While the MX Vs. ATV games have been doing the rounds for a little while now, MX vs. ATV: Alive is the first title from THQ that carries a £29.99 RRP and features less content on the disc than normal; the idea being that if you like what you’re playing you can buy more of it via micro-transactions. At face value it’s a smart move from THQ and one that will no doubt sit a little more comfortable with gamers who up until now have felt rather cheated paying top dollar for disc based games only to discover at a later date that content has been purposely held back in a bid to squeeze even more cash out of their pockets.
Only time will tell if the move will pay off, and whether it becomes the norm for all of THQ’s titles going forward depends entirely on how much THQ will be asking for the extra content it plans to release onto the networks. Given that MX vs. ATV: Alive is actually a pretty good game one can only hope that the experiment is successful enough that it encourages other publishing houses to follow a similar path.
Following on from the 2010’s MX vs. ATV Reflex, the latest edition to the series continues to employ the new twin stick control system, with the left stick controlling the turn and pitch of your motorbike, and the right controlling the position of your rider. While it’s a system that might seem overly complex in light of many of today’s developers opting for simpler control methods to appease an ever growing casual market, it’s one that works very well with the games impressive handling physics.
MX vs. ATV: Alive demands a lot more skill from its audience than previous iterations and crossing the finish line can prove to be far more challenging than it may first have seemed. Being able to maintain a healthy balance between altering your acceleration, the position of your rider and knowing when to pop the clutch after coming out of a deep corner can mean the difference between a obtaining a podium finish and careering off the track. Even jumps require an acute sense of timing if you’re to gain enough air in order to clear enough ground and avoid speed-reducing mounds of dirt and gravel. A quick press of the R3 button and a pull back on the stick can mean big air, and if you’re feeling confident enough you can even pull off a few tricks, but in the heat of a closely fought race it’s unadvisable, as chances are you’ll spend most of your time face first in the mud.
The series may have moved toward a more demanding control system with Alive, but it still manages to retain much of its arcade styling and once you’ve got the hang of the controls it often proves to be rather an entertaining experience. Even for someone like me, who has very little interest in the sport proper, soon found blasting around the 12 or so courses – from simple woodland mud tracks to a vineyard and a huge canyon -thoroughly enjoyable.
There are no Freestyle or Supercross events to be found on the disc, but one can only guess that these will be part of the planned DLC, perhaps along with a few extras to add to the rather sparse Free Ride mode. Bizarrely enough, however, there isn’t a true career mode; you simply select a single player event and once you’ve been awarded the appropriate points, (which are put toward levelling up ,accessing new bikes, levels and rider skills) for completion of said event you are then sent back to the title screen.
Whether or not a more in-depth career mode will come as optional DLC is as yet unknown, but it does seem rather odd to not include one with the main game. If truth be told I would have personally preferred a few less bikes, riders and accessories etc in exchange for a fully fledge career path through the world of motocross racing.
Unfortunately at this stage I’m unable to provide any thoughts on the online component due to the current PSN outage and the fact I have a PS3 copy of the game; which is a shame because it looks like there’s plenty to be getting on with in the form of 12 player online races and the shop which apparently has tones of bikes, riders, extra tracks and so on. Nevertheless I have sampled the two- player split screen and can confirm that it’s a blast so I think it’s safe to assume that 12 players online could be an absolute riot.
There’s no doubt that fans of the series will lap it up, but whether or not the buying public will see the ‘less for less’ campaign as a genuine attempt to open up consumer choice or a cynical move by THQ to scam them out of more money remains to be seen.
Whatever the outcome, MX vs. ATV: Alive is a solid game. It looks sharp, has a great handling mechanic and combines a healthy balance of realism and arcade gameplay that’s both challenging and fun – and when it comes down to it that’s all that really matters.