Two and four-wheeled fun in the comeback of a popular series.
The long running MX vs. ATV series has been absent from our consoles for a few years now. Indeed, the future of the series was unsure when owners THQ began to sell off their IPs. However, Nordic Games stepped in and picked up the series, along with a few others, and after re-establishing Rainbow Studios, has now released the latest dirt bike and quad bike action on Xbox360 and PS3 with MX vs. ATV Supercross.
Fans of the series will have a vague idea of what to expect from the game. In Supercross, players will be spending their time chasing around incredibly bumpy stadium tracks rather than taking the action into the wilderness, which makes the game much more appealing to fans of the sport. This leaning towards the sport fans is further emphasized by the inclusion of real life stars of the sport to compete against. All of this was lost to me, of course, and it became all about staying on my chosen vehicle and finishing the race first, or at least not last.
MX vs. ATV Supercross feels a little lacking when it comes to the different modes. There are individual races available with a variety of different parameters, such as choosing where to race and which vehicles can take part. Races can be bike only, ATV only or a combination of the two. There are local and online races for your multiplayer action. And then there is the career, which is where players will find the most content as they compete in one race after another to top the leaderboards and unlock loads of nice content for their bikes and riders.
The in-stadium tracks that the player will be racing on, look suitably authentic. They are made up of multiple bumps, lumps and hills, and contain the sort of tight turns that are needed to make them fit into a stadium. I couldn’t tell you if they are based on real tracks or not, but they give ample opportunity to show off. There is a slight problem in that, although there are 17 different tracks included in the game, the variety between them is not hugely noticeable and one track pretty much feels like another before too long.
When it comes to the actual handling in the game, the two different types of vehicles offer very different experiences. The bikes are quite nice to handle and feel precise when zipping around on the loose dirt tracks. The trigger buttons give the player the accelerator and brakes, whilst the right stick controls the players balance. Using the right stick, players can adjust their landing to get the most traction, something which is infinitely important to maintain speed. Try landing at the bottom of a steep hill with no forward momentum and you might as well get off the bike and push it up the hill. The right stick also allows players to pop the bike with a quick pull back and slap forward, giving them more height from a jump to allow for a smoother or more favorable landing. Whilst the right stick use doesn’t give as much satisfaction as in other similar games, the effects are slightly underwhelming, proper use makes a real difference during the race.
Coming off of the bike, which is something that will happen all to often and not always for obvious reasons, is strangely entertaining. Whilst making a perfect landing and then seeing your rider come off anyway can be frustrating, watching the epically unrealistic ragdoll physics flip your rider through the air, quite often straight through obstacles or other riders, will often raise a chuckle.
The ATV bikes, in comparison, are unwieldy and seemingly made of rubber. Being heavier, they are much less capable of taking corners, and with the increased power, heavy use of the brake will be needed. However, collisions with other riders, which are common unless the player finds themselves leading the pack, result in the quad bike bouncing off like a pinball. Four wheels bring added complications when landing the bike, as landing on only one wheel will also cause the bike to drastically change direction as if it had a mind of its own.
Still, each of the different types of bikes take getting used to. Continued playing will result in all manner of bike parts being unlocked and used to upgrade the players chosen ride. Equipping new parts will change the stats of the bike, but not so much that it makes a big difference during gameplay. There are also cosmetic changes that can be made to make the bike more individual.
And this level of customization is also available for the riders themselves, with different helmets and protective items to make the rider look unique, or even like a favorite rider if you happen to follow the sport. The items are all from real motocross companies and add a sense of realism, along with a reason to keep coming back.
Visually MX vs. ATV Supercross has some nice touches, but still manages to feel dated, even on the last gen consoles. The recreation of the various bikes are done well, and their are some clever effects, but the stadiums feel lifeless, the tracks are uninteresting and the riders themselves quite often look unrealistic. The sound work is a highlight though, with some really meaty engine noises that are suitably different, and the soundtrack is serviceable, if unremarkable.
MX vs. ATV Supercross may not have been the ex-THQ title that everyone was waiting for, but it is not a complete loss. The game has plenty of faults, but still manages to be entertaining, especially when playing multiplayer. It is heavy on the arcade action over realism, and will be more appealing to actual fans of the sport over the average arcade racing enthusiast. MX vs. ATV Supercross doesn’t quite stand up to the previous games in the series, but can still be fun if you need a chaotic arcade racing fix.