I’ve grown to love Monster Energy Supercross 4, but it doesn’t really love me back. That’s okay I guess, but it didn’t have to be this way.
It’s been a long time since I played a motocross game. So long, in fact, that the last game I played had a soundtrack that consisted of songs by bands like Papa Roach and Ill Nino. Whatever happened to Nu-Metal, btw? Much like the musical landscape of the last 15 years, a lot has changed in supercross games since then, leaving players like me scrambling to catch up. It wouldn’t be so bad if Monster Energy Supercross 4 had a tutorial, but it doesn’t. What they do have is a race called “tutorial” which tells you how to use the rewind feature, (which I did… a lot) and then it simply lists the buttons to press to perform actions on-screen during the race, which you can’t bother to absorb because you’re in the middle of a race.
If you’ve played any racing game, like ever, then you already know that you’ll need to find the perfect line and drift your way through corners if you want to grab that checkered flag. But if you want to really git gud at Supercross 4, you’ll need to learn so much more. Proper bike weight distribution is key if you want to maintain speed through the whoops and the rhythm sections. And apparently, you’ll need to master the scrub, which is a technique used to minimize your time in the air. So you’ll not only need to memorize the perfect line for each track, but you’ll also need to learn which jumps to scrub and which ones to catch as much air as you can.
The game spends zero time explaining any of this to you. Maybe their market research is telling them that they don’t expect anybody to buy the game that doesn’t already own one of the previous games in the series? I don’t know, but it would have saved me hours of continuously holding up the rear in race after race. Despite the game’s blatant disregard for my time and my own lack of skill, Supercross 4 is a lot of fun to play.
With these types of games, I always head straight to the career mode, eager to make money so I can buy all of the gear possible to hopefully allow me to race with guys who are way more talented than me. The classic RPG grind for better gear to compensate for shortcomings is a way of life for me, but sadly it didn’t help much here. You can earn money for better tires, exhaust, brakes, etc. but none of that matters until you have a decent understanding of motorcycle racing. On a side note, I wish there were more bike upgrades that actually improved performance. There are a ton of different brands of tires or suspensions to choose from, but no matter which brand you choose, the upgrade is ultimately the same. So despite the massive amount of cosmetic upgrades and the many different brands of real upgrades, the actual improvements to your bike’s performance are over in a flash. Maybe that’s just the nature of motorcycle repairs and upgrades?
Aside from the new Futures mode and a whole new skill tree, the Career mode is supposedly similar to last year’s. The skill tree is a nice addition to the career mode. I’d like for more bike upgrades, but upgrading my own skills turned out to be fun too. For me, the victories have been very hard to come by, but you can bet your ass that they feel well-earned and that everybody in my house hears about it whenever it happens.
In retrospect, however, I should have started in the Single Event mode. And in particular, one of the Compound races, which is a free roam mode. This mode features five additional tracks inspired by the landscapes of the Maine Islands. And fair play to them, ’cause it does look beautiful. The free roam really allowed me to appreciate the sense of speed that Supercross 4 is able to deliver and it is exhilarating. Plus I just love flying around these beautiful locales like a man with zero regards for personal safety. It could use more mud, however. Even when it’s rainy and there are puddles of mud everywhere, you don’t see much flying around. Maybe that’ll be a focus next year… You can also enjoy the free roam mode in co-op which would be pretty cool if you have a buddy with the game.
The bike physics and specifically the bike’s relationship with the track is such an improvement to the experience that I remember from back in the day that it hardly seems like the same medium. This realism feels great most of the time. Other times, like when there are two dozen riders bunched up in one turn, it can feel a little less realistic. I once landed a jump on top of a large pack of other racers and rode them like I was crowd-surfing at a Nu: Metal concert back in ’05. I bounced around them for several seconds and eventually landed on my wheels and hardly lost any ground at all. Despite that example, my experience with the bike physics has been great. It makes it a hell of a lot more difficult than the motocross games of my youth, and most traditional racing games of today, but it’s worth it. That extra amount of control doesn’t transfer to the scrub technique which is still performed by holding the sticks together to scrub right and holding them out to scrub left. This has been the same for years apparently and works fine, but it does feel like a throwback to a more arcadey time.
In addition to the Career mode and free roam mode, there is also the classic Time Attack mode, multiplayer, an allegedly more robust track editor, along with Championship modes that allow you to play as any of the over 100 riders from the 450sx and 250sx roster.
Whichever mode you choose, Monster Energy Supercross 4 delivers an exciting experience and an unparalleled sense of speed. It looks great on the PS5 and sounds good too. There is no Papa Roach, but the metal soundtrack still kicks. Speaking of kicking, prepare to wrestle with the Dual Sense trigger as it kicks just as the bike is bucking underneath you. Some may find this annoying, but I love it.
To hit the ground running here you’ll need to come with a fair bit of knowledge about dirtbike racing, and more specifically, developer Milestone’s take on the sport. But if this is your first foray into the world of whips and scrubs, prepare to do your own research, because as I said, the game doesn’t explain it at all. Thankfully, if you’re competent at any of their previous games, you’ll be good to go so no worries. For the rest of us, put in the work. But it’s worth it, because, when you perfectly nail a rhythm section or pull off a successful scrub, it’s oh so satisfying. Plus, with the multiple AI difficulties and a bounty of settings to tweak, this is clearly a game that would take an average racer like me a hundred hours to master. Spoiler alert: I’ll never master this game, but that won’t stop me from trying.
Monster Energy Supercross 4 PS5 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8.5/108.5/10
Monster Energy Supercross 4 clearly wasn't made for me. I've never had a Monster Energy drink and I haven't played a motocross game in over 15 years, but the game is a blast. The tutorial sucks and leaves out (or brushes over) absolutely crucial information, but the bike physics and racing action make a difficult to master game so exciting to play. I can't speak to how much better this version is over last years, but I can say the current version is a ton of fun for newcomers if they don't mind putting in the work.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5.