The outdoor nationals are well underway, but that doesn’t mean you have to just sit by and watch. The latest off-road game “MUD” puts you in the saddle so you can kick up some roost of your own. What you may notice, however, is that MUD isn’t like typical motocross games; the focus is on the FIM World Championship. While the riders and tracks may be unfamiliar to some, veteran motocross gamers will find themselves right at home.
The lack of motocross games over the past year has been troubling, so could a game about a mostly European series get things back on track? MUD offers three different main play modes: Official mode, MUD World Tour, and Xbox Live Multiplayer. Official mode allows you to compete as your favorite rider in the FIM Motocross Championship in either a quick, one course race or try your hand taking on the world in the full Championship. The final choice available in Official mode is the Monster FIM Motocross of Nations, giving you the chance to play as your rider of choice in his class as of the 2011 MXoN.
MUD World Tour mode resembles a career mode, giving players the chance to build up the stats of their riders with points earned from races. Changing teams offers better bonus pay for meeting certain finish positions. Four riders are available on each team, but have to be unlocked with points. Each rider has a particular event they excel at and additional bonuses are available when you use a character in his strongest event. Events range from a regular race, elimination, freestyle tricks, and head-to-head matches.
Where the game shines is by bringing US fans of motocross into the FIM Motocross series. The World Tour is nice as well for the elements of customization available to players and because it takes some dedication, you won’t breeze through it in a day. Restarting a race doesn’t take any loading and doesn’t even interrupt the music. The option of gate selection offered an interesting hint of realism while backgrounds and landscapes look very nice with good detail in different terrain conditions.
Where MUD falls apart is in its less-than-polished game play. Players encounter barriers that are unforgiving and that act like brick walls at almost any speed. Other racers will sometimes interfere with your view of your player during a jump, making it hard to see how you’ll land. Racers go into full rag-doll mode when crashing. The Official mode championship felt too detached from the MXoN race with no natural segue to that option along with a disconnected MXoN mode rather than one grouped event.
MUD World Tour frequently suffers from lack of funds as players are forced to focus on balancing their budget rather than having fun racing. Between buying upgrades, changing teams, getting new tricks, and unlocking riders, funds quickly run thin, and then you’re supposed to use those same credits to unlock the next level to earn more points. Players who don’t score frequent first-place finishes will be forced to replay races to earn credits to make it to the next level. Since the game comes with no manual (it is downloadable from the Namco website), there are a few items that are not fully explained, like how to launch to get a perfect start and what do the rider star ratings mean in Official mode?
The negatives significantly outweigh the positives for “MUD” which really needed a bit more polish and attention before hitting the shelves. What it does do well most other games in this genre do too, and often times they do it better. Offering little that’s really new or exciting, this title will be quickly left in the dust. An update fixing some of the issues or getting a current rider roster could help make this game more enjoyable.