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MUD Review (Xbox 360)



MUD: FIM Motocross World Championship is the official videogame for its namesake, which is great because it includes everything a fan could probably want: except in gameplay. Or, it might be exactly what a fan wants. To be honest, it's easy to see the conundrum Milestone (the developers) faced when making this game and it shows.

Allow me to explain. The problem with MUD is it's not quite simulation-like and not quite arcadey enough all at the same time. You can understand the problem – if the game is too simulation-like, you lose a big part of the gaming audience (how many people in this huge market want a realistic bike racer?) However, make it too arcadey and you lose a big part of the whole franchise's fan base. So you've got to try and make something inbetween but if you don't hit that just right you fail. Unfortunately, Milestone haven't hit it just right.

That doesn't mean the game isn't fun to play – it is. But there are a few random features that are a bit of a puzzle in a game like this.

For example, Milestone have gone through the effort of allowing each racer on the dirt track to essentially shape the track, much like what would happen in real life. So the guy before you shapes the track in the mud and, in real life, after a few laps you need to stick to that track or avoid it, depending on a number of factors. Great feature in the game, except it's under-utilised. Yes, the track gets shaped but no, it seems to have no real effect on gameplay.

Then there are two strange shockers to the whole deal: boosts. You get a boost (in the literal sense) when you down some Monster Energy (an easy product placement for one of FIM's sponsors, no doubt). So you can win a race based on some random energy drink boost – a pretty arcade-like feature to say the least.

Then there's also scrubs, something you have to do in many races – essentially a trick where you have to lean the bike quite some to the left or right while you hang in the air. If you time the trick right you get an extra boost; if you time it perfectly you get an even better boost. Now last time I watched dirt bike racing on TV (which admittedly isn't much) I don't recall seeing this sort of thing happen.

The game has a re-spawn feature which is just plain weird. In the middle of a race other racers might bail out and then are re-spawned into the race again (rather than have them pick up their bike like in real-life). Ok, fairly acceptable in games, except sometimes they'll respawn right in front of your face while you're riding causing you to careen off your bike. Not fair, to say the least. There should be at least a period of 'invisibility' where the racer is appearing and you can see him, but you can't crash into him unless you slow down considerably. That's what most arcade racers do, so why it wasn't featured here like that is a bit of a head scratcher.

One of the tag-lines in the marketing for MUD was “Pure and freestyle Motocross you have never seen before!” Well, there's not much pure to go by here, so why market the game as such?

Where the marketing got things right, however, is in the sheer volume of stuff the game has. You can race three official competitions – the MX1, MX2 and MxoN Championships – in 12 locations. There are 32 official teams between MX1 and MX2 with 84 real riders featuring in the game.

For the MxoN Champs (That's the Motocross of Nations) you get 16 national teams, 48 riders and bikes (with all the suits and liveries of the different national teams) including worldwide champions of the United States.

There's a trick mode which is maybe some kind of homage to Trials Evolution but doesn't seem to really fit into the game, in my opinion, which offers 30 different tricks in three arenas.

The graphics is nothing to write home by (and this is quite disappointing as there are some potentially cool environments) and the music is pretty much the kind of soundtrack you would expect. There was nothing special about it though so it scores pretty average.

The thing is, MUD is a great game and is lots of fun to play but it just feels disjointed and a bit strange. The problem is obvious: catering for two different markets is different. But I think the solution is fairly obvious too: just have two different game modes. Ok, that requires a lot of programming, but if you've done it once you can build the franchise from there. Milestone have produced some great racers in the past but unfortunately MUD: FIM Motocross World Championship doesn't rank in the best category.

 

Score: 5.8 / 10

 

It just feels disjointed and has a lot of puzzling gameplay mechanics for the official game of the dirt bike racing franchise.




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