STAFF REVIEW of MUD - FIM Motocross World Championship (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013.
by Stephen Cameron

MUD - FIM Motocross World Championship Box art Most of you that know me or have been coming here to for a while know that one of my gaming passions is the off-road racing and motocross genre. With the fall of THQ the motocross gaming community has been left wondering what will happen next, or rather who will publish the next great off-road/motocross title. With only a handful of developers such as RedLynx, 2XL Games, and now Milestone, they are probably the only folks on the planet that can actually make it happen or even care to. We’ll see.

Only a couple of months after the sale of the majority of THQ assets MUD comes along. For Namco it’s perfect timing as the competition was coincidentally eliminated. The strange part is that no one bought the rights to the MX vs. ATV franchise in the first round, mind you the overall sales of Alive probably didn’t make that franchise terribly attractive either. Anyways...

MUD is really the new kid on the block. Straight out of the gate the Italian developer has done a great job getting me excited about a new motocross game! Let’s face it, most of us motocross gaming lug-nuts weren’t terribly impressed with Alive, but we bought it anyways. Why? Because there are so few off-road titles out there. We really need our fix, even if it only comes once every couple of years.
MUD appears to take the right steps into making a great motocross title; it jumps right in with the loud punk-rock style/skateboarder music (which is appropriate) and grunge like UI graphics. However, in my twelve years of reviewing these games I’ve learned to look past the lipstick and mascara. Once again, the UI interface design is very well done, however, with all this loudness going on in the bottom right, there’s a poor attempt at a tutorial. Why is this really important? Well, they are actually introducing new mechanic to the genre. I was hopping in the game with my past skills, which didn’t apply anywhere.

They’ve approached the genre this time with a relatively new idea: “Scrub-ing”. (If you don’t know what a “scrub” is, google-it. If you find medical stuff, keep looking.) Scrubbing is not a new thing to the motocross world, but in the gaming sense, it is. I’ll explain later if this new mechanic helps or not.

As I navigate through the menus of the game, I’m left in the end figuring out what the differences between “Official Mode” and “MUD World Tour”. From what I’m able to see is the MUD mode is like a mini RPG with all the same tracks. Seems like pointless fluff. I found the various modes to be confusing and they seemed to be the same stuff just rehashed. When that happens I sometimes feel like I just got ripped off.

The controls. Where do I start? Controls in motocross games have been all over the place over the years. At first you had basic left, right, up and down, pretty much like a flight sim. Then Rainbow Studios came up with the preload mechanic, which worked well for years. Then THQ/Rainbow came up with the dual stick bike and rider control scheme, which took a lot of getting used to, but in the end it worked well. MUD now, decided to challenge things with the “scrub” system, but does it work? Well, yes and no. When it does work well and you manage to execute a “good” or “perfect” scrub, your bike suddenly takes off in a burst of speed as you pull ahead of your competition. Where it fails is when you are asked or prompted to do a scrub and the burst accelerates you into a corner. Your forward momentum is too high and slam into the corner. This is partly because of some poor planning in track design to work with the scrub mechanic; not my idea of fun. Controls need to be fun, and if that fails the rest of the game falls apart like a house of cards unfortunately.

The physics of the bike don’t feel right either. Why? If I get bumped the bike will get airborne sometimes and slam into the sides of the track like a ping pong ball. Your average bike weighs about 100 kg (230 lbs), so they don’t get airborne too often when slammed, especially with the force from another rider. I completely understand that the physics need to be fun, but here they are not. I was better off not doing too many scrubs and simply staying clear from other riders.

With the boost you get from the scrubs, there was another feature to speed boost (see the pattern here)?, and it's in a form of some sort of in-game energy drink. Are we playing a Popeye game here? You get three cans of this stuff. This I personally thinks it cheapens the overall game quality.

The game visuals are the best part about of the game; the shading, the details, etc… even the ruts. Ruts have been requested by motocross gamers for years and these guys implemented them very well, and they will actually impact the drivability of the bike on the track. The graphics engine they are using can only look a whole lot better on the next-gen systems. Keep this engine and your artists guy, as the game looks fantastic! What I’d personally would like to see is a mud roosts on the screen and a tear off system. So as you race around the track, you get mud on your goggles and would need to hit a button to swipe it clean. This would add a whole new dynamic to the game, and with today’s consoles, it should be do-able.

The sound is where 95% of most racing games fail because it’s incredibly hard to simulate an engine sound accurately. What needs to happen in this industry is a realistic engine sound simulator engine (sort of like an Unreal engine for sound) or a standard way to capture sound and have it render in a game. So when the RPMs are up or down and different gear loads, it sounds right. Sadly, most engine sounds in off-road games sound more like a “weed-wacker” than the real thing. The MUD bike engine sounds are just monotonous all the way around the track. This needed to sound better.

The game core itself has potential and I really don’t want to discourage the developers over at Milestone (Italy) of not making another motocross title. Understand, that this is their first motocross title, and they really need to get informed on what the motocross gaming community wants in a motocross title. Personally, I don’t want an energy drink popin’ mechanic in my racing titles.

I also, didn’t see any Supercross tracks, or the hint there were any. I did see some freestyle tracks or arenas. If you’re going to sell this in the North American territories then add Supercross tracks. The game only sports only 12 tracks, but they get pretty repetitive after a while.

I sank roughly 6-8 hours into the game and still wasn’t able to figure out how to do a trick. Maybe I’m getting old here, but really? My advice to the developers is to add Supercross tracks. It’s huge here in North America. Don’t change the visuals too much, or just make them better if you can. Overhaul the physics, and bike sounds. Streamline the overall UI and include better tutorials.
Best advice I can leave Milestone with is, take a look at successful off-road games like Motocross Madness 2 for the very large community it had and take notes, and MX vs. ATV Unleashed with the quads and monster trucks, my kids still love to play that game!

Being that MUD will more than likely be the last retail motocross game we’ll see on the Xbox 360, (besides Motocross Madness on Xbox Live Arcade), and the game retails for $39.99, you really can’t go wrong here. Is this a great motocross game? Sadly, no. Are you going to be having fun with it for more than eight hours? You might. I’m I looking forward to another motocross title from Milestone? Hell yes!

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 4.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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