In the genre that is motocross and MX games, Moto Racer 4 is the latest installment in the on-going Moto Racer series developed by Microids and published by Artefacts Studios. The series itself started in 1997 as an arcade based racer, which lasted until Moto Racer 3’s release in 2001, but nowadays has since progressed to the point of full 3D stylized racer. As a whole, several aspects of the franchise have been tweaked here and there throughout the, almost, 20 years that the series has been around to give players a more entertaining MX experience. So, with the fourth entry having been released on November 3, 2016, it’s about high time that this title got a proper review.
Moto Racer 4 for is available on Amazon for $19.99.
In terms of story, there isn’t a whole lot going on for Moto Racer 4. There is a career mode however, that boasts several different mode types for you to play through as you unlock new racers, maps, and tricks. The career mode is also interesting in the use of advancement in-game. Usually, in a mode such as this, a player would normally just have to win the series that he or she was thrown into, and thus being a done deal. That is not the case here, Moto Racer 4 has you win a certain amount of stars before progressing towards the next available series. Which makes sense to a degree, you do have the ability to ride through the first couple series with one star, but after that, you’ll need to start going down more difficult routes in order to make it through the entire mode.
Stars actually work in a fairly interesting, if not basic, fashion. You can place star handicaps on yourself to make races more challenging and eventually get you through career mode altogether. How the handicaps work is: Three stars would mean you’d have to place in first, two for second place and, obviously, one for third. It isn’t just about stars, as mentioned above, you can also unlock racers who display their personalities through text before one goes into a series of races. I actually really enjoyed the one or two quips that each racer has to offer, it felt like there was more characterization going on than just “Here’s the one person, with the one personality trait he/she has”. Solid stuff, all in all. Certain characters also have certain rivalries with one another, a prime example being Bolt and Saul who both have clear and precise motivations against each other, not that is brought out in actual dialogue, but instead shown through text-based lines on loading screens.
Gameplay is your standard affair for an MX game. You, the player, are given several different modes to choose from, such examples include ‘Elimination’, ‘Hunter’ and ‘Tournament’. These, unfortunately, are all mostly just varying degrees of ‘finish first to win’. I can applaud the effort of putting in numerous modes to select but, due to the gameplay style that motocross games provide, it will never not turn into a game of finish first, which is really all a racing game can really offer. Although, there is a cool feature called ‘Golden Helmet’, which allows you and a secondary player to battle for a… well a golden helmet until the clock runs out. Speaking of secondary, it’s quite rare to see a split-screen co-op feature nowadays, even if it is a sports style game. It’s a nice addition though, making the ‘Hunter’, ‘Golden Helmet’ and ‘Last Man Standing’ modes much more challenging, as well as competitive.
Moving away from modes and features, the racing itself though is a different story. The fast-paced, high-octane style that the game presents is definitely not lacking. The speed that you can move in-game is, of course manageable, but doesn’t take much to send you flying off course and into last place. Racing is also entertaining in the use of the T.U.R.B.O feature. Initially, you don’t start off with it while racing until later on, but you can use T.U.R.B.O at the start of every race, Mario Kart boost style. Once you do obtain boost though, let me just say, there’s nothing that really hits home more than managing to boost five times perfectly in a row. That being said, you can also boost poorly and stall your bike, but the system is easy enough where players should be able to get the hang of it before that happens to any sort of frustrating degree.
Moto Racer 4 also displays a great understanding of style. How I mean is, the more tricks that you perform, the more style points that you receive. (i.e, wheelies, flips, continuous max high speed.) Where the understanding comes from, is that the points you accumulate are used for more than just a position on a leaderboard. Not that there is anything wrong with that particular gameplay style. It’s just nice a game that uses points for than just a measuring stick. Instead, points are used to gain more experience for upgrades that can be used to tune your bike for things like max speed, handling, and T.U.R.B.O. These adjustments are very much recommended in my opinion, as I found myself slipping more and more as career mode went on. Speaking of which, the difficulty curve is, in some ways subtle, but in others not so much. The switch from stage one to two was easy going enough, but everything after that was fundamentally where the real challenge started. A challenge that was greeted with open arms, considering that the first two stages felt more like tutorials, which is all good and well, but when the game switches it up on you, be prepared.
With gameplay aside, how do the sound and visual aspects of Moto Racer 4 hold up? Fairly well, especially the sound design. Graphically, Moto Racer 4 manages to hold a steady frame rate on the PS4 without having strain itself. The visuals themselves in regard to look and feel are really well done and do a great job at bringing across the feeling that you, the player, are part of being in an MX race. In fact, it does it well enough to the point where I didn’t find myself falling out of the experience at any point during gameplay. The look of the racer is overall standard however, maybe one or two features change for a couple riders but nothing that really set them apart for me in the long run. Not that they can't be changed in the customization menu.
As I mentioned before though, sound design is where it feels like the real effort went in as far as technical features are concerned. Bikes sound like they're supposed to and crashes are not just painful to watch, but painful to listen to as well. Listening to traffic whip by when racing on the highway is also a rush, especially when you're driving against traffic at blinding speeds. Audio all around is basically spot on, nothing sounds out of place or misused to any degree, so that’s always a plus. Considering this is a game based around traveling at very high speeds, I’d say the game does what it does in this department to great effectiveness.
Moto Racer 4 hits all the right notes in this genre, even if it is a bit lacking in actual replay-ability. Perhaps players might want to wait for a price drop before purchase, but Moto Racer 4 doesn’t disappoint in the long run. It may be odd to say actually, but Moto Racer 4 hasn’t exactly sold me on MX racers. Not that I didn’t enjoy the game has a whole, but in the end, it is another racing game. Place first, win a championship, rinse and repeat. 'The Golden Helmet' mode is a nice change of pace though, as mentioned beforehand, and more of that wouldn’t be unwelcome. Until then, Moto Racer 4 sits at a comfortable passing level.
So for those who are thinking of picking up any MX titles, Moto Racer 4 will, at the very least, keep you entertained in the coming months. Again though, the price may deter people from buying it and I certainly can’t blame anyone for that. Honestly, for the price, the game isn’t worth it. The quality is there, but not for anything as expensive as 50 plus dollars. All in all, Moto Racer 4 does enough to catch the eye, but the ride is more than a little bumpy.
|+ High Octane Gameplay||– Steep Difficulty Curve|
|+ Balanced Challenge||– High Price for Content|
|+ Well Constructed Co-op Feature||– Lacking Story|
|+ Nice Characterization|