STAFF REVIEW of MTX: Mototrax (Xbox)

Monday, March 22, 2004.
by Troy

MTX: Mototrax Box art I turn hard on the throttle and hit the ramp at 70 miles per hour. The next thing I see is a look at the arena upside down. Landing smoothly I hear the crowd cheer as I land a no footed backflip. MTX Mototrax features tons of tricks, great music, lots of courses to thrash your bike through and some physics that will down right make you sick.

After playing MX Unleashed I figured I would give MTX Mototrax a try since there were just a couple features the game had that were looked forward to. Playing for about 5 minutes, the game was quickly turned off. Immediately disappointed by two things in the game, it seemed there was no hope for me to enjoy this game. Well not one to let that be the final chance given to a game, I turned it back on and have actually found the game to be quite fun.

One of the main reasons I wanted to play MTX Mototrax was because of getting to check out a new Slipknot song. Also seeing a list of bands that were in the soundtrack of the game had me excited. Plus I'm a motocross fan anyway. So heavy metal and dirt bikes, I figure this can't be bad at all.

The gameplay in MTX Mototrax plays a lot like one of the Tony Hawk games. This is a big disappointment to me. I've never cared for the Tony Hawk games in the past and to make a dirt bike game be similar is just disgusting to me. Activision seems to have to do this with all their extreme sports games so I should have expected it though.

I felt like there were some very realistic and also some horrible features to the physics of the game. When riding through a supercross track, your bike handles realistic on some of the ruts and bumps you hit on the course. This I thought was good, because it makes the player have to use their shocks and see how the bikes would work. Impressed with this at first, I continue riding and soon hit a small not secured sign on the side of the course. Surprise hit me as my rider went flying off the bike. Yes it's true, if your ever riding a dirtbike do not try and run over a small and easily crushable sign. That was the first point when I turned the game off. I just knew that this game was going to be horrible after witnessing that. The next time I tried playing I decided to do some freestyle riding and just getting a lay of the land while figuring the game out. I try to do a stoppie, a trick where you lean forward and tap the brakes to raise the rear tire of the bike, well when trying, almost immediately when the tire rises the rider goes flying over the handlebars. Strike two, and the game was turned off again. As the saying goes, third time is a charm, and the third time is when I really started to get into the game. I decided to try and complete the objectives of the freestyle level and move on into better areas of the game. Since my experience with the Activision games in the past have always shown to have better levels further into the game I had to press on to reach these levels. Some of the good points to the physics were the tricks you can pull off. The variables of how and what kind of terrain you land on all effect the bike on how well you will be able to continue or have your speed stopped. Overall with the physics of the game I was highly disappointed.

Something in the game that is really impressive is the large variety of tricks you can pull. MTX Mototrax features a large selection of tricks and different variables of how to perform the tricks. A lot of these tricks will just have you amazed by how crazy they are. I really liked how you can do landing tricks with each stunt you pull. Being able to land no handed or with your legs over the handlebars makes the stunts more impressive then just seeing them pulled. With so many tricks available they had to work in how to pull them off. This seemed to be more difficult then it should be. When trying to pull off a trick list in the freestyle competitions and being timed, you don't want to have to worry about have the control stick be perfectly pulled down and up with no angle to the right or left. Sure there are a lot of tricks and they have to be mapped out all differently on the control pad, but some tricks are just so similar in the combination of buttons needed to be pressed with other tricks, that you end up pulling the wrong one and just getting aggravated in the end. Other then those few complaints, the controls are very well laid out and similar to most other racing games with your R and L buttons as gas and brake.

Like the other extreme sports games by Activision they have to implement some kind of story with the career mode. While this one is lacking greatly compared to the Tony Hawk Underground storyline, it's very unique. Your rider has a PDA that they will receive emails from riders about upcoming events and areas you will have to goto to pass certain objectives to get further into the game. When riding through the level you will find people standing about with challenges for you. Most of these people will talk some smack to you and doubt your skills in performing their insane stunts. Other then the PDA feature, the game doesn't have many differences from the other career modes in the companies extreme sports games.

