Last week, I attended a THQ event for some of their upcoming games. Initially, I thought I was going to be looking at a game about drawing pictures. I used to go to picture-drawing school, and because of this, people frequently make me do artsy-fartsy stuff. When I arrived at the event, plans miraculously changed and I got to write about dirt bikes instead.
Hamza asked me, “How do you feel about previewing MX Vs. ATV: Alive?” I said I didn’t know what that was, and he said “It’s about driving motorcycles in the mud,” To that, I said “Ooh! Lovely!"
MX Vs ATV: Alive (Playstation 3, Xbox 360 [Previewed])
One nuance I’ve learned to appreciate over the last few years is the difference between a racing game and a driving simulation. Star Wars Super Bombad Racing is a racing game, and Gran Turismo is a driving simulation. Obviously, there’s plenty of overlapping grey area between these two classifications, but it’s safe to say there’s a difference in genres.
I went at MX Vs ATV: Alive with the understanding that it was a realistic simulation of driving (or riding, whatever) motocross bikes and all-terrain vehicles. In doing so, I wasn’t expecting the game to be a mind-blowing thrill-ride that made me shout 1980’s slang like “Excellent!” and “Bodacious!” like I usually do when playing Motorstorm.
In real life, I’ve ridden a dirtbike once. I thought it was really fun, even though I wasn’t very good at it -- I guess that’s how I feel about most things in life, video games included -- but I got the hang of the basic physics. It’s sort of like riding a really heavy bicycle that doesn’t want you riding it. In most games I’ve played, riding dirtbikes has been treated like driving two-wheeled cars. In the case of MX Vs ATV: Alive, it’s not quite the same.
When on a bike, the left analog stick controls the handlebars. This is how a bike is steered when no one is riding it, but when there’s actually a human being on it, you have to factor in the rider’s weight. That’s what the right analog stick is for, shifting the rider’s weight.
Describing this control setup makes it sound awkward and complicated, but in practice, it’s quite intuitive. The best thing I can compare it to is playing a first person shooter, except with a dirt bike instead of a gun. Neal Pabon, one of THQ’s PR guys told me that this control setup had been present in the previous game, MX Vs ATV Unleashed, but that it was tweaked a bit for Alive.
I jumped into the multiplayer and got my ass thoroughly handed to me by everyone else playing, but I still had a great time. I know how dumb that sounds, but MX Vs ATV: Alive plays like a 3D version of the original Excitebike, or a less infuriating version of Trials HD. The way the game controls, it makes the simple act of riding a motorbike fun.
MX Vs ATV: Alive features three classes of motocross bikes, with two models in each class. I didn’t get a chance to look too closely at any of these, but since I’m a girlyheaded pantywaist who doesn’t know anything about engines or torque or what “CC” stands for, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you much, anyway. I’d probably just write something like “The green bike is faster.”
As the title suggest, MX Vs ATV also features ATVs, of which there are two classes with two ATVs each. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play with any of these. I’ve wanted to ride a quad since I was eight years old, and still haven’t, so I’m bummed.
The game’s graphics are up to par with the current generation. The bikes and tracks look cool. Trashy-looking girls in tank tops and daisy dukes wave flags to start the race, and that’s cool. Otherwise, the game looks pretty much how you’d expect a game about motocross and ATV racing to look.
Out of the box, the game has twelve national courses, four short tracks, and two free-ride. However, there’s a twist. MX vs ATV: Alive is one of THQ’s first forays into hybrid pricing. The game itself is forty bucks, which is pretty cheap, but it’s going to offer a whole bunch of downloadable content. Whether or not this is a smart or fair business model is up for discussion, but it allows you to buy a game for cheaper than usual, and if you like it, there’s more to download.
I’m sure a lot of people will gripe about this pricing method, but I think it’s a cool idea. Let’s say you want a new game, but you can’t muster a full sixty bucks until payday. Drop forty on the disc, and then pick of the rest of the DLC when you can. I guess it’s a sign of the economic times if we’re buying video games in installments, but I’m not opposed to the idea.
All that being said, MX Vs ATV: Alive is the latest in an established series about racing motorbikes and ATVs around in the dirt. If you're into that kind of thing, take a look.