The MX vs. ATV series has been around for quite some time, and Rainbow Studios is no stranger to the source material. Ever since it marked its seal with the PlayStation 2 exclusive series ATV Offroad Fury, the developer has been pumping out off-road racers with regularity. But while its games have always entertained fans, the last few entries have taken a turn for the worse. This time, the studio has remastered its most recent PlayStation 3 instalment, MX vs. ATV Supercross, and dubbed it MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore for the PlayStation 4. However, is this really an encore performance or is there mud in its tires?
MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore takes the core title and attempts to rejuvenate it by adding several game modes and tracks missing from its predecessor. Last year's edition restricted the game solely to Supercross racing, which set the entire experience within indoor stadium tracks. While that was the game's intention, it disappointed veterans of the franchise, as previous entries have historically featured a plethora of tracks and content – both indoor and outdoor.
In Encore for the PS4, the team's added in the outdoor tracks from MX vs. ATV Alive to help pad out the release's content. Aside from the game's Supercross mode, there are now Nationals, Waypoint, Free Ride, and the newly introduced Rhythm Racing. National races have you focusing solely on outdoor racing, while Waypoint has you in an open environment going from checkpoint-to-checkpoint as fast as possible. Free Ride is precisely as you would expect, and can be done on any track to practice your skills – or just mess around. Lastly, the new Rhythm Racing is almost like Excitebike if it were in 3D. Sound fun? Well, it's not – but we'll delve into specifics imminently.
The game's Career mode fuses the original game and the added content together, and lets you select whether you'd like to race MX only, ATV only, or a mix of the two. You can customise the vehicle of your choice with a range of simple options, choosing the colour, handlebars, brakes, and engine. Some customisable choices will affect the vehicle's stats, while others are purely cosmetic. You can also edit your rider, choosing their suit and helmet, and write your name of choice, as well as choose the number to appear on their jersey.
On top of this, the game does feature online racing in any of its events, including free riding with others. Our experience with the online did run fairly smooth connection-wise throughout the various sessions played. Furthermore, one of the best included features (that is severely lacking in a majority of games nowadays) is local multiplayer. You can even Share Play the game, let your friend join in that way, and enjoy some multiplayer time together.
Sadly, the game's controls are a mess. Handling in this game is downright imprecise, because the game relies heavily on the Rider Reflex mechanic. Instead of pushing the left analogue stick to turn the vehicle, you will be pushing both analogue sticks in that direction to tighten your turns. However, too much pressure from the right analogue stick will have you doing a 90-degree turn into an oncoming racer. Worse yet, the pre-loading mechanic has been remapped to the Rider Reflex right analogue stick, instead of the left analogue stick (which worked perfectly fine in the previous games). Even when you're mid-air, you'll have to rebalance your rider with the right analogue stick versus the left analogue stick, which is incredibly disorienting. You can switch the control settings in the main menu's options to map both the Rider Reflex and steering to the left analogue stick, but that makes turning far too sensitive.
Worse still, there's a trick system in place also, but this is pointless during races and does nothing to benefit you. Pulling off these stunts is also awkward, as you have to hold down R1 first, then slap the right analogue stick in three different directions to execute one. It's just unnecessary how stiff it is to pull off a trick, and doesn't feel smooth or gratifying at all.
The physics for landing are also terrible, with MX bikes being far too erratic and unpredictable as to how they'd land. It may seem like you're landing fine, but that randomises the moment that you hit the ground. And if the controls weren't imprecise enough, the framerate is disgusting when playing anything outside of the Supercross mode. Supercross has the game running usually within the 30 frames-per-second mark, which is the bare minimum acceptable for a remaster. Once outside of that mode though, this game strays between the 10 and 15FPS mark, and that is just appalling; it throws any concept of precision gameplay out of the window, and makes the game so much less enjoyable. Even the game's main menu and loading screen runs incredibly sluggish at times for no reason at all. The Rhythm Racing, which requires precise pre-loading jumps and positioning, is rendered significantly more difficult due to this as well.
Visually, while Encore boasts a horribly erratic framerate, the reasoning is still very odd, because this game is not a looker by any means. Character models have awkward ragdoll physics when bailing. The girl holding up the cue card before the race has the most robotic, stiff animation this generation has seen. The environmental textures are washed out and sub-par at best, with extremely flat looking terrain that looks like a PS2 game was remastered – not a 2014 PS3 title. Even the draw-distance of the environment tends to pop-up as you drive along. On the flipside, the game's lighting model is decent and the rider's clothing reacts to wind as you speed along.
MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore is a bad remaster. There's a ton of content to be found here, but the unreliable physics, iffy controls, and immensely erratic framerate ruin what could otherwise have been a decent budget title. Sadly, those looking for their MX vs. ATV fix are much better off waiting for Rainbow Studios to develop a new instalment in this series specifically for the PS4.