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Daniel Golding
09 Mar, 2008

MX Vs ATV Untamed Review

360 Review | Two wheels good, four wheels bad.
MX vs. ATV Untamed is the latest off-road racing game to come from THQ’s Phoenix-based Rainbow Studios, veterans of the genre who have worked on numerous off-road games since Motocross Madness, a whole decade ago. In 2005, their flagship titles (ATV Offroad Fury and MX Unleashed) met in MX vs. ATV Unleashed, and now Untamed follows in the same vein. But is Untamed unrivaled, or simply undercooked?

The game clearly shows Rainbow Studios’ immersion and love of the genre - but it also indicates a studio running dry on ideas, attempting to compensate by throwing in every mode of gameplay possible. And this isn’t to say Untamed isn’t fun - far from it - but it is clear that the core mechanics of the game, or indeed, the genre, haven’t changed in some time. While it would be too simple to write the game off as a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, the adage does apply in some respects.

An area where the game does succeed, however, is in accessibility - both to the seasoned pro and those previously untouched by two-wheel racing. From the moment you boot up the game, you can choose to play a random course and mode, or choose a custom event, which will no doubt please arcade racer fans. However, the game also provides players with a very reasonable career mode and the ability to fine-tune vehicles and riders to the finest degree. Trust us, we never realised we were so picky about the colour of our handlebars before! Although generally speaking, these aspects work well, there are a few faults that make the game unnecessarily frustrating. The player is often forced to play qualifying events before the actual race, which in practice means that you’ll be playing the same track twice in a row more often than not. This becomes especially annoying if you’ve picked the wrong difficulty setting for the level and find yourself with a 40 second lead by the end of the first lap of the first race. Yawn. Upgrades and different vehicles also must be bought, and although this lends an impetus to the single player game, it is very easy to earn large amounts of money quickly, effectively negating this system.

The outdoor settings can be quite scenic.

The outdoor settings can be quite scenic.
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While many modes have returned from Unleashed, such as the standard stadium-based Supercross and outdoor National modes, Untamed offers several modes unique to the new racer. Opencross places the player in a race with any, or all vehicle types included in the game. Endurocross, on the other hand, asks players to navigate the toughest obstacles (water pits, rocky roads, and logs) in an indoor race to the finish. Perhaps Endurocross reveals the lack of depth to certain subsections of the game best - while enjoyable, the game does not give you enough depth of control to really navigate the course successfully, and players, more often than not, will rely on dumb luck and speed to win.

One mode of special note is Free Ride. This mode allows players to explore any of the locations featured throughout the other modes, with no limits. Thus, players can traverse multiple tracks and the areas in between, choosing to start events as they please. There are also items to collect in each location, and while this isn’t nearly as addictive as the Crackdown orbs, we found this mode difficult to turn off.

Vehicles in the game are divided up into ‘Moto’ and ‘Machines’. In ‘Moto’, we have anything with handlebars instead of a steering wheel: MX, MX Lite, ATV, and Mini MX. In ‘Machines’, we have that peculiar class of transport reliably known as ‘things-you-can-roll-and-not-die-in’: Sand Rail, Offroad Buggy, Trophy Truck and Monster Truck. While it is certainly fun to race obscenely large Monster Trucks and grunt-powered Buggies, the game’s real challenge and enjoyment comes from its namesakes: MX and ATV. Driving these precarious vehicles enables a subtly of control - their liability to crash means that every jump must be considered, every landing angled correctly, and every stunt carefully calculated. Players can expect to study the pavement closely many times before mastering these vehicles. Speaking of crashes, bailing your bike can be, perversely, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. Flying through the air at over 100kp/h and realising you’ve miscalculated a jump will often arouse that tingling sensation in your stomach as you sail irreparably into a tree, or a lake, or simply from far too large a height. The physics of the crash are enjoyably destructive, though your driver often falls like a lifeless rag-doll, and not a living, frightened human attempting to prevent an appointment with a plastic surgeon. Another gameplay annoyance is the poorly judged reset function when you career too far off course - it takes too long to really help, and it’s too short to allow you to right your heading manually. Worst of all, it occasionally resets you after you’ve rejoined the race, presumably as an invisible check-point has not been crossed.

Coming in 2020: Hover MX vs. Hover ATV.

