|MX vs ATV Alive|
|Developer: THQ Digital Studios Phoenix
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1-2, 2-12 online, DLC
MX vs ATV Alive is an off-road racing game developed by THQ. The game was the fourth in the 10 Million-selling MX vs ATV series following Untamed, Unleashed and Reflex and features the two-stick control method pioneered in Reflex, as well as real time terrain deformation and a new “hybrid” pricing model which basically means a lower initial purchase price, followed by a variety of optional downloadable content.
The controls are a mixture of what you might expect and a combination of innovation and weirdness. I’ll explain both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 controls as we played both, 360 first PS3 in brackets; The throttle is on R trigger (R2), brakes on L trigger (L2) and steering set to the left stick, all in a standard fashion, The difference to most bike games comes with the way the rider’s weight is shifted; “Rider Reflex” is mapped to the right stick, meaning that rather than simply shifting the rider around whilst simultaneously steering with the left stick as in every other game that features bikes (from GTA through early MX games to Moto GP and SBK) you now won’t get round a track without using both sticks. I must admit that at first I hated the idea and didn’t think it worked very well, but it soon becomes instinctive as you move the sticks, mostly in unison to perform tight turns and keep the bike balanced going up or down slopes. Getting huge air off a jump is a simple matter of using the ‘seat bounce lock’ feature; you simply click the right stick in and hold the right stick back to unload the suspension at the optimum moment and leap much further and higher than a standard jump.
You may have gathered that the R-stick is kind of busy so rear view and left & right views are mapped to the D-pad, which means you’ll only be grabbing a quick glance on straights or when high in the air on a long jump.
The game isn’t really about tricking and stunts but there are 30 or more possible, however you’ll have to download a .pdf file to get the full list in the full version of the instruction manual, as THQ don’t supply the whole thing in paper form. I must say I think the controls are counter-intuitive - you have to hold ‘RB’ (R1) plus 3 movements of the right stick to perform a trick. Taking your right index finger off the throttle in a jump feels weird, and I found myself holding the throttle down with my middle finger so I could hold RB (R1) with my index finger. Combine this with a general dearth of ramps lined up for stunt-packed runs and a lack of forgiveness on landing and this makes tricking challenging, but about as much fun as going to the dentist.
The bikes and rider’s gear “dirties-up” nicely during races although a bit more mud build-up around the mudguards after wet races would have been a lot more realistic. There are nice touches like the girl who holds up the ‘30 seconds to go’ board at the start of a race; she doesn’t just disappear but runs like hell to get out of the way! Another thing you’ll notice is that there are also marker poles, hay bales, tyres and turquoise boxes that mark the perimeter of the track, and these can get knocked onto the track and form extra obstacles—annoying if you’re the one who hits one, hilarious if they impede your competitors, but it all adds to the realism. The game features rider “gestures” that see your rider randomly gesticulating as he passes competitors or knocks them off. This would be okay if this was an option that you could do with the press of a button but as it’s random it’s just plain annoying, distracting and let’s face it, highly unprofessional and probably unrealistic. There are 3 views available; a standard chase cam, a tweakable free cam and a first-person on-bike view, that works surprisingly well. Sadly the game has no replay mode, which is a shame as chilling out after some of the more intense races and checking out your skillz (or lack of) would have been a great feature.
Now I did a bit of Motocross riding in my dim and dirty past and I can genuinely say that MX vs ATV Alive is the most realistic handling MX/ATV game I have ever played. Modulating the throttle and dipping the clutch (to regain traction when the engine bogs down) is really key to quick lap times and getting jump sequences right. Judging jumps and how much bounce to use has never been more instinctive, although I feel the preloading in some MX games of the past possibly felt more instinctive.
The race corridor on nearly every track is unforgivingly narrow, which doesn’t make much sense and you’ll sometimes have the “OFF TRACK” message stuck in your face and get reset just as you’re actually about to return to the track; this has been a recurring, intensely irritating flaw in car rally games over the years and I’m shocked and disappointed to see it so annoyingly, consistently present here.
Online multiplayer allows you to set up or search for races in whatever class you like, or search for free ride or ‘versus’ games that throw every class in together. You’ll appear online with the last bike/ATV and gameplay options you used and there’s no option to change in-lobby so beware. Disappointingly most people seem to race with “assists on”, and if you join a game everyone seems to use the to default 5 laps-and you should probably be forewarned that these can take from about 4 minutes to about 11 minutes to complete depending on the circuit.
A variety of in-game videos feature two-time AMA Supercross Champion James "Bubba" Stewart, I haven’t watched any MX for a few years so I have NO IDEA who he is but he seems like a jolly nice bloke and he’ll congratulate you when you hit a certain level or unlock a new class. James appears in the game eventually and you’ll be sick of the sight of him winning nearly every 450cc holeshot and disappearing faultlessly into the distance, which all seems a bit sycophantic on the AI programmer’s part and given James’s recent form certainly isn’t realistic.
If you want to do Supercross then you’ll have to buy the Lexington and Williamsburg stadium track events as DLC and there are also 2 quarry tracks available in a similarly priced pack. Also available are extra bikes or ATV by real manufacturers like KTM and Yamaha, branded gear, graphic kits and helmets. You probably think this hybrid game idea sucks and, in principle, I agree with you. However, if you shop around you can pick MX vs ATV Alive for under £20, which makes it a very attractive proposition.
I’ve got to say that the general progression of the game seems a bit messed up- there’s no championship structure, you just compete on tracks as you unlock them. This can leave you racing the same tracks over and over again just to gain XP to level both you and your bike up, because a good proportion of the core game’s tracks (there are 14 “National” tracks in all, 4 mental short tracks with suicide crossovers and 3 large free roam areas) aren’t available till level 25!
The fact that MX vs ATV has now “gone all realistic” and concentrates solely on its 2-stick method for the MX (Motocross) bikes and ATVs (quad bikes) means that the wide expanses, trucks and buggies from the old games have gone, and for me at least, that’s a shame as it gives the game too narrow a focus. The low price point and the hybrid content idea is interesting but regardless of how much you end up paying for MX vs ATV Alive the game’s unforgiving realism and demanding gameplay will surely alienate as many gamers as it captivates.
- Looks good and has a smooth frame rate.
- Very realistic track layouts.
- Feels just like riding a real bike/ATV – without the broken bones and testicular trauma.
- No replays.
- No trucks or buggies.
- Terrain deformation graphical glitches.
- Some odd physics and control demands.
- How about a single-stick control option?