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MX vs. ATV Alive Hands-On Preview

Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Racing

This past week I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with MX vs. ATV Alive's single player and multiplayer features on the Xbox 360. Not having much experience with the franchise I was curious to see what one of THQ’s most successful original IP’s was all about. Not to mention I was curious to see how the game would play given its price ($39.99) which is significantly less than your typical new release video game on the Xbox 360. With a May 10, 2011 release date, it is safe to assume we had a chance to play with what looked like the final completed version of MX vs. ATV Alive. After some extended playtime with the game, I have to say I am impressed; however, the lack of career single player story mode may turn some folks off the game.

The lack of a single player story mode has been replaced with a progression system, or better known as an experience points (XP) system. You continue to race your way through the games many tracks, but whether you finish first in a race or last you always earn XP. Throughout any given race you complete challenges and unlock points. In turn you can spend the points on new parts for your ride, new tracks, new outfits, rider skills for your racer and so on. Most hardcore fans will likely spend the XP on tracks and parts as the parts can improve the performance of your bike. I never had a chance to play around with some of these aspects of the game, but I can see how the MX vs. ATV Alive XP system introduced in the game will be a hit with the MX vs. ATV faithful.

New to the franchise this year is “bar to bar” racing. Being able to bump and nudge into other racers as you are heading into a jump or taking a corner is a big part of racing. Far too often in previous games (so I am told) a little bump could result in completely wiping out. This time around the bar to bar racing allows for a little bumping making the game feel more authentic and far more forgiving. Do not get me wrong, there are still plenty of times my face hit the mud but being able to nudge other racers while focusing on the race at hand made the experience a little more realistic and enjoyable.

Being a rookie to the franchise I was surprised how accessible and easy it was to pick up the game right from the get go. Steering your bike and controlling your rider is accomplished with ease by using the analog sticks. Your throttle and braking is controlled with the triggers. If you just have those basic controls down, you are able to effectively compete in all the races and finish in good standing. There are trick modifier and clutch controls, but in all honesty I rarely used them. Needless to say, it was not long before I started finishing in the top three of a five lap race and much of that had to do with how easy it was for me to pick up the controls.

Visually, MX vs. ATV Alive is great looking game. The off-road tracks are nicely detailed and varied. From the huge open vistas of an alpine setting to the more enclosed setting of stadium racing, each track that is created for this game has its own feeling with lots of visual touches going on. Riders and bikes are also well animated and move with fluidity and realism along each track. The track deformation is also a very impressive addition. The ruts just don’t magically appear on the track as you can actually see how the dirt, sand, or mud begins to pile up along the tire tracks. This was most noticeable in the snow tracks. You can see your bike cutting through the snow, kicking up the mud and snow as you make your way around the track leaving the divots behind. MX vs. ATV Alive is also a smooth running game. I experienced no slow-downs or clipping issues.

MX vs. ATV Alive features a multiplayer component and a free roam mode called free ride. In free ride you can practice your jumps and tricks in an open desert like setting with features plenty of hills and cliff-like environments. There are even parts of the map where you can hydroplane across a large puddle. This mode has a feature where you activate a 60-second timer and the game tracks how many points you accumulate during the 1-minute free for all. You can then compare your score with others, including your friends, on the Xbox Live Leaderboards.

Overall, MX vs. ATV Alive is looking like a solid addition to the MX vs. ATV franchise. This installment has been developed for the MX vs. ATV fan and for those who are looking at jumping into the series without breaking the bank. MX vs. ATV Alive arrives on May 10 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.


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