Game: “MX Vs ATV: Alive”
Motocross is a popular, if not well known sport in the UK. For those who don’t know, it’s off-road racing on powerful dirt bikes. Originally a time trailed sport from the United Kingdom, it became a full on race to make the sport more exciting. There are numerous jumps and tight corners to negotiate as well as the other racers competing for one place. An exciting sport, where last place riders are not far behind the leaders, unlike Moto GP.
It seems only right that a popular sporting title have it’s own video game so that fans can experience what the professionals feel every time they sit on their bikes and race for real. This is where MX Vs ATV Alive comes in. Developed by THQ, Alive is the fourth game in the MX Vs ATV series and sets it’s self as an officially licensed game for the motocross world. The idea, as with all racing games is to win. How this is done does not just depend on which bike is selected, but more on how the bike is then set up and the experience that the rider has gained.
After every race, the rider is given experience points depending on a number of factors such as where they came in the race or the difficulty of the competition. Also, the bike also gets experience. This means when it levels up, the dirt bike becomes faster and harder to fall off or “wreck”. The more experience gained in Alive means more circuits, dirt bikes and characters open up. There are literally hundreds of options to customise the vehicles and even the riders that sit on top of them. They range from suspensions, wheels & helmets all the way down to colour of the handlebars.
The available tracks at the beginning of the game is a disappointing shortfall. There are 2 main races, a handful of mini courses and two free-roam tracks. It takes a lot of work to level up high enough to unlock more. Some gamers could be put off by the game’s reluctance to reward for achieving goals. However sticking with game and unlocking the extra race locations does give a greater sense of achievement as it takes longer to get them!
There is a reasoning behind the lack of tracks to start with. It is due to THQ’s “hybrid” approach to the game. They have streamlined the game down to bring overall cost of the physical game down, to make it more attractive for casual gamers and added more downloadable content for the serious fans of the series. In principle it works, however they have taken too much out of it, adding in a couple more race courses and Alive could have kept the game a little more fresh for the gamers who may not want to purchase the extra content.
Number of race courses aside, MX Vs ATV: Alive does have superb visuals. The characters are designed in such away that they avoid looking like the skinny pipelined riders from games such as Road Rash or the huge blocky characters that resemble a NFL defensive line. When riding, the screen maintains it’s visual presentation. There is a little blur to push the sense of speed but at no point does the screen drop to anything less than smooth and sleek.
The courses in Alive are well constructed – fluid and simple enough to learn, however difficult to master. The game has a steady increase in difficulty when the AI level is selected. When racing this is clearly apparent and unlike some racing games where easy mode is far too easy and the hard setting is too hard and frustrating, Alive manages to maintain a constant challenge from other racers.
What really sets this game apart from others is the simple and intuitive control system. The Duelshock controller is set up more to a first person shooting game than a standard racing title. Using the L2 & R2 triggers to break and accelerate respectively, feels a lot more natural than pressing X and Square. The bike is controlled by the left stick and because the rider can be knocked around and unbalanced during a race, the right stick maintains the balance of the character. This also helps for cornering and performing stunts.
As mentioned there are two free roam modes which take a more relaxed approach to motocross. As the name implies, in free roam it’s just the rider and their bike. Instead of races, there are a number of challenges to complete in order to gain extra experience points. These areas also allow enough time and space to perform stunts. Using a combination of the control sticks and the R1 button, different tricks can be performed such as wheelies and backflips. It does take time to get used to the stunt system but it is an addition that feels tagged on as a last minute thought.
There is an online multiplayer mode, which works in the same way as the main races, however expect more collisions and an even more competitive experience as players are not grouped depending on experience levels. It is a free-for-all. There are not online exclusive tracks to play, it is a case of picking what is already available to ride. Load times on a decent internet connections are manageable even with players who use WiFi connections, there are also no incidents of slow down when the action got too intense.
MX Vs ATV: Alive is not just another racing game. THQ have managed to blend elements from other videogame genres, and for the most part, it works. The RPG element of levelling up to progress works well, although it can take a while to reap any rewards if extra content is not purchased. There are a lot of customisable equipment for both the bikes and the bikers. Enough options to try different combinations to find the perfect ride style. Solid graphics and an inspired control set up make MX Vs ATV: Alive a racing game that sets it apart from other similar titles. The stunt system feels tacked on and unresponsive, but makes the free roam modes a good change of pace. MX Vs ATV: Alive is firstly a game for the fans. Also because of it’s pricing point, newcomers can be assured this is one of the best games to introduce them to the world of Motocross.