The most accessible and expansive entry to date, Monster Energy Supercross 5 is a return to form for the biking series. The Finger Guns Review.
I think it’s fair to say that the Monster Energy Supercross series has always catered specifically to its niche. While I’ve always found the series to be fast fun and strangely engaging, I’ve always found this to be true despite the game’s ingrained drawbacks. The series has rarely, if ever, explained to newcomers how the sport is structured or the unique intricacies that Supercross has over the likes of Motorcross. Usually, you’re treated to a tutorial that simply explains the button presses and away you go. You’re off to the races. Literally. Because of that you’ll end up in the dirt often at the start of your time with these games. They’re quite tricky to get the hang of.
That’s not the case with Monster Energy Supercross 5. If any game in this series has the potential to break through into the mainstream, it’s this one. Going far more in-depth with its tutoring this time around, and coming alongside some fun side-activities, Monster Energy Supercross 5 is easily the most approachable game in the series to-date.
Teaching An Old Bike New Tricks
This begins with the new Futures Academy. A far more structured tutorial on how to play Monster Energy Supercross 5, this mode should be the first stop for new players. Here, you’ll not just learn the basics of how to ride but you’ll also learn the best way to take a lot of track features. Whoops (a series of small ridges) in a track giving you trouble? The Futures Academy teaches you how to get over them quickly. The more regimented lessons in this title even taught me, a person who has played 3 of the previous 4 Monster Energy Supercross games, a few things too.
That’s accompanied by a series of Theory Lessons, narrated by “the GOAT”, Eli Tomac. These go into more detail about Supercross as a sport and the structure of a season. For newcomers to the sport, this’ll explain some of the intricates of the sport, like the East and West leagues, which might not make sense at first. This is certainly an aspect that Milestone should continue with in future additions. Having these videos gives much needed context to the Supercross competitions you’ll be moving through in the career mode.
The Shape Of Success
One aspect of Monster Energy Supercross 5 that I wasn’t able to test during my preview time with this game was the Career mode. I’m happy to report that this has been significantly improved over the previous few years. In this mode, you’ll take your created rider (crafted from a limited but adequate creation suite) through the various stages of a riders career. You’ll start as a junior rider in a short season before being able to take on a contract with the officials teams in the 250 East or West division. Find success here and you’ll finally be able to take on the full 450 season.
Racing isn’t the only thing you’ll have to do in the career mode of Monster Energy Supercross 5 either. There’s a decent serving of side content that underpins the main season schedule. Here you can participate in special events or challenging tests each week in order to unlock new liveries and gear. The most interesting addition to the career mode is the inclusion of “Rider Shape”; If you crash during a race, you might head back to HQ with an injury. This will effect your performance in the next race, like having whiplash influences your breaking ability. To keep yourself in shape, and reduce the effect of injuries, you’ll have to participate in “Work Out” sessions. These are timed missions in the open world Compound zone where you’ll have to collect letters to spell out “SHAPE” as well as perform stunts and hit certain score totals. There’s a very obvious Tony Hawks Pro Skater influence on show here and while it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as the skating game, this is still a pleasant diversion between the rounds of racing.
The Skills section of the career mode has seen an expansion too. No matter what bike you choose to ride in the game, they feel virtually identical to begin with. Over time though, and as you complete certain milestones, you’ll unlock Skill points. These can be spent on improved breaking, bike control, cornering, physical resistance and Scrub skills. These have a palpable difference on the race feel. For an example, pulling off a flip mid-race feels impossible with a stock set of skills. Improve your bike control though and that can become a reality. A pretty cool reality.
A hop, skid and a jump
The racing in Monster Energy Supercross 5 is still the centre of this game’s experience and that has seen a few tweaks since Monster Energy Supercross 4. It’s still a challenging battle between man and lumpy road as you attempt to manoeuvre your bike around the course the quickest which doesn’t always mean being heavy on the throttle. That’s no different.
At the core of the game play of Monster Energy Supercross 5 is monitoring your speed in order to take jumps in the fastest possible way. Launching yourself as far and as high into the air as possible might be enjoyable but that’s not going to be the fastest way around these compacted indoor tracks. Maintaining speed and shifting rider weight to hit the apex of a jump so you don’t end up landing on the upward side of a slope makes all the difference between 1st and 2nd place in this game. Literally at times.
One of the biggest tweaks to the tried and tested formula in this series is the weight shifting and in air control. Using both sticks to shift the bike and rider is much more fluid this time around. You can get off some impressive whips with this new system that are worth watching back on a replay.
On Rough Ground
Outside of the Career mode, almost all of the content in Monster Energy Supercross 5 can be played in isolation or multiplayer too. If you fancy completing just a single race or a season, that’s possible in their own individual modes. If you simply fancy driving around an open world area to see what you can pull off, you can head to the Compound too. The track editor makes a return too, further refined over last year’s entry. You can make some truly devilish or odd tracks here, or download community creations to give them a go. There’s already some impressive tracks to try out made by other players.
While Monster Energy Supercross 5 is certainly the best looking game in the series to date, there’s till some rough edges to be found in places. The bikes themselves are all glorious digital recreations of the real world counterparts but some of the tracks, especially the outdoor ones at the Compound, have some shabby textures which stand out among the otherwise pretty surroundings.
With all of the new content and improvements throughout Monster Energy Supercross 5, it’s also mildly disappointing to a recurring series issues return here. That’s primarily manifested in the AI. Other racers once again feel like they’re just going around, doing their own thing, ignoring your position on the track and driving through you if you happen to get in the way. It’s not uncommon to try to cut off a competitor by going in tight on a corner just to get rammed off your bike, even if they have plenty of time to brake or move out of the way.
Revving and Rewinding
Thankfully, the rewind function that has become a staple of the series returns here. With the press of a button, you can run back the race for up to 10 seconds to undo a fail or take a corner better than you did the first time. It’s far more balanced this time around too. Rather than offering an unlimited number of these rewinds like in MES3 or the restrictive system in place in MES4, the system in Monster Energy Supercross 5 encourages stylistic driving. At the start of a race, you’re given 3 rewinds to use. After they’ve been used, they can be replenished by performing tricks or as a reward for decent driving, like drifting or performing a scrub. It’s a smart system which finally makes the best use of the rewind system that doesn’t let you rewind on every corner and doesn’t leave you high and dry if you have a disastrous first lap.
I also need to draw some attention to the impressive way that Monster Energy Supercross 5 uses the DualSense controller features on the PS5. The haptic rumble is great, giving you impressive feedback on the vibrations of a bike. The real winner here though is the adaptive triggers. As you move from surface to surface, like mud to sand on the Daytona Beach track, you can feel the change in resistance from the R2 trigger. It’s excellent.
If you’re a fan of the series, I doubt you’ll be left disappointed by Monster Energy Supercross 5. While it’s frustrating that the AI in the game is still disappointing, the balanced rewind system reduces the impact this has on play. The new content adds quite a lot to the experience too, fleshing it out around the racing. If you’re new to the series and are looking for a time to jump in, this is the time.
The most approachable this series has ever been, Monster Energy Supercross 5 is much kinder to newcomers while offering plenty of new content to please returning players. There’s still room for improvement but this game is the best Monster Energy Supercross title so far.
Monster Energy Supercross 5 is available now on PS5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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