STAFF REVIEW of MX Nitro (Xbox One)

Friday, March 3, 2017.
by Chad Goodmurphy

MX Nitro Box art Since the days of Excitebike 64, and later on MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael, I’ve had a love for games featuring a mixture of dirtbikes, ATVs and extreme stunts. Well, the good ones at least, and what’s unfortunate is that those have become increasingly more difficult to find as of late. It’s too bad too, because a great developer could really do something special with today’s advanced, 4K-allowing technology.

It was due to my love of this subject matter that I entered into this review of MX Nitro – a game that I hadn’t heard much about until I saw it on a release list and decided to look it up. Unfortunately for me though, this Trials inspired racer/trick fest didn’t live up to the marks set by its much more enjoyable predecessors.

Developed by Miniclip - whose previous focus mostly had to do with mobile and free-to-play PC games - MX Nitro is a Trials-esque game with smartphone and tablet roots. The result is an experience that, while playable on console, feels more like a mobile game than a true console game and suffers as a result.

That’s not to say that MX Nitro is wholly bad, or really anywhere close, it’s just mediocre, and would have been better had it done away with some of its mobile trappings, like its modified star system. The game’s main problem, however, is its frustrating difficulty, which may be as high as it is in order to promote replay value.

As much as I went in wanting to enjoy this nitro fuelled experience, it got to a point where I decided that enough was enough. It was around that time that things had begun to stall and my progression across the game’s world map had almost stagnated.

While I like to think of myself as a talented gamer, who can clear quite a few games on hard and has had a lot of success in the past, I know that I’m far from the best and never declare myself as being in that realm. It’s especially true of Trials-like games, as I haven’t had too much experience with such titles. Sure, I played a bit of one of the Trials games in the past, but it was a bit too demanding for me at the time.

The reason I decided to take on MX Nitro was because it seemed to be something different. That is, a more lenient, Trials-lite experience, with more of a focus on racing and tricks rather than the uber challenging, physics-based stages of the latter series. However, while it’s surely a bit more lenient than Trials, and is more racing focused, it’s also a game that is much more frustrating than it is fun.

At the center of this problem lays a lack of difficulty options, coupled with cheap rubber-band AI. Simply put, MX Nitro is the type of game where you really need to be perfect and have all of the bumps go your way, or else you risk yet another restart. This is especially true come the mid-way mark and into the latter portion of the game, where things quickly change from challenging, but fair, to cheap and aggravating.

Generally, it’s just you and two or three other racers, all vying for first place as you rocket across a sandy and hill-heavy dune, or race down a mountain slope and then head back up again. Physics are key, as they are in Trials, because you need to negotiate every single bump with expertise in order to win later events. The AI is always on your tail, though, and will overtake you with ease, lest you have a near perfect or absolutely perfect run, which is hard to achieve.

The easiest way to get through these challenging races is to use your nitro at the absolute best moments, but sometimes that’s easier said than done because the game’s physics aren’t always your ally. MX Nitro, you see, is a game where you must use the left and right joysticks to maneuver your bike and its individual wheels after each bump, wheelie and jump. For the most part the controls for this are okay, but they’re very touchy and can sometimes be too finicky for their own good. And, through them, MX Nitro often demands more perfection than it should, which ends up making its gameplay so frustrating.

Truth be told, the races are usually much more doable and less frustrating than what comes after them, that being trick-based events and boss battles. It’s here where Miniclip’s foray into Xbox One is the most aggravating, as you practically need to be perfect in order to have any success in these events around the mid-way mark.

It was during a boss battle against a Mexican-themed trickster that I started to become annoyed with this game. Before that, it had been challenging but fair, but that particular encounter was just a pain in the ass. Why? Well, I’d often be leading going into the last part of the third and final lap, only to be passed by him at the last moment. And, in a**hole fashion, this would usually involve him taking an almost absurd final jump, soaring over the top of my head, then right over the finish line.

I did have some good runs against said boss, and eventually beat him, and the same was true of a handful of the trick attack challenges. However, it often seemed, and felt, as if the game and its controls were fighting against me, which isn’t a good thing when it comes to such a precision based genre. In fact, there were multiple occasions where the controls failed me during a trick attempt, resulting in my avatar not pulling off the move that I had asked it to.

What can also be confusing is MX Nitro’s bike system, which allows you to unlock and purchase new types as you progress through its campaign. Not all bikes are created equal, of course, and this game takes things a step further by employing a system that makes it so that not every accumulated ride is better than your last. Each one, you see, has its own name and abilities, and you’re supposed to strategically use them for different event types.

While this isn’t a wholly unique, let alone a new mechanic, it isn’t exactly handled as well as it could have been. I say that because it’s not always evident as to which bike you should use for which event. I sometimes felt like I hurt my progress by upgrading the wrong bikes at times, but I tried to spread my cash out as much as possible.

Speaking of cash, a good tip is to not worry about buying much in the way of cloting, be it coloured shirts and pants, badass-looking armor, or uniquely designed helmets. Although they allow for some appreciated personalization, the cash you must spend to buy them comes from the same pool of winnings as your bikes’ upgrades, which are much more important and ten times more vital.

Take note that there is some multiplayer to be found here, although it’s merely ghost-based. The idea is that as you play you’ll unlock new campaign tracks for online play, and will be put up against another player’s best attempt each time you decide to hop into the multiplayer portion of the experience. Needless to say, it’s pretty basic and somewhat limited, meaning that it won’t keep you hooked for long.

Now that all of the above has been said, how does everything look, sound and function? Well, for the most part, MX Nitro is a fine-looking game, although it should be said that it looks more like an up-rezzed mobile title than a full-fledged, built from the ground up, console release. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that given this game’s genre, its price tag and its developer’s mobile roots. Unfortunately, though, things are not all perfect on the presentation front.

As you progress, you’ll start to notice more and more screen tearing, especially during the opening sections of different events. The racers, and their rides, also lack some of the texture work, detail and more realistic shaping seen in other games. What may annoy some people more than anything though is the heavy soundtrack, which is very, very repetitive, to the point where many will likely just turn it off completely.

MX Nitro is a title that had a chance to be good, but it failed to really make much of a mark as a result of several unfortunate mistakes. The game’s frustrating rubber-band AI and the need for near perfect runs on the included tracks really hurt it, which is a shame because those issues could have been aided if not wholly corrected by the inclusion of a difficulty system. Do your research before buying this one folks, because it’s not the easygoing, fun experience that its title makes it seem like.

- Include a difficulty system or lighten up on the cheap AI
- Improve the controls to allow for the required precision
- Work on reducing screen tearing
- Make the game, and its bike selection system, more accessible

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 3.5 / 10


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