely rewarding knowing that you developed your skills to compete with the best. There are plenty of modes, challenges, and variety in the game to keep you busy. Yet, like any other grind, it gets repetitive and ends up feeling samey.
Monster Energy Supercross 4 releases on March 11, 2021, on PS4, Xbox One, PC/
Review codes for the Xbox Series X optimized version and Xbox One backward-compatible version were provided by the publisher