Hot on the heels of Milestone’s MXGP2, Rainbow studios bring us the Encore edition of MX vs ATV Supercross.

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Motorcross has long been a sport I’ve enjoyed, but never seen enough of. Getting my hands on a decent Motorcross game was somewhat easier in years gone by, but with MXGP2 the first next-gen outing, and MX vs ATV Supercross Encore a Xbox One upgrade of it’s Xbox 360 namesake there’s not much choice.

Releasing only weeks apart, you would think that there’s plenty of competition, however these are two very different beasts. MXGP2 went for the realistic approach and MX vs ATV goes for a much more arcade feel.

Right from the menu options the arcade stance is apparent. The career isn’t a career of sorts, there’s no character creation, no intro sequences and no teams vying for your signature, instead you have a simple choice of which championship to start, and then you work through aiming for a 3rd place finish or better.

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Finishing on the podium will reward you with various unlocks such as helmets and gloves amd if you finish the series in the top three your rewaarded with a trophy icon next to the championship.  Continuing through these ‘Career’ selections you’ll find options for arena Supercross, outdoor nationals and waypoint races and finally the rythym races which mix Supercross with drag racing,

Each championship will depict wether Motorcross bikes, ATV’s or both are allowed, and as you progress you’ll start using more powerful vehicles.

Initially they all handle pretty well, with the left stick used for steering, triggers for braking and acceleration and the LB offering a noticeable clutch boost for coming off a bend or jump. The right stick covers weight distribution with up and down controlling the angle of your bike and a lateral push will take you into a sharp but risky skid for the sharper corners, throughout a race you’ll have regular chances to take a risk, wether it’s cutting short on a corner or trying to take a jump at an angle with more acceleration, when it works the rewards are instant, but make one wrong move and you’ll be fighting for control.

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This all sounds great, and the risk and reward system would make for some amazing scraps for the podium, however there’s a few issues which near-ruin the need for taking risks.

Firstly if you do fall of your bike, there’s no major punishment. You hit the A button and you’re back on your vehicle with little to no time penalty often starting off with speed from slghtly further in front of where you came off.

Surely this means driving like a maniac should be a must-do technique, however the A.I and rubber-banding put paid to that idea. On one Rythm race, I got over half way, slightly behind 4th place with a few other riders right on my bumper, one wrong move and I came flying off. Initially the realisation I’d thrown away the race, but this isn’t real, it’s a video game, so I was able to hit ‘A’ keep racing for 15 seconds and finish in 2nd place.

The same rubber banding is evident when you’re off in front, I’d make a near-perfect lap without a single mistake and finish 6th, and then the next race I’d get holeshot (in front at the first corner) and wouldn’t see another racer for the rest of the race.

It’s pretty dissapointing that the A.I system seems to take away the skill element and wether you finish first of fifth seems more reliant on luck than a few good laps but the race’s that do play out dependent on your skill are fantastic fun and more than worth enduring the occasional annoying result.

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Thankfully there’s plenty of tracks and events to work through, with 19 chapmionships each comprising over between 5 and 17 events, Encore features more than double the track-count of MX vs ATV Supercross on 360, and wether old or new these tracks are all very well made, and full of challenging twists and turns.

Everything looks pretty good too, stepping slightly away from a super-realistic look, everything still feels very authentic, dirt kicks up on the corners, riders jostle for position and everything seems to fit the atmosphere of the game perfectly, likewise sound suits well but unfortunately it’s very much as you’d expect, there’s no audio that really stands out and it all feels a little ‘background’ to the action on screen.

While there’s no official Motorcross license for events or vehicles there’s plenty of licensed gear, and a multitude of vehicle upgrades to work towards unlocking, there’s also a handful locked behind DLC, but there’s more than enough to unlock and little reason to pay fairly expensive premiums for more of the same.

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The variety of events feels just about right, with the Supercross and Nationals/Waypoint races covering most avenues, but the Rhythm racing and Free ride off a welcomed change.

Rhythm racing is all about hitting the jumps perfectly, keeping your rhythm and using that momentum to reach the finishing line first, while Free Ride let’s you explore, practicing hitting the jumps and turns and making use of the tricks which are tied to your right stick and RB button while in the air, these aren’t necessary but if you want to play competitively with either local or online races then there’s no better way to showboat than a spinning trick over the finishing line.

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