MUD FIM Motocross World Championship for PS Vita is a handheld port of the console and PC game released earlier this year. While certain concessions have been made to get the game running at a respectable frame rate on the PS Vita, MUD is still an enjoyable portable racing title that gives players with a passion for motorsport plenty to see and do as they race across twelve tracks based on real venues, or perform spectacular tricks that would make any stunt biker proud.
The PS Vita version of MUD is a direct port of the PS3 game apart from a few elements. The number of participants per race has been halved for the handheld version (eight offline and six online) while the textures aren’t as detailed as they are on console. There’s no Cross-Play or Cross-Save support between PS Vita and PlayStation 3, and the game’s only touchscreen feature (including menus) is being able to respawn your rider by holding your finger on the screen. Another omission is Photo Mode, although the PS Vita’s screenshot feature slightly makes up for this missing functionality. The portable version is supposed to boast the same real-time track deformation as the PS3 game but I must admit that I didn’t come across any ditches in the track that weren’t present during the previous lap.
At its core, MUD is an arcade racer that also happens to be the official videogame of the FIM Motocross World Championship. Featuring three official competitions based on the 2011 season (MX1, MX2 and Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations) along with 32 official teams and 84 real riders, MUD could have very easily been a motocross simulator. Instead, despite the game’s physics model being fairly realistic, MUD feels more like an arcade racer due to its forgiving collisions and boost system.
The AI riders make practically no mistakes during races so to catch up to them you’ll need to rely heavily on boosting to close the gap. This can be done by activating a limited supply of energy drinks or by performing a ‘Scrub’ which sees you holding down the ‘X’ button just before ramping and then releasing it in enough time for your player to right his bike before landing it on the ground. There’s a risk versus reward system to scrubbing as waiting too long before releasing ‘X’ will cause your rider to crash but releasing it later rather than sooner will award your rider with stronger boost.
While scrubbing is an interesting way to keep you on your toes during otherwise undemanding sections of a race, it starts to feel repetitive after a short time and you begin to wish that there were similar techniques that you could employ during races that would improve your chances of winning.
One of the only other times you can use a technique to gain the upper hand in a race is at the very beginning of it. ‘Burning starts’ are achieved by holding down the brake and accelerate buttons simultaneously and then releasing the brake button the moment the gate drops at the start of a race. Performing a burning start grants you a powerful boost that puts you two or three seconds ahead of your opponents, which proves crucial on harder difficulty levels or against tough online competitors.
MUD’s offline modes include MUD World Tour and Official Mode. The latter is where you can compete in a replica of the 2011 MX1 and MX2 seasons, partake in the one-race Monster Energy FIM MXoN that features international riders, or choose ‘Quick Race’ where you can select the difficulty of your opponents along with a range of other options. MUD World Tour is where many players will spend the most time as it’s here that you can compete in interesting event types such as Trick Battle, Elimination Cup, Checkpoint Race and Head to Head, and earn credits which can be used to unlock new events or improve the skills and equipment of the four fictional ‘heroes’ on offer.
This mode is fairly addictive as there’s an incentive to performing well in races in the form of credits, which can then be pumped into four skill categories and four equipment categories that improve such things as your turn speed or team reward for achieving a certain position at the end of a race.
MUD also features a decent suite of multiplayer options including custom games and friend invites. Unfortunately if you don’t have a few friends with copies of the game then lobbies are generally devoid of players as only about 370 people are registered on the online leaderboard. Another disappointing aspect of multiplayer is that you can only compete in standard races and not the more interesting events seen in the MUD World Tour mode. Even Ad Hoc (i.e. local) multiplayer is missing from MUD which suggests that the developers didn’t have the resources to capitalise on the PS Vita’s excellent network capabilities.
Despite lacking touch functionality, MUD’s menus are colourful and stylish, while loading screens explain some of the more intricate aspects of gameplay. Tracks and riders are impressively detailed for a portable title and the frame rate is smooth except for when the screen becomes cluttered with bikes. The game’s soundtrack features a decent selection of rock music from generally unknown bands while the bikes’ engine noises sound a lot meatier when listened to through headphones.
MUD isn’t going to win any awards for game design but ultimately it’s a fun racer for PS Vita that should appeal to motocross fans. There’s plenty of content in the game’s MUD World Tour mode and if you have friends to play it with online, then this should lead to many entertaining sessions.
MUD’s presentation is one of its strong points but unfortunately gameplay isn’t. It’s a real pity that this aspect of the game often feels one-dimensional as you employ the limited techniques in your arsenal to close the gap on your fellow racers. With better gameplay MUD could have been one of the best racers on PS Vita but as it stands it’s merely a competent one.