MX vs. ATV is a series that many racing fans know. Whether it was flying planes or racing dune buggies in the desert on the PS2 with MX vs. ATV Unleashed or tearing up the great outdoors on a dirt bike in MX vs. ATV Reflex on the Xbox 360, racing and riding fans have been doing backflips and coffins with the series since 2005. After a three-year hiatus comes MX vs. ATV Supercross, the fifth installment of the IP and first under a new publisher after THQ sold its properties. It’s without a doubt a series that deserved another game, though this particular entry could use some work.
The first thing that’s evident is that the game looks a bit dated, even on a last generation console. It’s quickly noticeable from the start of the very first race when the flag girl holding the countdown sign looks flat and static. The stadiums are always packed with cardboard cutout fans and if you go fast enough, the tracks will start to have texture pop-ins 10 feet in front of you. The presentation isn’t all bad however, seeing the dirt fly up behind vehicles and your rider’s jersey flap in the wind are nice touches, and racing against actual professional riders adds to the realism, especially if you’re a fan of the sport. The soundtrack is also catchy if you like hard rock and makes for good background noise while the engines are roaring on the track.
For game modes you can choose to do a single race, local and online multiplayer, or where I spent most of my time: career. In career mode you can choose to race on 11 different circuits, some with eight races, others with 17. Like any racing circuit, after each race you'll get points for where you place and add to that total throughout. Don't worry, even if you finish last or close to it for the first couple races you need not start the whole circuit over as making a comeback is still possible; something that is nice for beginners. Some circuits are strictly for dirt bikes, others ATVs, and the third option, which is my favorite: dirt bikes and ATVs. Sadly, unless you're overly familiar with the sport all the jumps, bumps, and turns start to feel similar after a few races on different tracks. Eventually I started not to care what track I was on because they all felt so alike.
The gameplay in MX vs. ATV: Supercross is what you would expect from the series. Like many racing games, the triggers of the controller will be your bread and butter. It is nice that in order to win you have to break around corners and ease off of the gas to maintain your place. You'll also have to use one of the analog sticks to control your rider’s balance in the air to land jumps effectively and keep up your speed. This prevents the monotony of mindlessly holding down the acceleration throughout the whole race. As it should, racing with dirt bikes feels different than riding ATVs. The latter feels slightly more arcade-style and it would be more fun, except the vehicles are too jumpy and often snap slightly to the left, knocking you a bit off course and quickly becoming a nuisance, especially when the races are tight. Dirt bikes, when juxtaposed, control tighter around corners and, unless you enjoy frequent wrecks, feel like the superior option.
As far as vehicle customization goes, you pick your bike or ATV and choose its features such as graphic kits, handlebars, breaks, and suspension. How you outfit your vehicle of choice impacts its five categories: power, brake, traction, suspension, and chassis, though the changes don’t seem to carry too much weight. When I equipped better tires to increase my traction stat I didn't notice a significant difference when I turned tight corners trying to maintain a lead or close a gap. You can also customize your rider. Cosmetic changes like changing your last name (mine didn’t fit, unfortunately), outfit, goggles, boots, and helmet help you stand out from the pack, and there’s plenty to choose from. If you're wary of all the options, you can also choose a complete outfit from a professional racer, a good option for fans that have a favorite rider that they want to mimic. The longer you race and the better you place unlocks more gear for your rider and parts for your vehicle. It’s simple enough, though I wish it would explain how to unlock certain items that you're vying for. If I wanted a new exhaust to increase my ATV's power, I was forced to keep racing and hoping that it would unlock eventually, rather than knowing exactly what I had to do to unlock it.
It’s also a bit disappointing that the game never even acknowledges that you can do tricks or shows you how to do them. As mentioned before, the analog stick that controls your balance can also be used for stunts. Luckily, you can do a free ride mode at any of the 17 tracks, making it perfect for experimenting rodeos and lazy boys without risking your spot in a race. In fact, I probably had the most fun topping out my speed off of a jump, trying (and mostly failing) to do a backflip while free riding. Though it was a little frustrating that at some points my rider would arbitrarily fall of his vehicle for what seemed like no reason. Once you get a few tricks down, carrying them over to a race and busting them out off of a big jump next to your competition or across the finish line can actually be pretty satisfying.
The game is perhaps at its best when it doesn’t take itself as seriously. Watching fellow riders get catapulted off of their bikes during a race and seeing their bodies ragdoll on the ground is an unrealistic but hilarious occurrence that happens more often then one would think. If you're racing with ATV's expect this to happen often as it seems like crashes are more frequent. It's even hard to get mad sometimes when flying off a bike yourself at a crucial moment in a race just to see your racer's body bend in ways you didn’t think possible.
If you’re a fan of the series, MX vs. ATV: Supercross is worth a look, especially for the $30 price of admission. But if you’re a regular racing fan looking to scratch your itch within the genre, you’re better off looking somewhere else.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Buffalo wings, writing, sports, and video games: those are the things that I love most in this world. If I'm not crying at the New Jersey Devils or New York Giants' most recent loss, chances are I'm playing video games. During the summer, you can find me at the golf course tearing up the ground doing my best Bubba Watson impression. Oh and by the way, the first Uncharted is the best one of the series... View Profile