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MX Vs ATV: Alive Review

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
motocross, MX Vs ATV: Alive, Racing Games, THQ

MX Vs ATV: Alive Review

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed) | PS3
Developer: THQ Digital Studios Phoenix
Publisher: THQ

These games keep surviving, despite never really amassing much acclaim, even after merging the two world of motocross and ATV quad-bike racing, which at least saved fans of both a bit of money. So is there enough here to warrant a purchase rather than another indifferent shrug two laps into the demo? Let's find out.

There's no a typical career mode in place, either by label or structure, which is initially off-putting. But at least there's no terrible story. You can choose to ride an MX (bike) or ATV (quad) around a small handful of tracks while earning experience points for yourself and for each vehicle.

Unfortunately you have to repeat the same few tracks over and over again to unlock more at level 10 and then level 25. You can try and stave off the boredom by tweaking the race experience by changing the lap count, difficulty or mixing up the field of competitors to be a range of single discipline or a mashup of bikes and quads.

MX Vs ATV: Alive Review

The difficulty range is somewhat unbalanced. You're either going to finish 10 seconds ahead of the field or be involved in a tough battle for third. And when the XP rewards are significantly better for winning on an easier setting than scraping onto the podium on a tougher one, what are you going to do? Annoyingly you have to reset the number of laps and difficulty every time you go to the race menu. At least if you instantly restart a race after finishing one the XP carries over.

One way to make the too easy setting a bit more competitive is by switching to the helmet cam. It's a bit disorientating through the bumpy sections and it's nerve-racking seeing that front mudguard creep into view as another involuntary wheelie tries to kick you off. But the view you get during the higher jumps is incredibly immersive.

Handling

The handling for both vehicles takes a bit of getting used to with the bikes coming out on top. The ATVs feel too light and bouncy which is a complete nightmare seeing as the races are all about taming the jumps. On the figure-of-eight tracks the ATV races feel more like furiously looking for the last caramel barrel in a busy tin of Quality Street. You don't have to ride the ATVs if you don't want to though.

MX Vs ATV: Alive Review

While Pure was about massive jumps and insane tricks, this is more about being efficient with your jumps between sections of smaller jumps. By pressing down on the right stick you prepare your rider for a jump by suppressing the suspension springs and pressing upwards near the peak of a slope. Get it right and you can soar over the next jump or two. More important though is making sure you land on a downward slope, as to not lose vital momentum.

The right stick is responsible for adjusting your riders weight in all directions, which helps to get around the tighter corners too. If you land badly or get slammed by another racer an arrow will appear on-screen for you to match to get you balanced again before crashing. It works and the overall dedication the game has to the right stick makes it stand out from other racing games.

The tracks themselves are the real stars of the game. The locations aren't going to blow you away (jungle, snow, desert), nor are the visuals. It's their technical design for racing that keeps you interested. The importance of timing your jumps to make sure you don't get stuck bouncing around a whoop section or land on any upwards slopes dominates the race, more so than overtaking over racers. The racing is fairly solid though too, as you search out the sneakiest line on a corner or fly overhead.

MX Vs ATV: Alive Review

Other elements to look forward to involve going for the holeshot (the lead at the first corner) at the start of the race. Try and get a head-start by pulling in your clutch at the start and guessing when the starting gate is going to fall. The clutch could have been useful for sharper turns but the control pad layout limits it. The lever mechanism of a real-life clutch would have been better suited to a trigger rather than a bumper as it takes too long to 'squeeze' in meaning you can't get it down hard enough and in time for what you want.

Track-side tires and blocks becomes tiresome (no pun intended) as they often get swept into the track causing you to smash to a halt. When you do crash or zoom off the track a 'reset to track' prompt usually appears. When it doesn't though, it can ruin a race as you have to slowly reverse back, often while unable to see where you're going.

More annoying is the random wheelies that you can't get out of which usually end in a crash. The game often resets you halfway up a jump slope too, leaving you to crawl to the summit, a bit of common design sense should have placed you a bit further back with enough room to get some speed going again.

Outside of the races there's a free ride mode, where you ride around quarries and beaches pulling off tricks. These maps are so barren though, with no collectibles to root out and a serious lack of decent jumps to grab some decent air time. All this doesn't matter though because the trick system is completely awful. Hold the right bumper and fuck around with the right stick in the hope you'll trigger a trick animation at the height of the jump instead of just as you're about to land. Broken, useless and an embarrassment to the game.

MX Vs ATV: Alive Review

The online races feature the same racetracks although they seem to favour five lap versions which feel way too long. There's no sign of any lag at all, but there are a few too many over-talented yanks ripping up the scene. Enjoy the first lap, then just play time-trials with the remaining laps to keep you entertained.

It's obvious the game is going to be reliant on gamers buying future extra content such as vehicles, mods and more importantly tracks. The game has been released at the discounted price of £25, which goes some way to make up for the lack of content but it still feels a little empty. The way you're made to replay the early tracks over and over again to unlock later ones will test many player's patience too.

Pros

  • Track design is excellent for technical racing
  • Well-designed jumping
  • Online racing is a smooth experience

Cons

  • ATV handling is poor
  • Not enough tracks
  • Awful tricks mode

The Short Version: Despite the low price, the game feels a bit empty and what is there takes too much effort to unlock. The racing can be a joy though, mainly in thanks to the well-designed tracks and extra thinking required to nail the jumps.

MX Vs ATV: Alive Review


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