MXGP 3 was one of the best surprises of last year. The motocross simulation offered significant improvements over its disappointing predecessorAi??with an upgraded graphics engine and new weather effects powered by Unreal Engine 4, to an advanced terrain deformation system that completely transformed the experience.
Like many developers, Milestone has capitalized on the phenomenal success of the Switch and has ported the motocross simulation onto Nintendoai??i??s handheld-console hybrid. This makes MXGP 3 the first bike game available on the system that fills the void of a new Excitebike.
This isnai??i??t the first Milestone game released on a handheld system, however: you may remember games in the MotoGP, WRC and MXGP series were previously ported to the PlayStation Vita. Unfortunately, if you were hoping for a faithful Switch port of the original PC and console versions, youai??i??re going to be disappointed because MXGP 3 is missing several core features on Nintendo Switch.
Itai??i??s all a blur
MXGP 3 on the Nintendo Switch features every rider, bike, and track featured in the original release. The game is also still powered by Unreal Engine 4, but the visuals have been significantly downgraded. Put simply, this is without a doubt one of the worst looking Switch games currently available on the system. Whether youai??i??re running the game in docked or portable mode, bike, rider and track textures look bewilderingly blurry. This lack of image clarity even causes track markers to blur into the background, which makes navigating the circuits successfully more difficult than it should be. You know when textures in games sometimes fail to load properly? Thatai??i??s what the Switch version of MXGP 3 looks like all the time.
Track detail and crow density have also been reduced, and a lack of anti-aliasing results in scenery that’s riddled with jagged edges. Unreal Engine 4ai??i??s realistic lighting effects still shine, particularly on a wet track where patches of mud glisten in the sunlight, but the reduced resolution really lets the presentation down. The number of rider opponents has also been reduced from 21 racers in the original game to only 10 in the Nintendo Switch version, which reduces the intensity of races.
One of MXGP 3ai??i??s most innovative features that sets it apart is its impressive track deformation. As you progress through the race, your tires carve into the mud, creating bumps and grooves that add a layer of challenge while navigating the uneven track. Sadly, this feature has been completely removed in the Switch version of MXGP 3 ai??i?? riding on flat surfaces is nowhere near as satisfying or challenging. Granted, the PlayStation Vita version of the original MXGP also didnai??i??t feature terrain deformation, but that game was running on much less powerful hardware several years ago.
These cutbacks would perhaps be forgivable if they improved the performance, but MXGP 3 suffers from frame rate drops on the Switch and frequently dips below 30 fps. As we’ve seen in games like Fast RMX and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Switch’s hardware is capable of producing great graphics at a smooth 60 fps so it’s a shame to see MXGP 3 suffer from such poor optimization.
Another glaring omission is the lack of multiplayer options. While other versions of MXGP 3 let you race with up to 12 players, online multiplayer is sorely lacking in the Switch version, leaving you with the career and single events. It doesn’t support local split-screen either, which is a shame because the ability to play with games with friends anywhere on the go by detaching the joy cons controllers is one of the Switch’s best attributes. There are plenty of other Switch games that support online and local multiplayer racing, but it stings knowing that other versions of MXGP 3 can be played online and cost a lot less. Charging full price for a game thatai??i??s missing core features from other versions seems hard to justify.
Fortunately, the Switch version retains MXGP 3ai??i??s responsive bike handling, where both analog sticks are used to control the bike and rider independently. Executing a well-timed scrub or whip over jumps is extremely satisfying, but the frame rate issues sometimes hinder the controller response.
If you havenai??i??t played an MXGP game before, prepare for a steep learning curve. MXGP 3 is the only realistic racing game released for the Switch so far, so having to slow down for corners and adjust the riderai??i??s weight distribution may come as a shock – particularly if youai??i??re used to playing Mario Kart where your thumb is permanently planted on the accelerator.
While games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Rocket League are fun and intuitive to play, the Switch simply isnai??i??t very well suited to real racers. The lack of analog triggers means you canai??i??t accelerate or brake progressively, which isnai??i??t ideal for a game like MXGP 3 that requires subtle adjustments with your inputs. AI opponents also behave realistically and provide plenty of challenge making for some exciting races, but more casual players may be deterred by the steep difficulty.
As with other versions of the game customisation options are extensive, with over 300 parts available from licensed manufacturers allowing you to change everything from your riderai??i??s helmet and gloves, your bikeai??i??s paint scheme and upgrade components such the brakes, exhaust and suspension. Unfortunately, this only highlights the low-resolution of the rider and bike models ai??i?? text on some of the liveries is barely readable.
If youai??i??re looking for a bike racer on the Switch, MXGP 3 is currently your only choice. It offers a refreshing challenge for experienced players, but its poor presentation, lack of terrain deformation, and absence of multiplayer options make it difficult to recommend. Sadly, this is a shockingly bad port of an otherwise brilliant bike game. This may be Milestoneai??i??s first Switch release, but it wonai??i??t be the last: rumors suggest future MotoGP games will be ported to the Switch, and the upcoming release of Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame will also soon be available on the system. Letai??i??s sincerely hope theyai??i??re better optimized than Milestoneai??i??s first Switch effort.