MX vs. ATV ReflexESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Rainbow Studios
System Link: 2-12
There are few genres that are very well represented on all consoles, and one of them is racing. From driving sims to off-road racing you are sure to find one to fit your fancy. Motocross racing games have been far and few between, but you can find them too. THQ is a developer that has seen the need over time to give fans of the sport what they are looking for, virtually speaking. In October of this year I had a chance to preview their next motocross racing game, MX vs. ATV Reflex, and early pointed to a good game. Well I have finally had a chance to review the final retail code. So does this game have what it takes? You’ll just have to read on to find out.
Visually speaking MX vs. ATV Reflex is pretty impressive. The environments and tracks are well detailed and varied. From the huge open vistas of an alpine setting to the more enclosed setting of stadium racing, each track that is created for this game has its own feeling and visual touches with lots going on (e.g. running water or crowds cheering wildly). Creating so many different environments makes for a game that remains fresh as you make your way from track to track during the career mode. Riders and bikes are also well animated and move with fluidity and realism along each track. Rainbow Studios has paid lots of attention to the small details in this area, from the different treads of different tires on ATVs to have having each rider’s jersey ripple as you gain speed when you race, the attention to detail is uncanny.
The track deformation is also a very impressive addition. The ruts just don’t magically appear on the track as you can actually see how the dirt, sand or mud begins to pile up along the tire tracks. You can see your vehicle tires actually kick up the dirt as you make your way around the track and leave the divots behind. All in all this area is very impressive and something that Rainbow Stuidos should be very proud off.
Technically speaking MX vs. ATV Reflex is a solid game. It runs at a very smooth framerate with no visible slowdown to speak of. The games graphics engine is pretty solid as the clipping and glitching is kept to a bare minimum. I did find the odd, and I say very odd, instance of screen tearing, but this was only when I was doing something freakishly stupid like running into the side of a cliff off the beaten path. You will also notice some texture draw in now and then but this is only evident if you are really looking for it. All in all this is a very technically sound game and the work that went into it really does show.
The audio in the MX vs. ATV Reflex is a compliment to the rest of the game. Each bike manages to sound different, so the lower class motocross bikes sound different from the bigger versions you are given access too later in the game. And of course the ATV, Sport Buggies, and all other vehicles manage to sound different too. If I had one complaint in this area it is that the lower class bikes do sound annoying after extended play time and I was glad to some different classes before I went crazy. As for the music, it is very suited to whole motocross or extreme racing experience as it is a hard rock or punk-like affair. The music becomes prevalent as you race and it can get pretty heavy now and then. I am sure that fans of the spectacle will enjoy the music, but personally I found it a little too heavy and I eventually turned down the music in the options screen. Please, don’t think that this is a bad thing as I think it really is a matter of taste, and as I mentioned it is most likely tailored for those that regularly watch motocross racing or x-game events on TV.
Now I have to be honest right off the get-go and let all you readers out there know that I am not a huge motocross racing fan. I have watched the odd race on TV now and then, but I am not what you could consider an active fan. This includes the virtual world as well. I have played around with the odd motocross racing game now and then, including THQ’s last effort MX vs. ATV Untamed, but I just didn’t get hooked. Well MX vs. ATV Reflex has me sitting up and taking notice as this game is very enjoyable all around.
For fans of the MX vs. ATV franchise the biggest addition is the “reflex” control scheme. Here you use the right analog stick to control your rider independent of your bike. You can move backwards, forwards, left, and right, which assists you as you balance your bike or ATV through the bumps, jumps and various corners of all the tracks available. You will find that there is a bit of a learning curve here given that you not only focus on where to steer (using the left analog stick), but you now have the added task of focusing on how to keep your bike or ATV balanced through the bumps, position your rider for the jumps, position your rider to land your jump, and use your riders weight to get through some very sharp turns. Although it does sound tricky, believe it or not it does become second nature after a little. As with my time when previewing the game, it was not long until I was hitting the jumps or driving through hairpin turns with relative effectiveness as I adjusted my virtual rider’s weight. It’s a very impressive system indeed.
