When you have a company like Milestone, who have churned out some good games like Superbike World Championship and World Rally Championship, you would expect that when they have the go ahead to create an official FIM Motocross World Championship title that the result would be something like a Motocross simulation that revels in flicking your back end out as you ride through the air. Well, they got half way there, and then seemed to just stop.
The racing itself is bordering on arcade-like, which will disappoint many hardcore MX fans that this game should be aimed at. Sadly, should is the operative word, as Milestone have instead tried to crowbar MUD into being more suitable for a wider audience, a choice which may see the game slip into obscurity. The game feels much like playing MX 2002 on the Xbox, yes your racing lines can help you win races quite emphatically, but ultimately just bashing into your opponents and drinking a can of Monster is just enough (you heard, drinking cans of Monster is vital to winning races in MUD).
The game’s arcade feel starts from the get go with ‘Burning Starts’. If you time the release of your brake correctly you get an added jolt, I guess from all the Taurine in your system, which can help you slot nicely into the lead and grab the Holeshot. It continues when you find yourself turning round hairpin corners, you can either power slide or use an opposing racer as a buffer. Amazingly, despite going toe to toe with countless bikes, you’ll rarely find yourself being knocked down.
Then there are scrubs, which is the act of whipping your back-end out that in turn pushes your bike to the ground quicker. Getting your two wheels on the ground quicker means you have more time on the throttle, as power means sod all when flying through the air. Instead of simply letting you get a natural boost for scrubbing, Milestone has decided to add an additional boost if you land the jump well, and an even bigger boost if you time it to perfection.
In reality scrubs are not needed, and thankfully you can turn scrubs off in the menu. Milestones argument will be that there’s many risks involved by doing a scrub, and yes if you time it incorrectly you can either slow yourself down or wipe yourself out, but they could have kept those aspects of jumping true to form without adding these additional unrealistic boosts.
The bikes themselves are unrealistically sturdy, a force-five tornado couldn’t knock these machines down. If you do crash or drive off the track, as let’s be honest you aren’t falling off this bad boy, then you will quickly respawn in the of the track, which in turn creates quite an issue mid-race. Obviously if you’ve gone a bit OTT on a corner or overdone a jump you can’t simply get kicked out of a race, but when you respawn why did Milestone not think to give you a few seconds invulnerability, not just for your sake but for the riders around you. You’ll find yourself racing up to a jump, throttle fully open, your heart pumping, twenty feet, ten feet…. oh the KTM of Antonio Cairoli has just spawned in front of you and you’ve smashed into his backside, race over.
I am being a tad pessimistic here, despite all it’s flaws MUD is surprisingly fun to play. You’ll find yourself looking for the best lines to take, following your opponent and trying to smash your way past into the lead. Holeshots are near impossible with so many burning starts, yet that feeling you get when you’re racing round the first corner, surrounded by 15 other riders, is pretty neat. You’ve also got access to 84 real racers from the FIM world, including the aforementioned five-times world champion Antonio Cairoli. You can race in both the MX1 and MX2 championships, you’ll even notice the difference between the 250cc’s of the MX2 and the much meatier 450cc’s of the MX1, sadly though there is no sign of the Behemoth 650cc’s from the MX3 class.
You do also get the chance to race in the Motocross of Nations, which features multiple countries competing in the MX1 and MX2 classes on one track. It’s a nice little mode and racing as Great Britain against the likes of France, Italy and the champions USA is quite enthralling.
The tracks are all official locations used by the FIM. They aren’t bad to look at, but they are by no means spectacular either. Although, when you’re hooked up into photo mode you can create some very amazing shots, whether you’re careering round a corner with multiple bikes on your tail or gracefully floating through the air from a jump. After a few button presses and camera movements you can create an image that David Bailey himself would envy. Milestone have even given you filters such as Black and White to enhance your images, it’s a nice touch, which will have you smashing into jumps hoping to pull off that killer tail whip.
Take to the mud in World Tour mode and you open the door to a variety of new game modes that increases MUD’s appeal. You begin as Lars "Shredder" Keller and must race to unlock different game modes, tickets, riders, tricks, teams, kit and skills. You’ll get the chance to win money in the standard 16 rider races, head to heads, elimination style battles, checkpoint chasers and of course your trick competitions. Of all the races Trick mode is by a country mile the worst, you’d expect to exert some kind of effort when pulling tricks of in MUD, but alas it’s as simple as smashing the X button twice, over and over again. Then again there is really no need to have a Trick game in MUD, maybe it’s Milestone trying to tap into the wider market again.
After upgrading your character with all these new abilities and snazzy new kit you’ll be pleased to hear that you can then use him online. The online world isn’t by any means busy but you’ll still find a relatively good number of hardcore MX fans up for a quick race or two.
In conclusion the game has some issues, in fact a fair few issues, despite all this Milestone have still created something that even with it’s flaws is a blast to play. Sure, racing lines don’t play a massive part in winning races, but that won’t stop you from trying to find the best one. Scrubbing is nothing like the reality of a tail whip, but that doesn’t mean doing a tabletop with a monster boost at the end can’t be fun sometimes. The numerous cards and races in World Tour mode coupled with the customisation gives the game a great deal of longevity to boot. It is aimed at the wrong market, they should have made MUD suitable for the hardcore MX fans, despite this Milestone have done it again, well, they nearly did it again.