Reviews

MX vs ATV Alive – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: THQ Digital Studio Phoenix
Publisher: THQ
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: Yes
Multiplayer: 2-12 Players.
PEGI:12+

This was always going to be an odd game to review. You see, MX vs ATV Alive is the first game to use THQ’s new pricing model, and that means the game is selling for a meager amount (around £25). but that also means that you’re getting a barebones game for your cash. The idea is the game is supported by a raft of DLC, some already available, and if you enjoy the cheap but basic package then you can select what you want added to the game from the list of DLC. So if you’re someone who just wants a singleplayer experience you can just buy singleplayer events, tracks and extra vehicles, but if you love multiplayer then you can focus your cash on that. It’s an interesting concept, essentially allowing you to build the game to your own specifications.

However, in the interest of fairness this review can’t be about what the game could be, it can only be about what the game is right now, right here. Is what you get on the disc worth your time?

So, what you get on the disc is a motocross/atv racing sim with singleplayer and multiplayer elements, and an XP and upgrade system thrown in for good measure.

As with any racing game, the key to success is in the handling of the vehicles in question, and the handling model that powers Alive certainly delivers an exciting and deep game, but the catch is a rather fiddly control scheme. You’ve got the usual throttle, brake and steering options, but to win races you’ll also have to learn to control the riders weight with the right stick, the bikes clutch with LB and learn about using seat bounce to perform braking turns and get the most out of jumps. It’s all a big baffling if you’re a newcomer to the series, and without a tutorial to explain the uses of these many features it can also be a bit daunting. However, despite it’s complexity it does offer a deep racing system that feels rewarding to master and use, while still creating an enjoyable on-track experience.

The handling is complimented by the tracks themselves which features deformation, which means ruts, bumps and racing lines will all form and appear during a race affecting the way your ride handles quite drastically. The visual cues for the system are subtle, so a sharp eye and quick reflexes are needed to use the deformation to your advantage to gain better speed in corners or hold tighter lines, while failure to pay attention to the ruts on-track can send you flying head-first into the nearest tree.  It’s a well thought out system and add’s a dynamic feeling to the track as no two laps are ever the same, and it’s never in your face obvious, but rather a subtle feature that demands vigilance from the player while having a massive impact on the race.

The tracks themselves are also well designed, offering an array of challenging layouts filled with bumps that must be mastered, high-speed turns and plenty of hard braking area’s. For the most part the tracks are fairly wide so you have room to maneuver during a fight with another rider, but some of the short circuits are incredibly tight when using ATV’s and just don’t lend themselves to those vehicles, but for the most part they’re a well thought out bunch of tracks.

So far things have been on track, but things start to go very wrong when the singleplayer is put under scrutiny. The singleplayer is simply a list of tracks to complete with the reward being XP for finishing them which then levels up your rider and lets you unlock parts to customise your bike and character, which is great, but what isn’t so great is that at the start of the game you’ll have just four tracks to play around on – though you do have two free-ride area’s as well – and yo can’t unlock any more until you hit Rider Level 10, which takes a good bit of time. The result is a racing game falls foul of something usually only found in RPG’s: Grinding. To get the required XP you need to complete races on those four tracks over and over and over again, and considering the only type of events are straight races it’s a pretty irritating way to start a game. There are challenges to be completed that give you big XP, but these are tucked away in menu’s when they should be at the forefront to help you get to that level ten quicker. Once you do hit level ten you’ll get a few more tracks, and then be told that you must hit level 25 to get the rest, so you’d better get grinding again. There are actually a good number of tracks in total, but it’ll take a lot of patience to see them all. In short the singleplayer is, in all honesty, a poorly thought out and executed mess. The unlocks don’t really give the incentive to keep going, and while the racing is damn good fun it’s only just enough to keep you grinding away on the same tracks. In face it’s very possible that some people may be put off by it altogether. Let me step away from the review for a minute because the singleplayer is obviously designed with one thing in mind: DLC. The small amount of starting seems clearly aimed at getting you to hit the shop and buy more tracks to you don’t have to keep repeating the same tracks again and again. Happily a DLC code does come with new copies of the game entitling you to a free download with some more tracks.

Multiplayer functions well enough. You can do straight-up races or go for some free-riding fun and all your singleplayer XP transfers over to the online side of things and vice-versa. Again, the lack of modes is a little disappointing, but the thrill of closing racing more than makes up for it.

The Good:
+ Deep handling system
+ Fun racing.
+Track deformation.

The Bad:
– Very poor singleplayer.
– Plenty of tracks and things to unlock, but for the first while you have far too little.
– Occasionally dodgy physics and poor collision detection.

Scores:

Graphics: 7
Not impressive in the technical sense, but there are some colorful tracks on offer here to help brighten your day.

Sound: 8
Nice tunes back up the on-screen action and the bikes themselves sound great.

Story: 1
Rise through the ranks and occasionally get a cutscene from James Stewart telling you how good you are.

Gameplay: 8
Alive is a deep racing experience, and a damn fun one at that, but it can be a little fiddly and daunting for newcomers to get into and without a tutorial, that hurts it a little.

Lifespan: 7
Assuming you have the patience to reach level 25 it can take a good while to complete, but with a lack of event types and things to do you probably won’t get that long out of it.

Overall: 7.5
It may be a package lacking in content, and it does have problems *coughsingleplayercough*, but at such a bargain price this is a fun off-road racer that provides deep racing and plenty of thrills.

 

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