MXvATV does a good job of modeling these differences in performance, and with each change of vehicle you will find that you also have to change your racing style. This is a critical component in the whole ‘versus’ thing, of course. There wouldn’t be much value in having different classes of vehicles race with each other if they all performed exactly the same, would there? (For those if you that don’t understand hypothetical questions, I’ll let you off the hook and give you the answer: No, there wouldn’t.)
Beyond the variety of vehicles, MXvATV also provides an enormous breadth in tracks and racing series. Those are somewhat intertwined, of course, with the standard Motocross races using all-dirt indoor and outdoor tracks, the Supercross series using tracks of both dirt and pavement, and the Endurocross class (which, because of its obvious over-the-top sadistic nature, I had assumed was just made-up by the game developers but does, in fact, exist) using tracks made up of dirt, boulders, logs, and land mines. There are also Opencross tracks which are notable for their sheer length. These tracks meander through miles of open country with bridge crossings, canyons, wide-open deserts, and generous elevation changes, all of which provide a suitable environment for the larger vehicles like the sport and monster trucks. In all cases, the tracks were attractive and detailed. On the tighter MX tracks, I preferred the standard third-person view, but the more open tracks favored the more realistic first-person view. In particular, I liked the realistic way the dirt thrown up by vehicles in front of me (which was most of them, naturally) in the first-person view. It took me awhile to get over my natural inclination to duck when large clumps of mud flew at me. Ah, HD, will you never grow old?
MXvATV gives you the option of customizing your races with various combinations of tracks and vehicles, or for the indecisive it will randomly select races for you. There are various series that you can play in a career mode, and there are a couple of flavors of multiplayer. There is split screen for those that have another player right there with them, and multiplayer for those that can only maintain relationships with people hundreds of miles away. I tried both, and preferred the split screen if only because it was a game I could actually beat my teenager at. I played online multiplayer for an hour or so against the development team, and with that I wasn’t nearly as successful. In fact, if I didn’t finish a race in last place it was only because someone took a bio-break or something. At least with the AI racers, other bikers would fall down or face plant like I do (as it turns out, I did win the award for “furthest distance flown before digging a face divot”), but these guys were really good. Or at least I assume they were; I never saw much of them after the first couple of turns. This is true of the AI riders as well on the higher difficulty levels, but I least I could choose to lobotomize those guys down to a level where I could keep up.
No discussion of MX racing would be complete without at least mentioning tricks. Tricks are the insane, inappropriate, and incredibly foolish things that people that view a ruptured spleen as nothing more annoying that a hang nail do to fill the boring moments at the top of a three-story jump. Nac-nacs, lazy boys, cliffhanger, kickouts, and can-cans are examples of these various forms of idiocy, and they are all built into MXvATV. I learned a few things about tricks while I was playing MXvATV:
• They don’t count unless you can land them. There’s no partial credit here.
• It’s not a good idea to taunt the guys in 2nd and 3rd place in the rare occasions that you’re leading a race; you will sound find yourself in 7th place, wondering how you got there.
• You should probably make sure your jump trajectory is towards open track rather than the expensive seats in the arena before doing a trick. Actually, in that situation you might as well do the trick and go out in style, because you most assuredly are going out.
If the measure of a good game is a wide variety of ways to enjoy the genre, MXvATV delivers with generous amounts of vehicles, tracks, and racing series.
If the measure of a good racing game is that it takes practice to do well and it models real-world go-fast racing tricks, MXvATV also delivers. Learning how to time jumps to ensure that you land on the top or downslope of the next hill is critical – landing on the upslope is not only painful but slllooowww. Learning how to use the ‘preload’ that enables you to extend the length of your jumps is also very important – it can make the difference between clearing three hurdles or having to deal with them the slow, gound-bound way. Knowing when NOT to use the preload can be pretty important too, in that extending a jump beyond the boundaries of a track isn’t all that great of an idea.
If the measure of a good game is a combination of believable and immersive graphics and sound, MXvATV does a very good job. I don’t think this is the strongest part of MXvATV, but I also don’t believe it should be. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with either the graphics or the sound, mind you, but the meat of a game like this should always be the racing and riding mechanics.
With these measurements in mind, I rate MXvATV as a very good game. I enjoyed my time playing it, and it is going to be hard to return the loaner Xbox 360 to its owner. The racing is fun, the jumps are extreme, and the vicarious thrill of a closely contested moto delivers on the promise of an “Untamed World.”
MX vs. ATV: Untamed is a solid performer and offers a broad experience in off-road racing. It's fun in both single- and multi-player and is definitely worth a look if you enjoy getting dirty.
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