Rainbow Studios’ MX vs ATV Alive
is the next of their motor racing games to be released on May 10th of this year. Although the iteration sports the same general theme and gameplay, there are three main improvements implemented into this iteration that held the focus of the preview event.
The first of these improvements includes their new business model of pricing Alive at $39.99 MSRP and accommodating the decrease in price by having downloadable content (both free and premium) available to complement individual players’ play-style. By purchasing a new copy of Alive, players will gain access to the Motorclub that houses DLC for items for your rider, vehicle, and overall game experience (including extra tracks). This new model was implemented due to the tendency that gamers have shown to consistently stick with their favorite tracks, riders, bikes, etc. in previous iterations of the MX vs. ATV franchise. In order to accommodate those who did not want to take advantage of the other content, THQ and Rainbow Studios won’t be presumptuously charging them for the extra content, but rather giving it to them as a purchasable option. We are assured that it is the most robust content plan THQ has ever put behind the franchise, and that there will be over 100 items both free and for pay in the in-game store, the Motorclub Depot.
Amongst these purchases will be a free download of James Stewart’s compound and personal super cross track. Because fans have been clamoring for a digital rendition of his compound for some time, Rainbow Studios finally went to visit Stewart to digitally capture his compound and incorporate it into the game as requested. This was not the only partnership that THQ/Rainbow Studios sought after for Alive. As previously announced, they’ve also partnered with Suzuki and Yamaha as well as other super cross brands to bring consumers the most authentic experience possible.
The other upgrade in Alive entails the new bar-to-bar feature that lets you fight dirty with other players on the track. Using collision technology, the feature increases both the level of competition as well as the level of realism and authenticity in the racing game. Bar banging adds a more pleasantly aggressive component to the gameplay. While focusing on avoiding obstructions on the track, making the perfect turn and getting ahead of your opponents, you’ll also be attempting to smash them off the course when given the opening. This is also why Rainbow Studios has a new UI indicator that tells you the threat level of other racers behind you, determined by their distance from you. Bar banging effectively creates a new tactic of racing in Alive. Rather than simply avoiding your teammates for fear of interference with your driving, you will now be attempting to elbow them onto the ground and laugh at what seems should result in their dislocated necks (the only instance in which that is ok to laugh at).
Career mode is no longer as strictly linear as it once was for the MX vs. ATV franchise. You can migrate around the available tracks in a way you best determine, jumping from track to track so long as they have been unlocked. Having determined that the previous model wasn’t fun to play, Rainbow Studios has adopted a “push start to play” mentality in which progression is tracked via an XP system. Both your rider and your vehicle can accumulate XP offline or online. While you are playing the game, you will consistently be leveling and unlocking new abilities. These include two race skills that you are allotted, allowing you to play the game in the way you customize it. For instance, if you have a tendency to crash on the course, a race skill can be used to help your rider recover from the fall more quickly.
MX vs ATV Alive has several different types of experiences to choose from. You can play on the standard tracks, shorter tracks that involve more colliding and crashing against your competitors, and free ride to perform tricks and gain medals. The shorter tracks make their return from Unleashed. Elliott Olson, lead designer on Alive, explains that the bar banging feature comes most into play here. Given the tight tracks, the game becomes less about racing and more about surviving against the onslaught of your vicious competitors. The surprise element here is the cross over in the figure eight tracks that will have you on a collision course with other racers. As you cross the intersection, you’ll have to be aware of the other players crossing your path. Free ride is particularly fun to experiment with your motorbike. It’s a place to get accustomed to the controls, and to play around with tricks and/or chasing friends. They’ve implemented the same features of being able to partake in challenges, and locate hidden items. Fortunately, these challenges no longer need to be manually activated as in previous iterations. And, of course, your scores will be posted on online leaderboards. The challenges include highest hang time in your biggest, longest jumps, and free style jamming. You can also free ride James Stewart’s compound once you download it off the Motorclub. At the request of their fans, Rainbow Studios has also thrown in the option to hydroplane across ponds, so long as the water is not too deep, showing yet again their dedication to the fan base.
Where the game really shines is in the customizable options. You can purchase further upgrades to your rider or bike from available DLC, as well. These range from new outfits and paint jobs to the more hefty DLC of new tracks and races. The experience you want from MX vs ATV can be as limited or extensive as you pay it to be. Another particularly impressive feature is the changes in the tracks as riders rip through them. It creates deformations, making a new bump or ditch an unexpected addition on a new lap.
Being new to the series, my focus became more of how accessible Rainbow Studios has made the MX and ATV racing in Alive. Although standard driving is typically a matter of growing accustomed to each vehicle’s particular handling, Alive has the added feature of leaning your handlebars in a certain direction for further control. The response to these controls always felt a bit exaggerated. If I wanted to lean slightly towards a certain direction, I seemed destined to fall into it rather than use that slight movement for an advantage. Of course, as the Japanese proverb goes, although I fell seven times, I stood up eight. Fortunately for newcomers such as myself, not placing in first won’t be too detrimental to the experience. You can still gather points and unlock new treasures.
Alive can be very unforgiving. A slight mistake can throw your bike off course, and knock you down instantaneously a few ranks. Fortunately, however, the same ease in transition can be said for taking advantage of another player’s mistakes. You can use the extra time to gain the advantage to be able to have a fighting chance again.
Look out for MX vs ATV Alive when it releases on May 10th on the PS3 and 360. We'd like to thank THQ for providing airfare and a hotel room for the preview event.