MX vs. ATV Alive Xbox 360 Review

Publisher – THQ – Developer – THQ Digital Studios Phoenix – Genre – Racing – Players – 1-12 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

MX vs. ATV Alive is an incredibly unusual beast. While most modern video games not only introduce you to the titles mechanics in a slow and methodical fashion, it also includes some form of ‘story’ to enjoy and complete. Alive, much to its detriment, negates practically any form of introduction, or basic sense of progression.

Initially there’s very little to do. With no structured single-player mode to dip into, the initial selection of two lengthy tracks, a couple of ‘free roam’ areas, and a few incredibly basic short courses, is bewildering. Unlocking more requires you up your riders experience to a defined level which finally opens up more content.

Particularly at the early stages, what proceeds is a repetitive bout of tedium that will undoubtedly cause many gamers to switch off. In order to boost your rank enough to unlock the next track, you’re forced to repeatedly take on single races on the same batch of courses. Luckily multi-player options do help invigorate things with human opponents taking the place of standard AI drivers, but it’s still an overwhelmingly odd way to introduce users to a new title. Essentially you’ll be forced to play an incredibly repetitive few hours in order to unlock the content you feel that you’ve shelled out for at the shop tills.

Similarly, there’s no tutorial. And if there was one racing title crying out for at least a brief bit of explanation, Alive is certainly it. While the standard racing controls exist, you’ll be constantly utilising both analogue sticks, as well as the shoulder buttons, if you want to consistently appear at the front of the pack.

The right analogue stick controls your riders stance and weight distribution. Don’t pay enough attention, and your attempts to traverse that hairpin bend will only end with either a wallow in the mud, or a pathetically poor level of vehicular speed and drop to the back of the pack. It takes a while to get to grips with, especially with all sorts of visual clues popping up here and there that require an essential prod to keep your rider upright. It’s a shame it’s not fully explained, as it does act in a fashion that simply feels correct when it comes to this kind of racing. It makes the connection between track, vehicle, and rider feel much more organic, and something that could potentially help innovate control systems for similar titles.

With both motocross and quad bikes available, there are two separate disciplines to learn. On the two wheeled options, staying upright – particularly during the many collisions you’ll have with other racers – is a real test. A constant thumb on the right analogue stick is definitely a requirement to keep your rider from yet another tumble on the track. The quads are obviously much more stable, but yet feel much more eager to flip when landing a hefty jump, or performing a particularly tight turn at anything other than pathetic speeds.

While standard races are your bread and butter in order to increase your rank, the free roam modes allow for a touch of exploration and innovation. Getting big air, performing lengthy jumps, and pulling off some outlandish tricks will increase your rank still. While the first two of those are easy enough by simple swift driving, the last is unfortunately a touch difficult thanks to a convoluted control system (which again isn’t ever explained or introduced) and some animations that take an incredibly lengthy amount of time to finish. Forcing far too many crashes.

MX vs. ATV Alive is a missed opportunity. When you get stuck into it, it’s obvious that there’s a solidly well-crafted racing model to get to grips with. And some of its control innovations will undoubtedly be copied and built upon in years to come. But the lack of true structure and sense of progression, particularly for the first few hours, is an absolute disaster of a decision. Sadly most will not be willing to force their way through these early hours in order to get to a point where the game finally starts to become a touch less repetitive. And you couldn’t truly blame them. A shame as there’s obviously a quite exciting off-road racer just screaming to be let out. But it’s being imprisoned by its inherent lack of structure.