MX vs. ATV Alive Review
|Developer:||THQ Digital Studio Phoenix|
|Release Date:||May 13th, 2011 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Some games feel like they're fully-rounded, some feel like they're criminally short - and there's some which make a good effort, but fall short of greatness. MX Vs ATV: Alive is of the third category - a decent, competitive game, let down by a criminal lack of content.
Featuring just 12 racing maps, four short maps and a couple of free-roam environments (the majority of which aren't available until you level up your rider considerably), the initial few hours of game-play are a bit of a drag.
While the control system is sharp, and the racing intense and enjoyable, having to ride the same track over and over to rank up your driver just doesn't float my boat. Unlike the previous title in the series, Reflex, Alive doesn't feature a dedicated career mode, instead using a persistent rider XP system, which applies across both online and offline matches.
Starting out as the 'Weekend Warrior', with a choice of sparkly yellow or muted pink leathers, the gamer is challenged to unlock new decals, bikes, leathers and sponsors as you level up. Thankfully, you can instead spend you hard-earned points on unlocking the maps you can't get to until the higher levels, reliving the grind of the action somewhat.
Generally speaking, the game, whether you prefer motocross or ATV, is a blast to play, and feels kind of like you're trying to ride a crazed, LSD-fuelled shark through a minefield.
Each race features 12 riders, all of whom are competent enough (even on the lower difficulties) to kick your arse, and leave you in the dirt. Each race is a constant battle to cut your lap times, while dodging the other riders, who are actively trying to knock you over.
Yes, this time around, driving unfairly, undercutting, slamming and taunting opponents is actively encouraged, and often the best way to bring down the front-runners in any race.
It's just a shame that they're all trying to do it to you at the same time. Thankfully, the control scheme is responsive and easy to learn (good thing to, as a tutorial mode is totally absent), and puts both thumbsticks to work.
The left stick controls the handlebars, and the right stick the weight distribution of the rider. This means cornering is an interesting mix of turning, while hurling your body weight the other way so you don't fall off, and riding the clutch for a fast sprint afterwards - it's intense. However, the punishments for missing the corner are severe.
It's surprisingly easy to send yourself face-down in the dirt - go slightly off the track, and I mean slightly off, and the game resets you, killing all your momentum. Kiss a barrel even slightly, and your rider will flail about like a marionette, and then wipe out - unless you hit the right direction on the thumbstick.
It's an intense experience, but despite this the game's learning curve is pretty shallow, and you should be able to get up to speed quickly.
Aside from the singleplayer modes, the game also has a decent multiplayer set-up, and while the persistent player follows over, it really changes the game up when the other riders are just as tricksy as you.
Outside of the racing, the game's free-roam areas offer an interesting variety of environments to hurtle around, trying to pull of stunts, finding hidden vehicles and generally ripping up the sand - but that's about it. Seems to me a couple of party game modes wouldn't of gone amiss in here, slalom, or battling for the most stunt points in ten minutes - it's just a little half-cocked.
Graphically, the game is a similarly mixed bag: while the riders and their animations are nicely coded, the courses can be a little slapdash, and the crowds lining the corners look like cardboard cut-outs, and don't even react when you overcompensate and throw your bike at them.
The soundtrack, however, is brilliantly done - the roar of the engines, the snarling of an overheated clutch and the whir of chaindrives accompanied by rock tracks and heavy metal as you go pelting around - it's an exhilarating thrill ride of music, and a high point of the game for me.
Heck, even the fist-pumping antics of your rider sound cool - his yells of triumph muffled by the helmet - though the middle finger he flashes the guy behind tells the story clearly enough.
Overall, while Alive is a fun game to play, the limited content, missing career mode and half-hearted multiplayer offering lets it down somewhat, which is a shame, as the controls and soundtrack make every race an adventure.
- Fun gameplay
- Cracking soundtrack
- Intense biking battles
Not so good stuff
- Limited content
- Poor multiplayer
- No career mode
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