Coming in 2020: Hover MX vs. Hover ATV.
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Untamed opens with a message to the effect of ‘Don’t try this at home, kids’, and with good reason. Players riding any of the ‘Moto’ class vehicles are able to execute a wide and varied amount of mid-air tricks. With the exception of the Freestyle and Graffiti modes, where the aim is to complete as many tricks as possible, these stunts don’t benefit the player in a tangible way, yet are incredibly satisfying to pull off. Regardless of the mode, the first time you pull off a backflip, your whoops of delight will be audible in your closest capital city.

A small touch that makes the game unusual is the replacement of most of the loading screens with a practice arena. This also functions as a game lobby for online matches, and strutting your stuff before rivals while waiting for a match to begin is immeasurably more enjoyable than being taunted by a twelve-year-old with a headset and a bad case of puberty blues.

Indeed, it seems that all too often in this current generation, multiplayer is restricted to an either-or situation, with games only enabling online or split-screen play. Thankfully, this is not the case in Untamed, with full servings of both Xbox Live and split-screen play. All single player modes are able to be played (with the exception of the career tournaments), with a few mini-games thrown into the mix. These mini-games, much like the regular modes, are a mixed bunch. Some, like ‘Snake’ - a three-dimensional version of the traditional mobile phone game - are fun, while others, such as the woeful ‘Hockey’ beggar belief that they were actually included.

'Don't look now, but I think we're being followed.'.

'Don't look now, but I think we're being followed.'.
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Aesthetically, the game looks and sounds adequate. ‘Adequate’ isn’t a ringing endorsement, but neither is it indicating a major issue. While we would have liked to see a better-looking game (especially given the delay for the series to make an appearance on a next-generation console, and the graphical prowess of competition such as MotorStorm), Untamed still has moments that impress. Largely, these moments come in the outdoor settings, as these levels are fully realised and impressively located, though poor textures let the game’s vision down. The stadium levels give an excellent feeling of setting and place, though different shades of drab don’t exactly impress. Still, the mud glistens in the sunlight and the vehicles all leave impressive tread-marks, and to a certain extent that’s all that really matters in an off-road racer.

Sound is equally satisfactory, with each vehicle sounding unique and realistic. There are a few technicalities that remain here, though, with the bikes audibly changing gears while cruising at top speed. Music is appropriate, but much the same as any cookie-cutter ‘extreme’ soundtrack, featuring a mono-dimensional array of modern punk and rock. The custom soundtrack functions are well and good, but when will designers realise that some off-road fans actually like varied modern music, or even that original bike-riding genre, classic rock (‘Born To Be Wild’, anyone?)

Ultimately, MX vs. ATV Untamed is a difficult game to critique. It has enough content to help anyone find their niche and enjoy it, but not enough of the content is of a reasonable quality. Is a game as good as its worst moment, or its best? Untamed presents an uncomfortable mix of arcade thrills and simulation know-how, with varying degrees of success. Essentially, however, Untamed is a game that won’t hold your attention for long, but may well hold it long enough for you to enjoy yourself.
The Score
MX vs. ATV is a game that is 'fun enough'. There will be gamers who will find a lot to like, and perhaps even love here, but it's unlikely they'll be coming back in six months time to relive the experience. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related MX Vs ATV Untamed Content

THQ ATV event
02 Mar, 2008 We drive some 4x4 vehicles in preparation for THQ's new ATV title.
E3 2007: MX vs ATV Untamed announced
12 Jul, 2007 ATV goes next gen.
MX Vs ATV Untamed Preview
29 Jan, 2008 We go hands on with the new MX vs ATV title.
3 Comments
6 years ago
I read this the other day icon_razz.gif I'd definitely agree with your score.

Being a fan of motocross I instantly bought this one, and while it is fun, I can't get over how half the AI are so shit and basically cut you off, while the fast ones check-out, leaving you way behind.

And supercross is all about flow, but some of the tracks are just impossible to find any flow, with some of the massive triple jumps almost coming down to luck as to whether you land or crash.

Still, I find a way to enjoy it.
6 years ago
I downloaded the demo a few days ago... didn't enjoy it too much.
6 years ago
would watching the 'untamed babes' trailer for the game change anyones mind about this game?

..it certainly did with me icon_smile.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  12/03/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  THQ
Genre:
  Racing
Year Made:
  2007

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