MX Unleashed
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1or 2
Words By:

I love a good MX game, but they seem to all be much of a muchness, often amounting to little more than the same old game in a new box, and true to form, MX Unleashed’s career mode you starts you off in the buzzy 125cc class, before you earn the right to ride the quicker 250, 450 and even 500cc bikes. But hold on a minute! - a new clutch feature (the L1 button) added to the ability to shift the rider’s weight and preload the suspension to extend jumps means that the bikes have a really good feel, and this gives you an unprecedented amount of control… Yeehah! Finally an MX game that feels as good as Xbox Moto GP!

For once in a game of this type, the start of races actually has some tension, you don’t just sit there revving the heck out of the engine and waiting to go – in MXU the start gate is realistic in as much as should you drop the clutch too quickly you’ll hit it (it’s basically a hinged steel barrier that drops to the ground to allow the bikes to all start at the same time with no start-jumping), which will obviously cause you to trundle backwards, losing the chance to get the “hole shot” at the start and be first into the first corner. There are 14 race series to win across both 125 and 250cc classes, and becoming THQ World Supercross champion is the ultimate goal – this will take a huge number of races, a fair bit of skill and more than a little patience, as the AI of the opposing riders is pretty good, and unrelentingly competitive – at times simply brutal.

You can personalise your MXU rider with a choice of helmets and leather styles, and you even get your name and number on your rider’s leathers. The highly detailed bikes and riders, and the crashes (you’ll have a LOT of those) look spectacularly painful thanks to the excellent ragdoll physics of your rider. The bikes spray dirt and sand realistically, but don’t actually get dirtier as the race goes on.

There are a large selection of bikes designed by Rainbow Studios or branded “THQ”, and real ones manufactured by Suzuki, KTM and Yamaha – there really doesn’t seem to be much difference in terms of performance or handling (any, actually) between them though, which is a shame.

It’s not all just racing though, MX Unleashed has three types of racing activities;

Supercross which is 3, 5 or 10 laps around nutty indoor stadium courses, spending most of the time in the air.

Nationals – Wild outdoor tracks with some amazing scenery, jumps and drop offs.

And possibly the best bit of MXU; Freestylenot the usual, annoying, shortlived, trick-heavy mode I was expecting it to be, but 4 expansive landscapes full of ramps, buildings, natural hills and valleys to play around in - very reminiscent of good old Smuggler’s Run as traffic trundles around and trains rumble by. Each Freestyle course has four challenges: “Hit” – take off from a certain ramp and land on (hit) its target landing zone, “Run” – a series of “Hits” in a row, “Stunt” – score a certain amount by performing stunts (there’s quite a selection hidden away in there), and “Race” – race 2 laps against the level’s “machine challenge” vehicle, which might be a Biplane, a dune buggy or even a helicopter!. The best and most surprising part about this is that if you beat them, then you own them and get to drive/fly them whenever you want – A nice and unexpected bonus in an MX game.

Or you can spend your hard earned credits in the store, buying courses, new bike classes (there’s also an unlockable teeny 50cc “monkey bike” to mess around on), or even the aforementioned unlockable vehicles.

So, simply put: MXU is just about the most fun we’ve had on two wheels since Vice City. The clutch control and the handling, that strikes the perfect balance between arcade and sim, makes it easily accessible but difficult to master – and happily for once in an MX game, racing, skill and having fun come to the fore as opposed to the more common need to trick & stunt your way around the courses - you really have to ride the bike rather than just steer it left and right. Great fun.

Best Bits

- The clutch.
- The handling and physics feel right.
- Tight, competitive racing.
- Well designed and challenging courses.
- Huge freestyle maps.
- Horrendous looking crashes!
- Bonus vehicles including… a helicopter!
Worst Bits

- Only 8 riders per race.
- Much like riding a real bike, you always seem to come off worse in collisions - OUCHY.

by: Sloppy Sneak

Copyright © Gamecell 2004