When playing the career mode you will go through a variety of different kinds of gameplay modes. The modes found here are Supercross, Motocross, Free Ride and Freestyle categories. All of these are pretty much self-explanatory except with Free Ride and Freestyle. Free Ride is the mode where you will meet the people who give you objectives to accomplish while riding in the most unusual places. While in Free Ride mode, you will have to earn a certain amount of experience to be able to reach the next level, which will be tied into the Freestyle modes. Also in Free Ride you will have opportunities to win money which will be used for gear and bikes later on in the game. Freestyle are the events on professional courses where you have to win medals and perform trick lists to pass.

Now features that MTX Mototrax has that were lacking in MX Unleashed are system link play, Xbox Live and a tool to design your own courses. Both of these features would have been great in MX Unleashed as I had mentioned in my review of the game. The system link play allows you to play three different modes with other people, Race, King of the Hill and Freestyle Battle. A short selection of gameplay modes is still more then other games offer. The course editor is almost an expected feature in any Activision extreme sports game since they have been there so many times. So build the craziest courses and have you and your friends show off their moves on your homemade level.

The graphics of the game, however nice, are not top of the line for the Xbox console. It does have it's perks though. You will notice your rider having dirt marks on his clothing after wrecking. While this is nice, it never seems to get worse as you wreck more. Still it was a nice touch to add some realism to the game. Of course as something expected when riding a dirt bike is a realistic smoke trail from your tires kicking up dirt. The riders models are also nicely animated as they need to be when you have a game that has a major portion dedicated to doing tricks with all parts of the body involved.

Also something this game has graphics wise not implemented in other games is a view of the handlebars in the first person view. Always enjoying the first person view, while riding the bike up a quarter pipe and pulling a backflip while in first person was enough to make my stomach turn. I really enjoy seeing the view from a first person perspective and was happy that MTX Mototrax didn't do the same as MX Unleashed with their first person view. When pulling off a trick in first person your camera doesn't leave the riders point of view. This is really cool, but your rider seems to have no arms or legs or any other view then the handlebars in first person. Even when you pull off a flip while in the air leaving letting go of your bike, you just get a shaken view of the handlebars. Still the first person view is one of the most fun ways to turn your stomach from doing flips and see the pain of crashing while sliding across the ground.

One thing I really like about MTX Mototrax is the unlockable videos. You get to see some of the real riders in action pulling off insane stunts. Along with that you also get a chance to take a peek at some of the riders houses. These are just some fun features I wish were included in more games these days.

Now as I had said before in this review, I had highly anticipated hearing the new slipknot song. Well it was a big disappointment to me. However, you aren't here to read my views on musical tastes so on with the sound in MTX Mototrax. The game's sounds I feel are a really poor attempt. The motors of the bikes all sound the same to me and don't have a very realistic sound when pulling on the throttle while in midair. However you won't have to worry too much about this as the sounds are normally drowned out by the music unless you change the settings yourself.

Which brings me to the music featured in the game. Once again this game features a heavy metal festival of music with a hint of classic punk hits and new ones as well. Players will also be able to customize their soundtrack and play custom soundtracks which is always a great feature for games where your going to be more interested in blasting the your tunes instead of hearing the games sounds. The defaulted soundtrack, while good and having some instrumental versions of metal songs, yes it's true for some reason they felt it necessary to rip out the vocals, with their armory of songs, you'll notice that you will see the same bands names popping up over and over again. So there is a small selection of bands, but a moderate selection of songs already there for the gamers pleasure.

If I could suggest something to the game developer, it would be to work on the physics more. With a game that is based on something that relies heavily on physics, don't take shortcuts. The end result will no matter how impressive, always be unrealistic.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.2 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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