The roar of the engines, the kick of your tail-end, the jostling for position. MUD may lean (mid-air, foot outstretched) towards the accessible end of the racing spectrum, but its initial races do a great job of selling the excitement of a Motocross event.
Bikes slide round corners and sluice through the dirt. They leave trails that harden and becoming hazards on later laps. Each track – recreated versions of the FIM Motocross World Championship calendar – is full of mounds and jumps, long downward slopes and technical chicanes. There is an undercurrent of realism despite the ridiculous use of energy drinks to provide temporary speed boosts.
Equally ridiculous (although actually real) is MUD's primary race mechanic: the scrub. Scrubbing over a jump causes your rider to contort the bike into an improbable angle in the air. Straighten out at just the right moment and you're rewarded with a kick of speed on landing.
Mess up the timing and rider and bike will collapse to the ground. In races where riders are so tightly bunched together, it can mean the difference between competing for the front and languishing at the back. It's a trick extended out to absurdity, with races often hinging on mastering the technique, but stringing together a series of perfect jumps is a satisfying experience.
The official mode offers a quick race or a 12-track championship, letting you choose riders and teams from the tournament. But that's just the sideshow; MUD's main focus is the World Tour career. Here you pick a 'Hero' and compete in a variety of events for money.
That money unlocks everything . You'll need to buy passes to events, and to the individual races within them, new teams that offer bigger bonuses for better finishing positions, new characters, along with character traits that boost key stats such as speed, agility and stability-boosting strength. Then there's helmets, new tricks for the Trick Battle mode and better energy drinks to increase boost duration. Even if you focus on unlocking new events, the rewards for completing races just aren't big enough to keep up steady progress – you'll be spending most of your time grinding for the cash to foot the mounting bills.
There are multiple event types to break up the repetition. Elimination and Checkpoint offer the standard variations, but the other, Trick Battle, just doesn't work. It feels shoehorned into an engine not designed to support the ballsy balletics of the sport, and jerky animations and unnatural trick timings lead to an uninvolving experience.
MUD just doesn't offer the technical depth to make the constant repetition of races satisfying. In an effort to add bells and whistles, it gets bogged down and struggles to maintain its initial speed. But with a dearth of bike games on the market, it still provides a few hours of thrill
A solid Motocross racing game that skids and falls flat on its face in the mud when it tries to be anything else.