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MX vs. ATV Reflex - Hands On Preview Event

MX vs. ATV Reflex - Hands On Preview Event

Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Racing

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview event for MX vs. ATV Reflex by THQ. Interestingly enough this event took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was not all about gambling and walking the famed Vegas Strip though as it was actually a working trip whose activities all had a reason for being. Let me explain more.

Note: The first nine (9) pictures are some of the activities that we all took part in, the rest of the pictures are screenshots of the game itself.

On the first full day that we were there all of us journalists were taken out to the Nevada Salt Flats where we were lucky enough to take some ATV’s for a spin in the desert. Upon arriving there were some regular ATV’s, racing ATV’s, and some full on Motocross cycles (2 wheelers) for those who felt a bit adventurous. As you can see from the pictures attached, there was quite a wide selection of vehicles for us rag-tag journalists to choose from. I stuck with four wheels and chose to ride an ATV. After a quick rundown of all the basics we were led off in a group of about 8-9 ATV’s and we went trail riding on the outskirts of the salt flats where all the trails lay. I have to say that the experience of riding in the Nevada desert was quite exhilarating. If I learned one thing though it is that it is not as it seems. I found that I was constantly getting up off my seat in order to ‘soak’ up the bumps and that I was constantly adjusting my weight to take certain corners effectively. I also learned that you could indeed tip the ATV’s over quite easy if you were not careful in how you handled them. And no, I did not go ass over tea kettle as I made my way through the bumps and jumps, but I did have a few harrowing moments now and then. As the majority of us really got comfortable it was time to head in. As you can see from the group shots also included in the pictures, we were not worse for wear either as we all had a great time riding in the Nevada sun.

After a bus trip back to the hotel to take a much needed shower, we all had a chance to rest a bit and then met in the lobby of our hotel that evening and took a walk to where the preview event for MX vs. ATV Reflex was happening. Well, much to my surprise we were led out to Mandalay Beach, which is the wave pool area of the Mandalay Bay hotel. Our preview area was above the beach area as the waves of the pool crashed against the man made beach and the tiki-torches lit the night sky. It was quite a setting for us to preview an off-road racing game featuring ATV’s, motocross cycles, buggies and off road trucks.

Upon grabbing a Red-Bull in an effort to energize myself, I settled down to listen to what developer Rainbow Studios had to say prior to being unleashed for some hands on time with the game. What stood out for me was that they started from the ground up with MX vs. ATV Reflex as they created a brand new physics engine for the game. This took me by surprise as it must have taken a lot of work to start from scratch.

As they talked, they let us in on why we went out to the desert earlier that day. They wanted us to experience what it was like to ride an ATV or motocross cycle on varying terrain. They wanted us to understand that it just wasn’t about hitting the gas and just driving straight, as you have to adjust your weight and pay particular attention to the path you are riding on. They wanted us to learn how to have to deal with the terrain that was ever changing as we rode, as their goal is to simulate this in their game. Rainbow Studios have taken great steps in implementing a new control scheme that no one else has ever done before. They actually want you, the gamer, to have to take your rider and lean into corners or move your virtual body to deal with the terrain (e.g. bumps, ruts, etc). This is all handled using the right analog joystick while you still steer with the left analog joystick.

Another thing that Rainbow Studios wanted us to know is that they have taken great care to capture the “immersion and the spectacle of the sport” or ATV or motocross racing. This could not have been made any clearer then when racing in a Supercross race in the game. The lead up to the launch of all the riders was pretty authentic (more on that later) including the 30 second girl. What they showed us before we actually sat down and played the game was pretty cool and definitely got one’s excitement up for what was about to happen.

The other point that discussed in depth was how the tracks took on deformation. Rainbow Studios couldn’t hammer this home enough as they were very proud of what they have done in this area. First off they noted how the actual dirt/sand seemed to be going somewhere as the ruts were forming. It is not as if someone was just “cutting through the ground” as the dirt/sand did start to pile up around each rut that was being made by the various riders on the track. It was somewhat neat to see too. They also wanted us to know that the deformation of the track actually does affect the way that the vehicles control and the tracks will change as races go on given that there are multiple vehicles on the track ripping it up. It was also noted that each vehicle creates its own type of deformation therefore buggies, bikes, and ATV’s all leave different ruts and paths depending on what you choose to ride on or race against.

