Review: MX vs ATV: Untamed
Racing/Stunts/Racing with stunts
It’s big. It likes to mix things up. It’s very American. It’s pretty hard.
Look. I know. You saw this in the release schedule and thought ‘yeah, fuck that’. Well, I was given a copy of MX vs ATV back on the PS2 a few years back and didn’t load it up for months. I’ve got no interest in motorsports, especially those that encourage people to throw devil horns and make whooping noises.
Anyway, I eventually fired it up and was pleasantly surprised. It played very nicely with a fully-fleshed out racing season, a reasonable trick/stunt system and a whole heap of unlockable vehicles. In fact, looking back now the MX vs ATV games are amongst my favourite things on the PS2 and PSP.
So, Rainbow Studios have finally brought the series to the current gen and the good news is that it’s mostly a successful transition. The game follows the exact same formula as previous games in the series by offering several different modes and vehicles whilst maintaining the bumpy physics and sheer sense of mayhem.
The race modes are the bread and butter of the series. These see you racing around various off-road tracks that are about as flat and easy to ride as Vanessa Feltz. The courses require risk-taking, planning and pure skill to navigate as you can easily come a cropper if you aren’t careful but will also finish last if you’re too careful.
As you bounce around the constantly undulating surfaces you’ll have to judge the distance between the hill you’re taking off from and the next. By preloading the suspension (hold down on the left stick and move it up as you are on a ramped surface) you’ll achieve more distance. Then in mid-air you can physically shift your weight left or right to align yourself into the next corner. As you land your wheels will find traction nearly instantly and you ride off into the next straight. Imagine that with eleven other riders all vying for space. Skills for kills, Agent. Skills for kills.
In order to keep things interesting there are a wide-range of tracks and vehicles to spice things up. Racing a big monster-truck around a winding MX track is certainly a recipe for fun, frustration and overall larks for example. Along MX bikes and ATVs, you get stunt cars, trucks, mini-motos and various other vehicles to play with and these can be used either in the branching events of the touring mode or in customised combinations in single events.
The racing is truly great fun although definitely not a walk in the park. Even the early events can take a few attempts to win although it certainly doesn’t feel unfair at any time. AI opponents can also wipe out with an honest frequency and can be overtaken if you’ve got half-decent racing chops.
Aside from the racing there is also the ‘Freestyle’ mode. This uses a trick system which is similar to before with the Y/B buttons instigating tricks and the bumper buttons acting as modifiers. This will let you do various death-defying MotoX tricks such as ‘superman seat grabs’, ‘no-handers’ and backflips. These don’t score as highly as they did in previous games (once you scored a backflip/grab combo you pretty much would win any event outright so that was pretty much broken) and now have limited time to combo into another trick.
This works very nicely. There is now a sense of urgency as you try to keep your combo alive and this is mixed with some classic risk/reward gameplay as you try to keep a heavy combo alive rather than letting the combo timer expire so that you can bank the points.
Again, the bouncy physics and excellently designed arenas make the Freestyle mode excellent fun and in combination with the racing mode you can’t really complain about value for money. This offers a lot of gameplay which is a welcome relief after such four hour wonders as Beautiful Katamari.
Wow a racing game that does not take itself to seriously? I was beginning to think that Flatout would actually be the only one of the 360 but thank god for this game because it’s nuttier than squirrel turd.
My only gripe is that the championships are way to long. I am talking 2 (or even 3 if you do qualifying) races on each course that can take from 5 to 10 minuets a lap with normally 2 to 3 laps a race. This means you’ll need to set aside at least half an hour to do a single race which is missing the point a bit here I think.
At the end of the day what wins it for this game is the amount of gameplay options that this game has which is amazing. MX vs. ATV has so much variety that it can actually keep up with the likes of Flatout. The racing, stunts and mini games are well very well designed although I would of loved to be able to play the Ice Hockey mini game online with friends but what’s a guy to do. I recommend checking this game out even if your not big on racing games although I warn you it’s a toughie.
Secondary Score: 7/10
Add to this some solid multiplayer antics with racing, freestyle and mini-game modes for the sociable gamers out there and you’ve got a decent package yes? However, it’s not all good news.
Firstly, it’s pretty ugly. We’re talking PS2-quality graphics. I guess this could be down to keeping everything running at a fast, smooth level but seriously, if you saw this game out clubbing in Croydon on a Saturday night you’d already guess that she’s got a stupid tattoo on the small of her back and to be honest, she’d be quite fat, and with a wonky eye.
But she’d also have a lot of charm and a good sense of fun. She’d also be bouncy and er… relatively dangerous.
Stretching this rather shit, sexist metaphor a little further. She’d also have the worst fucking taste in music ever. Oh my god. The soundtrack to this game irritates and appals in equal measure. My Chemical Romance, The Used, Disturbed and Nickelback (for the full Chad Kroeger)? Thank you Lord, for custom soundtracks. And drill-bits that fit perfectly into my ears. Guide my hand oh-lord as I drill out all of my acoustic nerves.
Also, some of the events to tend to drag on a while, mainly due to some gargantuan tracks. Overall though, I’m prepared to forgive horrible production if we get great gameplay (note to Jade Raymond: this doesn’t work the other way) and MX vs ATV: Untamed delivers. It may be slightly surplus to requirements if you own Flatout or even the PS2 iterations of this series but this is an excellent 360 debut and one that I see myself playing for a long time.