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Game review: MXGP 2020 (PlayStation 5)
Tue, 16th Feb 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The undisputed king of motorcycle game development, Milestone, goes next-gen with the PS5 version of their off-road motorcycle racer, MXGP 2020.

MXGP 2020 has been out for a while on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. The game has just had a shot in the arm with the release of the next-gen versions from PlayStation 5 and Xbox series X.

The game features 19 circuits from around the world. To the uninitiated, they are all about the same. The major difference between each race being the weather rather than the course itself.

As with all motorcycle games, players are not only racing against the other riders and the circuits but also themselves. The dirt bikes are unforgiving and it's easy to get overconfident. Unlike racing cars, you can't just point a bike in the direction you want it to go and open it up.

The circuits offer up some challenging terrain with some breathtaking jumps that need careful control to avoid getting too much air. Similarly, the changes in grade, often paired with some devious turns, need a clear head and a high degree of focus to traverse.

Whilst the game does have a simplified physics model, as well as auto front/rear braking and weight distribution, leaning, braking, and throttle still needs to be carefully kept in check. There is quite a learning curve if you've not played one of these games before. The rewind option will be a welcome tool for the uninitiated.

One of the PlayStations 5's undisputable advantages over the Xbox Series X is the console's DualSense controller. Whilst utilised in most PS5 native games for me, it was MXGP 2020 that really highlighted what the controller's haptic feedback brings to a game.

I'm very used to using a force feedback steering wheel with motor racing games. The varying resistance that you feel through the wheel adds immersion by indicating tyre friction on the road surface. The DualSense controller performs the same sort of task for MXGP 2020, in offering a degree of throttle resistance, stopping you from opening the bike up and losing control.

The controls are still realistically twitchy, but they are responsive. If you bail out, it'll be down to your error and not you fighting with the controls. I'd recommend the lower-powered, smaller capacity bikes to begin with as you are less likely to apply too much throttle.

The game looks crisp and rather nice running on a PS5. The visuals still a fair way from having a photoreal look. With many racing games now starting to look almost indistinguishable from TV footage, I was hoping to see MXGP follow suit. The environmental effects, the rain, wet and mud are all still very impressive.

The game performance on PS5 is, for the most part, silky smooth. I did experience some nasty slowdowns a couple of times, but it seemed more of a glitch than an actual performance issue.

The game features riders, bikes, and circuits from both the MXGP and MX2. Players can partake in a full career, select their own time trial even, Grand Prix or custom championship. The open Norwegian playground not only has its own activities, but is the perfect environment to hone skills, and perfect jumps away from the competition.

The fun can be extended somewhat with the track editor. The game offers players some rudimentary tools to design a track, but don't expect them to be anywhere here as much fun as the included circuits.

As you'd expect, there a multiplayer element with lobbies for organised races. As of now, there doesn't seem to be a lot of activity online. This may be best played with friends instead of looking for randoms.

MXGP 2020 on PlayStation 5 gives players the best experience of the game. Not only are the visuals crisp and beautifully rendered, but the performance is also sharp, giving players very responsive controls.

The DualSense controller, with its haptic triggers, adds another element of realism to a racing genre that is traditionally difficult to translate to a console game. MXGP 2020 on PlayStation 5 is probably the best off-road motorcycling game I've played in years.

Verdict: 8.5/10