When it comes to an established and well-loved brand (which can be anything, from a movie series to a clothing line) it seems one action which will always guarantee a profit is to produce a related video-game. For many, this is the only way to experience that brand in an interactive form, in which case the process is very easy to manage. But when it comes to a game like MUD, an off-road bike racing game, the problem arises that the market has already been receiving off-road games for years now.
So, the question remains, has world-motorcycle authority FIM managed to negotiate the pitfalls of game design, while still leveraging its vast influence in this area to reach success with their first tie-in game?
As far as racing games are concerned, whether they are car or bike or anything else, there is generally two ways to approach the concept. The first is to produce an ultimate racing simulation, which aims to present as close an image of reality as possible. This would be your Gran Turismo. The other is to give a no-holds barred crazy arcade style experience, where fun takes precedence over anything else. This would be your Burnout. As for MUD, it curiously enough seems to straddle the middle of these two, and presents a strange duality. In one game mode, you have a choice of four cartoonish, Guitar-hero like fictional characters to choose from, which can be levelled up via a slight RPG mechanic. In the other, you get to race with 84 famous and real-life FIM motocross racers, along courses used in the real tournament. This presents a nice level of choice for the player, but at times felt like it made the game somewhat unfocused.
As for the races themselves, gameplay is as solid as could be hoped for. The bikes handle well, and weight mechanics while in the air are managed in a realistic fashion. This is again however juxtaposed with more arcade-style mechanics, such as getting a power boost at the start of the race, and using a manoeuvre in the air to gain a boost when landing. Added to this is the ability to “drink” a can of Monster energy drink (another of the major sponsors of the game) during the race for a quick boost to performance. The racing takes a short while to get used to, but thankfully all crashes result in the player being reset on the track fairly quickly and painlessly.
The audio sets a nice tone for the game as well, presenting a decent collection of tracks to keep the mood going as the player goes on. It does not contain many particularly well-known tracks, but the joy of a game such as this is that a track might become a new favourite after hearing it enough in a video game.
The game also boasts a well-constructed and well maintained online mode, meaning that it’s quite a joy to be able to experience with other players, and will extend the longevity of the game for quite some time. Once mastered, the single player modes do not have a particularly tough difficulty curve, and even obtaining achievements is not too difficult (you receive two for entering the first two menus on the main screen) so the option to challenge yourself against other human players might give new purpose to the game.
What MUD offers essentially is a game for fans of FIM and its official championships. This might seem like an obvious statement to make, but it should be repeated. Fans of motocross games in general would probably not find anything here to draw them away from their earlier games, and might also be put off by the very blatant brand-naming on the game. The attraction then lies in racing against some of your favourite FIM stars, on some of your favourite FIM courses. If this describes you, then by all means buy MUD. If not, perhaps rent and then decide.