It’s an unfortunate fact that a lot of things that you see on TV that look like they would be really fun to try are actually quite uncomfortable, dangerous, or both. Take, for example, Red Bull Air Racing, Motocross (MX) motorcycle racing, and being married to Angelina Jolie. The Air Racing, while it looks cool and exciting, fits both the dangerous (I think we can safely stipulate that as being self-evident) and the uncomfortable tags. I doubt that many of you have felt the effects of a 9G turn, but having pulled 4Gs or so myself I can assure you that it is anything but comfortable. Being married to Angie? Just ask Brad Pitt. Motocross racing? Well, we’re here to find that out.
Specifically, we’re here to talk about MX vs. ATV: Untamed, a new release from THQ/Rainbow Studios for the Xbox 360. If you’ve ever seen a motocross race, there are a few facets of it that you will certainly remember. Most likely, the first thing that jumps to mind is, well, the jumps. The motorcycles are light and powerful, and the tracks are designed with many hills throughout them. The combination of ‘light, powerful motorcycle’ plus ‘lots of hills’ equals ‘flying motorcycles’. Or, in my case, ‘flying motorcycle rider’, but we’ll get to that. One of the other traits associated with this type of racing is dirt. Plenty of dirt. Copious amounts of dirt. Dirt everywhere. Dirt being thrown in rooster tails from the rear tires of the bikes. Dirt, dirt, and more dirt. Well, unless there’s mud. Or both. Dirt AND mud. Riders so covered in it that all you can see is their eyes behind the visor of their helmets, and even that much only if they have tear-offs left. In a word, MX racing is messy. Finally, you probably remember the sound of the engines. They don’t have the deep, pounding thunder of a street bike. Instead, they have a quick-revving, raspy noise, and when they’re racing in large numbers (which they do), they have the sound of a hive of disturbed hornets.
Now, being as I’m of an age where I view a broken collarbone as more that just a minor inconvenience, it is too late for me to ever ride one of these bikes in the way they’re intended to be ridden. I could probably putter around a parking lot, or even ride a relatively flat trail, but I don’t believe that I will ever leap 30 feet into the air, kick the bike out into a sick nac-nac, and land gracefully (and safely) back on terra firma. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to, of course, but at some point in your life the “common frikking sense” gene is bound to become dominant, and I’m there. Fortunately, I have the benefit of maturing in synch with the maturation of electronic devices that allow me to feel the vicarious thrill of things like this with ever increasing fidelity. Will I ever know the true thrill of landing a big jump? No, of course not, but I will also never know the true feeling of crushing both testicles against the unforgiving seat of an MX bike. A fair trade, that. But, and this is a big butt (heh, worked in another Angelina Jolie reference when you weren’t looking!), I will get to experience some portion of both of those, without incurring any further risk to bodily damage than that which will likely occur when I bring home an Xbox 360 without asking the wife first.
This brings us (finally!) to MX vs. ATV: Untamed, which from here on out, I will refer to as MXvATV. All that stuff that I labored through above? It’s all in there. The jumps (and the falls). The dirt. The apoidea-like (Look it up. I did.) sound of the engines. And it’s all there in glorious 1080i HD. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, there’s one more thing that needs to be defined. I’ve already talked about ‘MX’, or motocross. The ‘ATV’ in the title refers to what are essentially MX bikes with training wheels, or ‘All Terrain Vehicles’. They have four wheels. And, as we all know, if it has wheels, people will race it. The category of ATVs is very broad, going all the way from sporty little quads up to full-size trucks suffering from automotive Elephantiasis, or ‘Monster Trucks’ in the vernacular. The ‘MX vs. ATV’ moniker comes from pretty much what you would infer simply from reading it, which is that in MXvATV you will participate in races in which both classes are entered. As you can imagine, this combination of four-wheel and two-wheel vehicles pitted against each other on tracks that cause personal injury lawyers to salivate more than they do upon the release of a new, as yet non-class action suit pharmaceutical, is very exciting. So exciting, in fact, that participants are encouraged to being a spare femur or two.
With the combination of MX and ATV in the same game, the extent of the list of vehicles included in MXvATV is lengthy. In the motorcycle class, there are three engine sizes running from the diminutive 50cc up to the blustery 250cc. The 50cc bike, or ‘mini-MX’, may sound docile and easy to tame, but you will be surprised. What it lacks in power, it makes up in nimbleness. It’s small, of course, and you will look like a clown in the circus or a Shriner in a parade riding it, but that doesn’t make the racing any less challenging. The big 250cc bike is stronger and will mask riding errors better, but isn’t as quick through the turns. In my limited experience, the 50cc racing seemed closer than that of the larger bikes. In other words, I didn’t lose by quite as much. Falling off of either during a race has the same result: you will probably get run over by another rider. Don’t ask me how I know this, please.
The list of four wheeled vehicles is more extensive, with the differences having far more to do with chassis than engine size. At the lower end, there are the traditional quad runners that you’ll see tearing up the turf at any state park. From there, you can move up to larger vehicles like sand rails, sport trucks, monster trucks, and even a four wheel drive golf cart. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, ranging from power to drivability. It’s pretty intuitive, actually: the little quad runners are not super powerful, but agile enough to battle head-to-head with the MX cycles. At the other end of the spectrum, the Monster Trucks drive like they look: bloated, bulky, and bouncy.
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