I can remember when motocross games were all the rage. Everyone had one, and a lot of them were pretty good. MX vs. ATV had a great run, and I still have strong feelings for the granddaddy of them all, Motocross Madness. Times have changed; the genre has been all but forgotten, until now. MileStone Studios decided it was time to throw their hat into the ring with MUD: FIM Motocross World Championship (an absolutely atrocious name by the way), and the results are… interesting.
I’m not surprised if you are not familiar with MileStone Studios. They have a pedigree in the racing genre, but you likely never knew about it. They developed the SBK superbike series and crafted last year’s MotoGP entry. They are probably best known for their popular rally title, WRC 2. All of the aforementioned games are respected franchises, and MileStone has done an excellent job staying true to the formula. Sadly, MUD falls well short of those titles.
On the surface, everything works as I expected it would. There are starting gates to master, deformed terrain to traverse and tricks to perform. Scrubbing is a large part of MUD, and for those not familiar with it, I guarantee you know what I am talking about (even if you don’t know the term). When you watch Motocross racing, you will see riders turn their bike sideways while in mid-air. This is to flatten the trajectory of a jump and keep their speed as high as possible. The problem with MUD is that if you do it right, you are rewarded with a speed boost. If you time it wrong, you are eating dirt. It never feels intuitive, and I found myself avoiding it instead of utilizing its full potential.
In general, controls feel like a mess. Tricks are all performed with context-sensitive button presses, and the handling never seemed to become second nature. The game feels stiff in a way isn’t quite arcade-style, but also isn’t a simulation. It is obvious that MileStone was going for a mix between the two approaches and somehow ended up falling on their faces in the middle. Nothing seemed to respond the way I thought it should, and overall just ended up being not very fun to play.
You wouldn’t be blamed to think MUD was created and paid for by Monster energy drinks, as their billboards are plastered all over the game. The brand recognition makes sense, and with 84 real riders on the roster, it is hard to discredit MIleStone’s attention to authenticity. The game features just about every name you can think of in the MX world, along with 32 teams to choose from.
There is a full-on career mode here that lets you take specific riders through the paces. This is complemented by a standard time trial, single race and, of course, online modes. Everything feels deliberately safe, and there aren’t many chances taken. That would be fine if the game played well enough to be fun, or if MileStone even tossed in a track editor or something else to spice up the bland presentation. Nothing about the title screams exceptional, and it all feels like a rushed project that could easily be mistaken for a cheap download-only title on XBLA or PSN.
Visually, the game lives up to its namesake. This is one blurry and unattractive racer. Riders have limited animations, and the crashes look stiff and rehearsed. The track selection is decent, but a lot of them feel like recycled arenas, and when you are walking the fine line of arcade vs. simulation, you need a little variety in your life. Nothing about the presentation impressed me, on any level. Music is mundane, while sound effects and ambience simply borrow from an overused library.
MUD: FIM Motocross World Championship is an unfortunately titled mess that really serves no audience. The game feels stiff and poorly constructed, and not even worth the small price tag it carries. Especially this late in the generation feels like wasted effort. The MX genre used to be something to look forward to; now it simply gets by on titles such as this. Considering the track record of the developer, I am shocked at how it turned out. They deserve better, the genre deserves better and gamers deserve a better experience. MUD is simply not for anyone.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.