Reviewed: July 7, 2011
Released: May 10, 2011
I am not the biggest fan of off road racing or racing in general. I am just your average fan who has always dreamed of what it would be like to race on a dirt bike or four-wheeler and do some of those crazy jumps in the middle of a race. Who wouldn't want to do that, the adrenaline rush has to be like none other. But that is all it is, a dream. This is where THQ comes in with their latest racing game, MX vs. ATV: Alive. They allow me to race in tight corners, wrestle with other riders for a better position, attempt big air over other racers, and fly down straightaways at ridiculous speeds all from the comfort and safety of my living room. It is time to get your bike out and be ready to be thrown into the dirt and see if you have what it takes to compete with the other dare devils in this sport!|
I was first introduced to this racing world with Pure and was blown away and now, it seems every new motocross racing game peaks my interest just like MX vs ATV: Alive. I just haven't gone out of my way to play any of them since Pure because I had no other reason to do so. When Alive came my way I was very interested to see what two years can add to a game.
First off, I love the addition of the duel stick controls. The Rider Reflex system was a great addition and really tests your skills as a rider. Just like any other racing game you use the left analog stick to go left or right. But with the addition of the right analog stick you can control how the rider sits and moves on the bike. You can now lean left or right into a tight turn move the stick down before your jump and up as you hit the top of the hill to preload your springs and grab massive air, then move both sticks to perform any of several available tricks.
Another great thing about this addition is that when you land you don't always hit perfectly. There is an on screen arrow that points in a certain direction and you need to move the right analog stick in that direction to recover your balance and stay on your bike or ATV. This helps save you from some major wrecks that can cost you premium positions in your race. I say this because the reset time to get you back up and into the race is way too long if you forget to press the square button. Sometimes I would catch myself in the heat of the moment and even though it prompts you on the screen you can sometime overlook the QTE-savior and cost yourself several spots depending on how much of a lead you had before the wreck.
There is also a great new addition to your HUD. In the top left corner of your screen it lets you know where you are in comparison to the next rider. For example, if you are in 5th place it will have how many seconds behind the 4th place runner you are. If you are in 1st place it shows you how far ahead in seconds you are of 2nd place. This helps give you an idea of what you need to do in order earn the lead and keep it. I would have preferred to always have how far ahead of the next rider you are though. I say this because you can usually see the next rider ahead of you and can gauge how far behind you are. I always want to know who is tailing me. That way, if I am trying to go for the consecutive podium trophy, and I am in 3rd place, I know whether I can relax or if I need to be on my game.
There are 12 national tracks to choose from. These are the typical long races that you can really get some high speed and good air going. Along with the national tracks you have 4 short tracks. The name says it all; if you blink you miss 75% of the lap. There are also two free ride areas for you to just get used to the handling of your bike or ATV and do some free riding to work on your tricks and gain experience points by having fun. You can download a third free ride areal; James Stewarts Compound, if you are a big fan of the biggest name in the sport. For a racing game, 12 normal tracks and 4 short tracks seems a little low and leaves you feeling that you want more. What really bothers me is what you have to do get actually unlock the tracks.
You start out with two of each track type. Seems fair for just starting the game, but to unlock the next set you have to become a skill rider with a level of 10. This isn't that bad; either if you make the races with more laps and you come in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd each time. What sucks is that you have to race the same four courses over and over and over again to grind those levels and you quickly become bored and uninterested and are ready to move on to something else before you really even get started. If you do make it to the next level to open the last set of tracks you have to go from a level 10 rider to a level 25 rider. For the average fan this just isn't going to fly and you will regret buying this game after about 3 hours of play.
Online is a little bit better and with the new Rider Reflex System it really does a good job of balancing out the playing field better than most online games where you get those diehard gamers that are so juiced up and maxed out that it isn't fun and impossible to compete with them. This is more of an online game anyways and I would recommend you increase your riding skills to close to level 10 before heading online.
For a game that is supposed to be in Hi-Def and 720p this game looks more like a Wii game. I will admit, I really like the fact that your tread marks from all the racers stayed in the ground through the entire race and did affect handling on future laps, but after that I really have nothing positive to say about the graphics. Everything, and I mean everything had jaggy lines everywhere. It was hard to make out what tree top went to what trunk. The snow was boring and textureless. The customary starting line girls looked blotchy and not smooth at all when the camera panned around them. The colors, even on a plasma, were dull and boring. There is no texture anywhere in the game except if you are going out on a limb and said you can see some in the tread marks. There were dead spots on some of the tracks that had shadows and every once in a while I would turn too early and get penalized for going off track and loose some position spots. This is definitely a game you will buy for just the gameplay only.
Thankfully, the sound more than made up for the horrible graphics. You hear absolutely everything, from the dirt flying everywhere when you make a tight turn to the guys cheering your fall or them passing you even if you are in the reset screen. Where I had nothing good to say about the graphics I have everything great to say about the sound. I loved how you could hear all the bikes around you in 3D Dolby Digital; even as they were going the other way on parallel straightaways. The crashing of metal on metal, the revving of the engines, all added to a great racing atmosphere. I haven't felt that immersed into a racing game in a long time. Don't get me wrong other racing games do the same thing but there was something about this one that just wrapped you in a little more and got your blood rushing as you closed in on the finish line side by side for 1st or 2nd place.
I really wanted to like this game with every bone in my body but one thing after another just turned me off and it just didn't keep my interest. I think that THQ focused making this game for the hard core fans. As a general fan of the sport I saw the $39.99 price tag and was thinking finally a company has priced a game correctly!! In the end they did, for the hard core fans. If you want to sit there and do the same couple of courses over and over again and slowly build your bike or ATV this is a perfect game for you. Not for me. I was tired of doing the same course after about the third time, so I explored the free ride but that builds you up even slower.
I don't want to go into great detail in building my desired dream bike or ATV as a general fan of the sport, I just want to put the game in and race. Upgrade here and there and just kick ass and take names. There is a way around this; you can buy all the upgraded items and tracks as DLC. The problem with that is it puts the game right back up there around that magical $60 price tag. That is all well in good but where is the sense of accomplishment, plus that just tosses the whole discounted price factor out the window, especially when you can get better quality older games for cheaper and have more fun out of the box.
MX vs ATV: Alive is a lot of fun for fans of the sports, at least once you have everything open, but how much are you willing to grind to unlock it all? There are lots of trophies to earn that make the game fun and challenging. Another great thing about the trophies, unlike other racing games, is that they are easier to get and more appropriate. Even though I wish there were more tracks, the ones we get are pretty great and pose different challenges that test you in different ways as a rider. This also goes for whether you are riding the bike or the ATV. Racing the same course on a different vehicle is a completely different experience and keeps you on your toes.
The biggest thing lacking though is structure. There are no tournaments or event series for you to compete in. Every race is a single race and it just gets so boring to the casual race fan. All of these annoying gameplay issues plus the horrible so-called HD graphics really makes it hard for me to recommend this game to any but the most faithful fans of the franchise. There are brief moments of fun, but with all the other racing games out there you might want to look at one of those before buying or even renting this one.