MX vs ATV Untamed was uglier than a fight between your grandma and Mike Tyson, granny armed with a weed whacker and Tyson tooled up with bionic chainsaw fists. In a generation which spawned MotorStorm 2 and PGR4 its PS2 era graphics simply didn’t deliver the scorch-o-visuals gamers demanded. Reflex fixes that – and a lot more besides.
Those brave few who looked beyond the muddy graphics and found a brilliant racer beneath its tatty clothes brought about a sequel that boasts a control shift which we reckon will change racing games forever.
Reflex stars all the big-name riders you’ve never heard of and all the biking brands you’d never consider wearing, plus the usual selection of open-world tracks you’d run 1,000 miles before riding a wafer-thin bike on.
Rainbow’s new engine is beefier than the one used for Untamed and throws polygons around for fun, with real-time and very permanent terrain deformation. Trumping Sega Rally’s largely cosmetic system, Reflex’s vehicles dig trenches and each lap brings new tire-track related challenges. Any cyclist will tell you how awkward it can be dropping a wheel into a notch and then pulling out of it, and Reflex’s bikes and quads have a tendency to get wheels jammed into tracks carved by other racers if you so much as look at them the wrong way, immediately ejecting the rider over the handlebars.
Get one wheel stuck against a kerb in the real world and you’ll quickly shift your weight to avoid being launched like a baddy from James Bond’s car, and Reflex offers the same option. While the left stick steers, the right shifts the rider’s weight. Throw yourself into a corner and you’ll turn tighter. Fight against the bike’s desire to chuck you off and you’ll recover from slides and bumps with only a slight loss in speed. Pull back and you’ll put more weight on the rear wheel for harder acceleration. In the air, right stick motions handle stunts, and on the track every second is about precision at high speed.
It’s the kind of revolution EA introduced with Skate or what 2K did with Top Spin 3. It feels so natural it instantly spoils every other game that treats motorbikes like an extension of car racing. Reflex has all the usual buggies and cars too, but doesn’t bother with any new control scheme; cars race like cars and – for the first time – motorbikes race like motorbikes, rider an’ all.
MX vs ATV is about recreating the real thing all the way up to the point it stops being fun. Reflex is no sim though; it’s an arcade racer with just enough brains to make itself properly unique.
Aug 12, 2009