Towards the end of the presentation by Rainbow Studios we were informed that we were the first group outside of the development team to actually play the multiplayer modes. This was somewhat exciting given that there were quite a few of us who were ready to start playing, and being given a chance to experience something that not a lot of other people have had the chance to do was pretty cool.

So, you’ve heard what the development team was raving about in terms of its game, so I am sure you want to hear what I thought about it after some hands on time eh? Well, I have to say that I enjoyed what I got to play and I was somewhat impressed.

First off, the physics engine and the ability to control your rider’s position with the right analog stick is pretty well implemented. At first I thought it was just going to be a gimmick, but as I played for about an hour and a half straight, and got the hang of it, I found that I had the ability to take corners quicker, sharper and more efficiently. Being able to change the angle of my ATV or motocross cycle by adjusting my riders weight while in mid-air helped in handling the various big jumps, whoop-de-dos and any other bump that was thrown my way. It was nice to have this kind of control and it did not feel arcadey at all. One of my most memorable races was on a Supercross track where I was able to triple jump various whoop-de-do sections allowing me to make up copious amounts of time. There was nothing like hitting the jump just right landing with the weight of my virtual rider just right in order to prep for the last few bumps just before I went into a mad corner. As the night went on I found myself trying out new styles or methods when riding various tracks again and it was really interesting how I could find different ways to negotiate various sections of the tracks.

MX vs. ATV Reflex also offers up a stunt system that is pretty intuitive. If you get big enough air and hold the left bumper down you need only to do a three way combination with the right analog stick to get your virtual rider to perform a trick while in mid-air. As we played some ‘freeplay’ I watched some pretty sick moves get pulled off by some of the journalists who were playing along with me.

As for the track deformation that Rainbow Studios kept talking about at the beginning of the evening, I would have to say that they were not kidding when they mentioned how it affected everything. As I was racing on any of tracks I played on during the evening I found that each lap was different given how much of the track may have been ripped up, particularly in specific areas (e.g. corners). The feature of adjusting your weight was a blessing at times given that some of the areas would literally throw you and your bike all over the place.

Another really neat feature that I found was that the game offers up a chance for you to save what could eventually turn out to be a bad landing and crash. If you land on the verge of bailing, the game will show a bright green arrow pointing either up, down, left or right, and should you be able move the right analog stick in the direction of the arrow in time, you stand a pretty good chance of saving yourself from immanent doom. It was definitely a neat feature given that not all bad landings would result in a crash, and just like real life, you may have that chance to pull out of it in the nick of time.

I also thought I should comment on the visuals. Kudos to Rainbow Studios for what they have done here. Everything right down to the smallest detail is included in this game. One guy sitting beside me noted how the jerseys on the riders fluttered in the wind. I took a look and bam, there it was, jersey fluttering in the wind. It was pretty impressive. That being said, it just wasn’t the small details that were prevalent either. From the huge vistaa of a “rocky mountain” like course, the water running through various tracks, to the close-quarters of Supercross, everything is solid looking in each and every track.

So after a night of food, fun, and gaming, we were given some time to ourselves till late the next afternoon. We then all boarded a bus and headed to the Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open Arenacross at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. We toured the pits then headed on inside for some crazy motocross racing, arena style. I have to say that after playing MX vs. ATV Reflex the night before, and the watching the actual sport take place the next day, it actually gave me a little more appreciation for the game. You could constantly see the riders adjust their position on their bike and you could see how the track was getting all ripped up and how bikes seemed to react differently each time they went over various sections. And remember earlier on in this preview where I mentioned Rainbow Studios wanted capture the “immersion and spectacle of the sport”. Well after sitting in the MGM Grand Arena and watching the ’30 second warning’ girls walk across the track, and watching the fireworks and explosions that made up the concert like experience, I’d have to say that they are onto something in terms of recreating the experience.

All in all, after riding ATV’s, playing the game in person, and then watching the U.S. Open Arenacross, I have a whole new appreciation for the work that has gone into the next iteration of the MX vs. ATV series. It is truly looking to be a winner. At the time of the preview event we were told that MX vs. ATV Reflex is slated to ship sometime in December of this year, but there is no solid release date. So with that in mind keep your eyes open for it later this year.

I tip my hat off to THQ for allowing me to attend this preview event as I not only enjoyed the venue, but I also fully enjoyed the time I had with the the iteration of MX vs. ATV. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to review the final version once it is ready to ship.

- Kirby Y


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