MX vs. ATV Untamed Review
I'm not usually a fan of racing games, on-road or off. It's not that I don't think they're fun, mind you, I just can't take the pressure. The clock, the other racers, the terrain… it all just boils down to just way too much going on at once. And nothing compares to my frustration at a computer-controlled car's last millisecond win; “Raining Blood” on Guitar Hero III has had me near the breaking point once or twice, but only a split second loss in a racing game (Motorstorm, in this case) has elicited a Star Trek “KHAN!!!” scream – raised fists and all. So before I sat down to play MX vs. ATV: Untamed, I made good and sure I was out of earshot of my friends and loved ones, lest they become targets for my rage. It's a good thing, too; there was plenty of frustration to go around. But all in all, the game is a solid off-road racer, but there are far more interesting and fun games in this genre if “muddin'” happens to be your thing.
MX vs. ATV: Untamed is pretty much a carbon copy of all the other off-road racing games to come out in the past five years or so. You can choose a dirt bike, ATV, car or truck and race through mud hole after mud hole in an attempt to rise to the top of this filthy sport. Some of the tracks are more fun than others, but thankfully, no matter which vehicle you choose, each track will accommodate your vehicle's needs. For example, one track has a long straightaway best suited for cars and trucks, but also has a few windy side paths that are best suited to the bike or ATV. If you played Diddy Kong Racing DS, you know how the hovercraft never seemed to have the advantage, no matter which track you were on. In this game, each vehicle has an equal shot at bringing home the first place trophy. It doesn't sound like much, but a few rounds of online play will have you singing a different tune.
The game's controls also demand attention as they perfectly balance between “Crusin' USA” and “Gran Turismo.” They are easy and fun to use without being ludicrous and at the same time, really feel like how a bike or truck would actually control. No one in the world could pull off some of the moves you have at your disposal, but if you want to be more serious and/or realistic, you can shift gears and realistically use your vehicle's weight or velocity to your advantage. It really depends on your style. Do you want to catch more air than Michael Jordan and Tony Hawk combined? Or do you want to downshift at just the right second to keep up your speed over a ramp? Both work equally well in practice.
I should also say something about the crashes you'll see over the course of the game. The car and truck accidents aren't anything spectacular, but the ATV and dirt bike wrecks can be a lot of fun to watch. The Flatout games have made flying bodies into an art form the same way the Burnout games made crashing a thing of beauty. MX vs. ATV doesn't come close to what is done in those games, but seeing a poor racer fly over the handlebars still holds some sick charm.
The racing is all fairly standard but one mode, the Endurocross, was a personal favorite. In this mode, you're put onto a track with tons of hazards. Ramps, boulders, trees, etc… pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. It's still a race, but only the most careful drivers will make it to the end without serious bodily injury. The obstacles slow everything down, maybe a bit too much, but I was instantly reminded of some of my friend's more punishing Excitebike tracks. Ramps everywhere, mud everywhere and tons of crap in your path. If you don't mind slowing things down, this mode can be tons of fun.