Everyone loves a good sequel or another game to enhance the series. Just look at the success of the Call of Duty or Need for Speed titles in recent years. MX vs ATV is a similar chain. Unfortunately for MX vs. ATV, the latest addition to the series, MX vs. ATV: Alive, just feels more like MX vs. ATV: Dead.
That may sound a little harsh and perhaps it is, but once you’ve read this review, and hopefully played the game, you will see where I’m coming from. For starters Alive has forgotten to include any sort of career mode. Or at least it looks like it at a first, second and third glance. The supposed career single player mode is based on trawling your way through a variety of different races which once completed, award you with XP points. These XP points are vital as without them you can’t progress through the game. I shouldn’t have really used the word variety when describing the track choice as Alive has the most bizarre system I’ve ever seen in order to progress through the game.
Right from the offset you only gain access to a couple of tracks compiling of both the national tracks (these are the longer races) and the short tracks, which as the namesake suggests, are very short. In order to unlock new tracks you’ll need to level up fast which is ironic as the levelling system is turtle slow. This means you’ll need to win a lot of races. To make matters worse after every race you’re booted back to the main menu screen requiring you to go back into the desired mode and choose the same race again.
Due to the slow release of XP points, you’ll have to replay, replay and replay some more of the limited amount of tracks available from the offset. This rapidly turns the game from what could be a fun and enjoyable into boring, repetitive and drone like. That is not a good thing no matter what game you are playing. Your desired vehicle can also receive its own XP points which over time unlock new parts making your vehicle faster. I didn’t seem to notice that much of a speed difference but after a few upgrades the handling and acceleration seems to be a little better.
Speaking of handling it certainly isn’t the easiest game to pick up and play. Using both analogue sticks, the left to control the bike and the right to control the rider, you have to effectively use both sticks in unison in order to safely glide around the course. This is tricky at first especially around the shorter courses as the corners come thick and fast. After a bunch of restarts and pulling your hair out constantly you’ll slowly start grasping the technique which should keep you on your bike or quad for at least a lap or two. The next area you need to learn is how to perform tricks. Again this is extremely frustrating and only the hardcore gamers will take the time to master the techniques required to pull them off. Patience is the key and if you don’t have any, I suggest you search for another game in your collection to play. You’ll also need to watch out for the AI as if close enough, they won’t hesitate to nudge you off your vehicle.
So you’re bored of playing the single player? Well the other option is to take your game online via the PlayStation Network. Finding a game wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be considering my enjoyment of the single player experience, but maybe that’s because the single player is incomplete so online is the preferred option; nevertheless the game plays out quite well online. I even surprised myself as I rather enjoyed it. Maybe it was because it was against real opponents who also at times were equally as bad as me at the game, but there are also some very skilled players out there showing that if you play the game for long enough, you can get pretty good at it.
Leaving the excitement of online behind, it’s back to a little disappointment when it comes to the audio and visuals. The riders are jaggy around the edges and the wheels of the motocross bikes occasionally vanish into the track. There’s definitely nothing to shout about here and upon looking at last year’s attempt, Reflex, there doesn’t appear to be any obvious improvements. The track deformation seems to remain but just doesn’t look or feel fluid enough when ploughing through the mud. On the audio side of things the engine noise isn’t that impressive and rarely differs between bikes. It’s just a shame overall and feels a little rushed.
Going back to my opening paragraph it definitely feels a little harsh to rename the game MX vs. ATV: Dead. That said Alive comes across as rushed and to be honest, could probably have been released as a DLC pack to Reflex. Terrible career mode unlock system and progression combined with difficult and frustrating handling means this game will only appeal to fans of the MX vs. ATV series.