Also new to the MX vs. ATV franchise this time around is chance for you to save what looks to be a bad landing and eventual crash. If you are on the verge of bailing from a jump, or from bumping and grinding with other riders, MX vs. ATV Reflex displays a bright green arrow on screen pointing either up, down, left or right. Once you see this warning you are given a chance to move the right analog stick in the direction of the arrow which gives you a chance to save yourself from immanent doom. You only have a split second to do so too. It is definitely a neat feature given that not all bad landings result in a crash, and just like real life, you may have that chance to pull out of it in the nick of time.
Another feature of MX vs. ATV Reflex is the track deformation. During races the tracks get chewed up by all those riding on it. It is amazing to see what Rainbow Studios has done with this aspect of the game. Each track gets its own ruts and divots from the various bikes, ATVs, and any other vehicles taking specific paths as they race along. This actually alters the track as new bumps and paths are formed and you have to adjust your riding during each new lap. No more just point and hit the throttle. A simple, but yet effective, example of this is the freestyle park that you play on while the game is loading. As you ride around you will notice that all the ruts you have carved out hitting various jumps and bumps in the area. They stay there for the duration of your play and they will cause your bike to react accordingly. This is the most basic example of what you will experience as you race on all the tracks included in the game.
MX vs. ATV Reflex offers up a lot to do with all these new enhancements. There is an offline career mode that should keep you busy for quite a bit of time. There are four different skill settings and six different racing series for you to master. The latter is composed of Waypoint, Freestyle, Champion Sport Track, Omnicross, Supercross, and National. These provide a progression system where you unlock more of each one as you race and win money. It is your typical career mode but it does manage to provide some pretty intense racing, especially in higher skill settings. Bottomline, there is enough to do here to keep you busy and if you find it too easy then crank up the skill to get the challenge you are looking for.
As you make your way through your career you will find that along with the motocross racing bikes and ATV’s there are other vehicles available such as Sport Buggies, Sport Trucks, UTV’s and others. The four wheeled vehicles, sans ATVs, take damage too and will lose body parts as you bump and grind throughout the race. My biggest complaint with these other vehicles is that they don’t handle as well as the motocross bikes or ATVs. You can tell that the game’s physics were amped up for the two and four wheeled bikes as they just control that much better. The other vehicles seem to have a ‘too light’ feel and just don’t control like I think they should. Don’t get me wrong, they are not the worst thing ever, but as the same time they could have been better.
You can also customize your rider during your career too by donning the latest and greatest riding gear that is available in the game. It is licensed by real companies (e.g. Fox or O’Neal) so those true motocross racing fanatics out there will recognize many of the items.
Of course what would a motocross racing game be without the crazy stunts. MX vs. ATV Reflex also offers up a stunt system that is pretty intuitive. If you get big enough air and hold the left bumper down you need only to do a three way combination with the right analog stick to get your virtual rider to perform a trick while in mid-air. You’ll find that during the heated races you won’t get as much time to perfect your skills in this area, but when riding along in Freestyle, or taking a leisurely ride in Free Ride, you’ll get lots of opportunity to let your skills shine. I found it very satisfying to pull off so many of the tricks that were available, and some of the tricks can only be accomplished by finding that perfect ‘launch pad’ that will fire you into the air allowing you the time to pull of that one magical trick. I was pretty addicted to just riding around trying to do as many wild things as I could.
MX vs. ATV Relex also offers up a pretty enjoyable multiplayer component. Up to 12 players can take to the track over Xbox LIVE. The usual options are here such as racing a quick race or private session. Something that is new to this area of the franchise is the ability to create your own playlist. Here you can chose what tracks or events that you will participate in, and after setting up your ‘list’ you just play what you have chosen, one after another with no break in the play. This is a simple but yet effective feature as you can set up a list of events for all to enjoy, taking into account the specific ones that each player in the online room may enjoy. Along with the standard racing events come some great mini-games too. One of my favourite was Snake, which is best described as very similar to the light bike game found in Tron. Here you race along the track while you, and other riders, emit a coloured trail behind you. You must avoid crashing into all the other player’s trails while trying to get them to crash into yours with the last vehicle standing, or should I say driving, being the winner. It is mini-games like this that make for an even more engaging, and entertaining, multiplayer experience. You have to remember that my limited online play was prior to the retail launch of the game, so there were not a huge amount of players online. I will be interested to see how online play holds up (e.g. lag, drop-outs, etc.) when more people come online to play.
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