MX vs. ATV Alive Review (PS3)

When THQ launched their new logo, the company announced that the fresh look epitomises the “triple A, innovative” titles they would be working on. Last week, a copy of MX vs ATV Alive landed on my doorstep. Sensing this change of image could usher in an era of publishing excellence from the company, I threw the game into my console, ready for the wonders to be unleashed. I'm an idiot. While MX vs ATV Alive isn't a complete write-off, it does its best to alienate from the beginning, meaning most players will face an uphill battle when trying to decipher any enjoyment from the game.

They say first impressions are vital. MX vs ATV Alive doesn't feature a campaign or any narrative, just a single player mode that tests what players are willing to do in order to advance. Only four races are available to play when starting out, forcing players to replay the same tracks over and over again until they earn enough experience points to reach level ten. While it shouldn't take you too long to get to grips with the driving mechanics, the lack of content indicates that this title doesn't look to improve on Reflex, its predecessor, but only tries to cash in on another release. Aside from the lack of races, two Free Ride events fail to make any impact. In all honesty, they may as well tell players to go outside, get inside the nearest wheelie bin, and contemplate life. Although driving around by yourself is fun for approximately twelve seconds, it's the races that provide the gusto.

Each track provides ample opportunity to overtake your opponents

The lack of content doesn't stop when you reach professional status, and unfortunately, is a staple for the entire game. Just over a dozen tracks can be unlocked, underlining why the game already retails for around £18. It's a shame, because once you've got the hang of how to drive effectively, MX vs ATV Alive does provide some thrills. Controlling your vehicle with the left stick and your driver with the right, it may take a few races to understand how to give yourself an advantage when leaning into corners or landing huge jumps. As with the rest of the game, this kind of technique is never explained. It presumes every player understands how to ride in real life, meaning beginners or younger players could feel the frustration when they're vehicle doesn't turn like it should. The lack of tuition is most apparent at the starting gate, where tapping the clutch at the right time will give you an advantage-setting boost. Although the game instructs you to utilise the clutch system, it never says when. Needless to announce, not every player will understand the technicalities of such a sport, and will immediately be at a disadvantage when setting lap records or playing online.

That is, if anybody is around to play online. After countless times of trying, we could only ever get into a race involving one other competitor. Judging by their high level of progression, the assumptions that only the hardcore will stick around is true. This title is meant to be experienced with friends or competitively against strangers, as it likes to create quite a pile up on most of the tracks. It's hugely disappointing that the lack of single player content is backed up by a dwindling online community, as in the company of the right people, Alive is worth a blast.

Despite the obvious flaws, most tracks are designed with high-speed overtakes and pure carnage in mind. The short tracks in particular have riders leaping over each other at hilarious cross junctions, meaning you never know what could happen if you mistime your ascent. Bodies will fly all over the place, and the AI are prone to making mistakes, giving each race a sense of individuality. Be prepared to see other riders plummeting over boundaries with their vehicles still moving at breakneck speed, and be ready to save yourself when things get tricky. You'll feel every bump, and when you're close to hitting the deck, have to quickly point the right stick in the correct direction to save yourself. It's simple, but it provides everyone with something to think about. Even the leaders could take a tumble if they don't drive adequately, so races can always be turned around at the last minute.

Every bump will seep through the 360 controller, putting you closer to the action

Unlike the lack of events to take part in, there's a fair amount of unlockable vehicle parts, outfits and other goodies waiting to be revealed. Most won't improve your performance, but at least the developers have tried to give players a sense of customisation. You'll eventually unlock abilities that can save you from toppling over, provide a quicker restart when you fall, or a host of other minor improvements. It's not much to get excited about, but these rewards may extend the longevity of the game for some.

MX vs ATV Alive doesn't do itself any favours. It races well, and it's great fun alongside other humans, but it seeks too much of a commitment. If it was a lover, it'd want all your time straight away, and when the dedication pays off, you realise you didn't really like them that much in the first place. As we feared, the lack of tutorials, content and online community almost renders this title pointless, something that can only be revived if a vast amount of free DLC is bestowed upon players. Owners who bought the game new do get access to a couple of extra tracks, but it's hardly enough to reverse the feeling that this title is only half complete. With a little extra tweaking and generosity, MX vs ATV Alive could have been pretty damn good, but right now, THQ's new era has kicked in with a game that should have been subtitled “Better Off Dead”.

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By Thibby (SI Core Veteran) on May 27, 2011
Didnt really expect much of this game, I'll go for Dirt, that is what I call quality-racing xD
By dirt (SI Newbie) on May 29, 2011
PS3 review, 360 controller?
By bosnian_dragon (SI Core) on May 29, 2011
Waiting to see if I'll win Dirt3, but even if I don't I think I'd rather buy Dirt3 than this one. However, it's nice to read a detailed review again, thanks for giving us the insight Nick.
By Thibby (SI Core Veteran) on May 29, 2011
Same here, if I won't win Dirt I'll buy it :)