MX vs. ATV Alive Hands-On Preview -- Big Air, Muddy Faces, and Close CallsBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 07, 2011
Let’s just get one thing out of the way up front, as it’s something THQ and the developers at Rainbow Studios really want gamers to understand: MX vs. ATV Alive is not a "budget title," regardless of what you might be thinking because of its $40 price tag. The latest iteration in THQ’s motorcross series is the first to roll out as part of THQ’s new initiative to ship games at a reduced price and then let players decide how much or how little downloadable content they want to purchase to bolster the out-of-the-box experience. There will be tons of free DLC too, and it won’t just be bottom of the barrel stuff like new goggles or paintjobs (although, those will be included as well). We’re talking full courses, new rides, and more. Make no mistake about it: MX vs. ATV Alive is a full retail title in every sense of the word, just competitively priced.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to find out what your $40 will buy you should you pick up the game when it ships May 10. The feature set for Alive is extensive, so to keep it all manageable, the developers have introduced a new experience system that tracks your performance across all of the game’s single-player and multiplayer modes. There is no linear career mode this time around, and players can now jump between any of the available events at will. In addition to standard races, there are also short track events and a free ride mode.
Short tracks are, well, on smaller tracks, and put a bigger emphasis on physical racing, with riders competing for position via “friendly” bumping and nudging. The short track we saw was called MX Battlegrounds, and was configured to create two perilous intersections at two points on the track, which led to some painful collisions and even more heart pounding close calls.
Free Mode lets players cruise around maps to their heart’s content, satisfying challenges and discovering secret items. This mode is playable in multiplayer too, which essentially turns the maps into playable lobbies where players can get together to show off their skills, set up their own races, or just goof around for hours on end. We cruised around the Byrn Carreg Quarry, an undulating quarry dumping ground complete with a massive crane, towering hills to jump, and a large pond that you can hydroplane across if you hit the right section (a feature the developers included at the request of fans). Of course, if you hit the deep portion of the pond, you drown, so be careful.
We also checked out one of the game's most impressive settings, and it's actually going to be available as free DLC for anyone who buys the game new: supercross champion James Stewart's compound at his home in Florida. The site has been meticulously crafted for the game. Everything from the Red Bull vending machines to Stewart’s actual garage and house (exterior only) to the special out-of-state dirt that Stewart had shipped in for one of the tracks on his lot, it’s all here and open for you race through, over, and across without the fear of being arrested for trespassing.
Player customization once again plays a big part in Alive, and the game includes countless ways to create the rider of your dreams. From helmets to boots to the color of your wheel rims to the nickname patch on your lower back, it can all be tweaked to your specifications. Beyond cosmetic customizations, you also have the option of selecting two perks that influence your rider’s performance. For instance, one gives you an XP bonus while another gives your rider better balance when battling other riders in the air.
For the final part of our preview, we went hands-on for a quick race. The controls have been tweaked this time around in order to make the game more accessible to new players. And it appears to have worked, because after about half way through the second lap, we had figured out how to avoid flying through turns and how to use the new body controls to lean our rider into and out of turns at just the right time and how to pull off a fairly wicked mid-air tail whip. As one of the game's developers told us, "See? You picked it up in two or three laps, whereas in previous games it would have been two or three races." It’s also worth mentioning here that the game's real-time dirt deformation looks fantastic and changes the tempo and strategy of every race as each rider’s bike carves away more and more terrain with each subsequent lap.
As should be obvious by now, there is nothing budget about MX vs. ATV Alive, and it’s shaping up to be a solid representative for THQ’s new pricing model. We’ll find out how the whole package comes together when we get our hands on the full game May 10.