Every Sunday during the summer months the peaceful country air is besieged by a constant and irritating buzzing sound, no it’s not the famous Scottish midges but the locals ripping up the countryside in their quad bikes. Dirt racing has always been on the peripheral of racing, mostly down to the costs and chances of busting a collarbone, but fortunately that’s why we have game consoles, letting us pull mad air and win races without getting all muddy and broken.
The MX vs ATV series has been around for a while so this time THQ have mixed things up a little, unfortunately due to present circumstances this could not be at a worse time. The aim was, to offer a basic experience on the disc for a very respectable RRP and then leave it up to the consumer to boost the gaming experience with downloadable content, however it seems this is where it falls flat.
Though the games content is initially a bit light the gameplay is spot on; in single player you are able to race as either a dirt bike or quad bike across a group of tracks which are split into three groups, with long tracks offering plenty of jumps and sharp turns, short tracks have the compulsory criss-cross tracks allowing for plenty of collisions and free ride tracks allow you to explore large open areas and pull off insane moves in your own time.
Both the rider and bikes have their own XP, with each bike having three ranks which unlock new liveries and customisation options for your selected bike and the rider XP unlocking more tracks; but sadly this is where the game fails. You start the game with only 6 tracks, 2 long, 2 short and 2 free ride. Once you have raced each one on both bikes you are still nowhere near the required rank of 10 which unlocks the majority of courses, forcing the longevity of the game and making you replay races over and over again on harder difficulties. To help boost XP you can always turn off the jump and steering assistance which makes the game a whole lot more fun and that Rank 10 a bit more attainable. With two styles of bike and a variety of engine sizes to try out each bikes handling differs wildly with dirt bikes being able to slide around corners with ease and the quads having a lot more weight and power behind them, allowing for crazy jumps but also harder landings and a very tight turn circle that often causes you to tip over.
With assistance enabled the game is pretty boring with you just gunning the throttle and getting 1st place most of the time. Once throttle is turned off though, the game is so much more fun, with expert use of the clutch and seat boosts to get better jumps plus using the twin control sticks to manoeuvre both the bike and rider separately. Though you will have an awful lot more stacks and bails during the races so do the other 11 AI racers which adds a cool touch of realism to the game, especially when races are won when stealing first place after a rider misjudges a turn and flies off course. The tracks, whilst initially only offering a few to choose from are superbly designed with a decent variety of environments that really push your skills to the limit and challenge you with every jump and turn.
To help on the harder difficulties and more powerful vehicles you also earn driver skills, with 9 to choose from these can give you a longer chance to stay on your bike after a bad jump, a higher chance of knocking off a nearby opponent and even XP bonuses, with only two skills begin able to be used at a time you need to choose the best skills to suit your driving style.
Multiplayer offers exactly the same as the single player with a very vanilla style pick a race and play attitude. Here you can have up to 12 racers going at it over the same tracks, but be ready for a challenge as most riders are already ranked 30+ and can pull off some stunning moves, meaning you shouldn’t expect many wins.
Though advertised heavily and given many statements re the frequency of DLC, at of the time of reviewing there is currently nothing available to boost the experience or any suggestion of prices and what to expect other than an ambiguous “more tracks and bikes,” so this review is really about what is on the retail disc.
MX vs ATV Alive is a fun game with some great physics and track designs but it is let down by the lack of content and the laborious job of unlocking more tracks may put off a lot of pick up and play gamers.
You can order MX vs ATV here (PS3) and here (Xbox 360).