The Motocross and Off-Road genre has always been a personal favorite of mine. It's not until recently that the masses have seen the true fun factor in these games. THQ/Rainbow Studios has always been one of the leading pioneers in this category, plus they've single handedly carved their own niche in these genre of games for the past ten years. Quite honestly speaking, if it wasn't for ATV Off-Road Fury on the Playstation 2, the general public would still be in the dark ages when it comes to these games.
THQ/Rainbow Studios has now released their next generation experience called MX vs. ATV Untamed (MVAU). With a brand new graphics engine, goodol vintage game modes and a significantly better online multiplayer experience, things are looking good. Really good in fact.
One of the first things returning fans will notice, are the menus, they don't ask stupid questions anymore. No more bad dreams from MX vs ATV Unleashed, where Are you sure you want to load your profile, and, Are you really sure you load your saved game? Talk about, Windows Vista syndrome. Much better guys! The menu interface is just more intuitive.
The single player experience is spent mostly in the X-Cross Tournament section of the game. Why? That's where you, as a racer, can experience every facet of the game. Additionally, you'll get to purchase all the swag, aftermarket parts and bikes you want. While spending my hard earned loot, I found myself spending countless hours with the bike and rider customization portion of the game. When you jump online, this is where you're going to make your rider and bike unique. Very addicting.
But, from I was able to figure out, buying all this stuff is purely cosmetic. None of this stuff makes you go any faster or grab more air. It just looks better. It goes like my friend Fernando would say, "It's better to look good than to feel good" - "You look marvelous!" There is a performance tweaking section, but these are more/less bike behavior options.
Let's move on to the graphics department. Some of tracks look great and some look average. Texture-wise some just weren't given a lot of lovin'. For example, on the track "Split Oak", the off-track textures are very flat. But, the majority of Supercross and Supermoto tracks look great (i.e. Clearwater) on the other hand so I'm not really sure what happened there. Unlike their previous MX titles, the developers would actually create each individual unique track.
The Supercross tracks finally feel like they are in a real stadium. Again, this was absent because of a technological limitation. Thank goodness that barrier has been broken.
The ecosystems in some of the outdoor environments seem to be somewhat non-existent or very low. Again, comparing this title to the previous ones (MX vs. ATV Unleashed), at least they had forests! This gave those tracks the illusion of the great outdoors. I've personally built Motocross Madness 2 tracks with more trees. It almost seems like"One step forward, two steps back". It's too bad, You would think next-gen system would be able to handle a real forest this day in age. Once again, maybe it's a simple case of a technological limitation, but not a show stopper.
While constantly comparing the old with the new, and digging deeper into MX vs. ATV Untamed; I'm starting to think the developers went with a more realistic setting for the game, rather than a borderline fantasy-ish vibe to the tracks. Personally, I miss racing thru a Mayan environment, or an old logging camp. Why? At the end of the day, we are playing a video game after all. Maybe they could try and bring back old Unleashed tracks to download off marketplace?
On a technical note, the game finally runs at solid sixty frames per second, unlike pervious MX games which were were locked in at thirty. This makes a big difference in order to give the player the sense of speed. Well done!
In the sound department is where things get shaky. Primarily the bike sounds and environment sounds. Here's a bike example. You come into a corner, the bike sounds good. You hit the brakes to do a power slide, your bike still sounds good. You pop the clutch to accelerate out of the corner, and the bike still sounds great. You start to accelerate out of the corner and about ten to twenty feet out, the bike sounds burst into a screaming over-revving madness. The bike sounds from the previous MX games were fine, other than the sound variance going over the "Whoops". Here's a track example; on "Split Oak", I would hear a crowd cheering me on, and I look around, I see no crowd. Sadly, this is the area where the game looses most of its points. But, at the end of the day these quirks are not show stoppers; you can always plug in your Zune and listen to tunes on the other hand.
I don't usually include bits about achievements, but THQ/Rainbow Studio has included a few humorous ones that give out absolutely no points. Like the "Clean Freak" achievement. Stay with your bike in the water for about a minute or so. You clean off your bike. Bam! An achievement! Watch the credits to the very end! Bam! Another achievement! Too funny, we can never have enough of those darn achievements. Cool stuff.
As stated earlier, the multiplayer is a bazillion times better than MX vs ATV Unleashed ever was. Seriously, folks. The final score of this review, was totally dependent on the simple fact if THQ/Rainbow Studios was going to mess up this portion of the game or not. Also, the longevity of this game will be determined if it worked or not. Simple. MX vs. ATV Unleashed was just broken. With MVAU, I was able to race online with MVAU with twelve (12) THQ peeps, they were on a mission to prove to me that there was nothing to worry about. Thanks guys! The worries have been put to rest. Rider collision detection is spot on, sometimes, too spot on! It just works. The only thing I noticed was if you did get slammed into (t-boned), it sends you flying a little too far than normal. But, like a real race, the first corner (In order to get the "Holeshot") is always messy, but it's always good to see a nice pile up. The lobby system of MVAU is quite ingenious, while you wait for you opponents to show up, you can practice on a sort of "practice track" setting. At least this way you not sitting around looking at the ceiling waiting for others to show up or hit "ready". I personally would have liked to of seen a bit of randomness here, especially if this game takes off online, riding this same practice track will get old.
They brought back Tag! (Whoever had that idea, give them a raise!) Yay! I remember in the hay day of Motocross Madness 2 (MCM2), the community played this mode to no end. It's really good to see that they are bringing back the things that just work. Tag, in this incarnation looks really cool, when you are "It", your rider has these "Ghost Rider" flames shooting out the back of his helmet. Looks freaking awesome! Other online "Mini Games" as they are categorized, include a tron "lightcycles" game mode called "Snakes", where you ride around and leave a trail of sorts, and you try to avoid other people's trail. The dynamics of this is that it's not two dimensional like Tron, you can actually jump over and sneak under the beams to avoid them. Piles of fun!
MVAU supports all of the Xbox Live features we've come to love, plus the game supports LAN play too! It's about time this feature was added. So, plan on inviting your friends over for a supercross night! Great job!
The real hope is that THQ/Rainbow Studios rolls out downloadable tracks to last us until the next release. I'm not talking about cheap gear downloads. The game does have thirty tracks (twenty indoor and ten massive outdoor), that should keep us all busy for a while. Personally, my time was spent with the Enduocross tracks.
Christmas is upon us and racing games are far and few between this time around, not counting Dirt; MVAU is so far the only open air off-road game for our Xbox 360. And if you're not into PGR 4, or Forza 2, then ask Santa for MX vs. ATV Untamed. It's a lot of fun for all ages.
Overall, MX vs. ATV Untamed is an incredible improvement over its brothers and sisters that got released in the past. Any true motocross or off-road fan will gladly welcome this "next-gen" experience. With great new multiplayer modes and all the technical improvements to this game. THQ/Rainbow Studios has listened to the community, and delivered. Well done!