Review: A Platform Too Far
MX Vs. ATV is an abbreviation for Motorcross Vs. All Terrain Vehicle, in case you were too lazy to fire up Wikipedia. This game, upon first look, is the bastard son of the PlayStation 3's incredibly successful MotorStorm title. It has big monster trucks facing off against motorbikes, so it does, and for an added ?novelty factor? its developer has even thrown in those diddy deathtraps so popular in Thailand for families of seven ? the minimoto.
But this is no MotorStorm clone. Nay. Rainbow Studios has been producing motorcross classics for years now, beginning with Motorcross Madness on the PC a decade ago. The company peaked with the hugely successful MX Vs. ATV: Unleashed for PS2 and Xbox. Fuelled by its juggernaut acquirer THQ, one would think that Rainbow Studios had enough in its locker to make MX Vs. ATV: Untamed a truly defining experience on the next generation of consoles.
Booting up MX Vs. ATV on either PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, you'll notice that this title is a generation out of date. On the PlayStation 3, that realisation sets in a little later, as its loading screen (where you can drive your chosen vehicle across an assault course of jumps) runs at 60 frames-per-second, before everything downgrades when you get into an actual race. The textures are bland and environmental simulation, like water effects, which many of today's titles are handling no problem, cause MX Vs. ATV's engine to chug and splutter.
As for the gameplay, it's a mixed bag, ranging from the hilariously entertaining to the mind-numbingly boring. It seems as if the emergence of MX Vs. ATV's hugely-successful MotorStorm rival has forced the hand of its developers unsuccessfully to tack on many of that latter series' key features. And so, despite the title of this game referring to motorbikes and quad bikes, the first vehicle you'll probably try out is the manly monster truck, which just so happens to be an icon of MotorStorm.
The monster truck is a poorly implemented facet of MX Vs. ATV: Untamed that feels like an afterthought. If these monster trucks were so intrinsic then perhaps Rainbow Studios should have named the game ?MX Vs. ATV Vs. MTRK? instead? Anyway, reeling around a track entirely populated by motorbikes in a monster truck feels a little strange. As you career violently towards offending challengers in an attempt to maim or, at the very least, dismount them, and as you fail by sending your vehicle swirling through the air after a mistimed lunge, your oversized hunk of metal ricochets and flips across the dirt with all the convincingness of a piece of Styrofoam. These ?balsa wood? physics do not impress.
But let's forget monster trucks for now, and talk motorbikes and quad bikes. We shall pretend that the monster trucks in MX Vs. ATV: Untamed never happened, as if they were some sort of propane-induced nightmare.
There are a variety of game types available in MX Vs. ATV: Untamed. These gameplay variations can either be configured by the user in what's known as the ?Event Series?, or experienced on the fly during ?X-Cross Tournament?. The latter mode serves the cream of what MX Vs. ATV: Untamed has to offer. Its 27 competitions range from traditional races inside claustrophobic stadium circuits riddled with jumps, to trick contests on open dust parks that see participants catapulting through the clouds like loons, pulling off death-defying stunts.
During the X-Cross Tournament or Event Series, the number of competitors in one race can be impressive ? they buzz around you like angry wasps and jostle for position ? leading to adrenaline-fuelled bouts where you're concentrating as much on making that next turn as you are not ending up snout-first in a ditch. They're fun. The tricks you can pull off here are varied and rewarding ? there are tons to try. Onlookers will wet themselves with laughter as you plough into solid scaffolding whilst standing on your ill-fated handlebars ? which will be often, as landing a stunt is not easy.
These more enjoyable aspects of MX Vs. ATV are enhanced when experiencing them online. It's always more satisfying to execute degrading tricks and callous off-road rams when their recipients are real people. MX Vs. ATV: Untamed also boasts some original features in addition to its obligatory online mode. ?Hockey', for example, sees vehicles leaving rainbow-coloured trails behind them ? a souped-up version of the Tron Light cycle game that you used to play on your extinct Mac LC. But do these cute additions save the game from its own failings?