May 22, 2011
Can you imagine if your MX cycle was actually alive? It’d totally be like that really bad Stephen King movie where people got attacked by kitchen appliances and angry clown trucks chased them around a petrol station. If you’re wondering just where I’m quite going here, then I’m sorry to say that I actually have no idea, which is fine really as that lack of direction seems to fit the latest MX vs. ATV game perfectly. Would you believe it, I only went and made a dubious segue out of all that! Let’s see if I can keep that hot streak going...
Probably the very first thing you’ll notice about MX vs. ATV Alive is the lower price point, which is unusual for a new release. The reason behind this is the fact that the developer is keen to release a number of tracks and gear via DLC giving players the opportunity to tailor their experience any way they see fit. Whether this is marketing genius or a dangerous precedent is another matter, as while it’s nice to give gamers a choice in what content they have available, it also makes for a pretty bare bones retail package. It could also be seen as the next step in tackling the trade in market, as gamers have to pay for digital content directly which they will not be able to get rid off.
The issue really comes to a head when you see what content you have available on the disc, with just a paltry four tracks and two free ride courses available from the get go - although more becomes available as you progress. People who buy new will also get access to a one time use code that unlocks a further two events and another free ride challenge, but that’s it, and you’re in for the long haul if you want to see anything else. Of course you could fork out a bunch of MS points in order to speed up the process and at times the temptation is great to do just that, which seems to be what THQ is aiming for.
Before I waffle on further about potential DLC, it’s fair to say that the game plays pretty damn well. You control your rider with a combination of the left stick for steering and the right stick for balance, which is key to negotiating the various jumps and tight turns that litter each event. You can also use clutch control and the trick modifier for move advanced manoeuvres and, well, showing off. Using the right stick you can pull off a bunch of moves to rub salt in your opponent’s wounds. It’s not just about beating your opponents but about doing it in style, and before long you will be pulling off backflips, 360s and whips to your heart’s content.
The races in MX vs. ATV Alive never feel unfair though and the AI is pitch perfect depending on your desired skill level, although some of the track design hardly takes your breath away. Still, your performance on the track will earn you two types of XP: one of which will level up your ride; and the other to rank up your rider. More XP means new bikes and ATV’s to ride, all of which can be modified to the nth degree. Plus, the higher you rank up the more content you unlock, with five more tracks available at level 10 and a further 7 at level 25. The problem here though is that you’ll have to put hours into the same few tracks in order to hit either of these targets, and that starts to get stale pretty fast. When the smaller tracks can literally take a couple of minutes to complete depending on your machine, they hardly have that 'just one more go' vibe.
Thankfully you can also earn XP on the free ride maps, which let you just bomb around an area pulling off tricks and jumps willy-nilly. Unfortunately, the two on disc maps are pretty small, although at least there are a nice array of challenges to keep you occupied and in the hunt for the illusive gold medals. If you fancy it, you can head online too in order to snag XP against online rivals, but the same barrier to entry pops up yet again, with certain modes and vehicle types locked depending on your level.
The strategy from THQ is pretty baffling here, as the game looks and handles reasonable well for a budget title, and although there are a few glitches and collision detection issues, they are never enough to spoil the fun. There just isn’t much to the title. The dubious story, with really bad cutscenes along the way, pretty much kills any sense of career progression with each race feeling like a standalone event rather than a step to greatness. The same could be said of the various modes that have hit the cutting room floor since the last entry in the series and feel sorely missed. As it stands, the time required to unlock all of the tracks seems ridiculous considering the small amount of content on the disc, and it would have been much better to make the whole game available from the off as having to race around the same few tracks in order to rank up soon gets dull.
The achievements are surprisingly simple, though having to get all of the level 1 career goals and rank up to level 50 will take some time. You’ll also have to invest a fair bit of time into the online modes as well if you want to get the full 1,000, but at least that’ll be a nice change from seeing the same few courses and racing the same few AI bots. After a few hours you can have at least half of the list done with and then it’s just a steady grind to level up in order to get all the tracks and events to polish everything else off.
MX vs. ATV Alive is a fun game in essence, but only in short doses, and the real problem is the amount of time you have to invest in order to get the full experience. At the time of writing there isn’t even any extra DLC available so it’s a case of waiting to see if THQ provide the advertised backing to enable players to customise things their way. Without a plethora of extra content then, MX vs. ATV Alive is just too lacking in races, modes and rides to offer a truly compelling experience and will feel like a major letdown to fans of the series. It’s a bold decision by TQ, but one that’s been implemented poorly.
A few decent rock orientated tracks soon become irritating when they get replayed over and over again, although at least the game sounds like the real deal.
Decent stuff but nothing earth shattering, mainly due to some weird graphical issues especially on the free ride maps. That said, the level of customisation is impressive.
The game is certainly fun once you get into it, and driving both types of vehicle come with their own challenges. The twin stick system works like a charm too once you get the hang of it.
A slow progression system means that unlocking all of the tracks is a task in itself, and even then the amount of content is far too small. Not to mention the non-existent career mode and dearth of game modes.
A fun list and one that isn’t too taxing if you’re prepared to spend the time opening up all of the events and maxing out your career goals, not to mention dominating online.
MX vs. ATV Alive provides a fun experience, for what there is, but the gamble to keep the content off the disc makes for a shallow racing game that requires you to grind through the same events time and time again just to get access to new areas. If THQ back up the title with plenty of content then it may be worth your time, but until then, you’re better off looking for thrills elsewhere.