If the PS3's MotorStorm series made the term “real-time terrain deformation” sexy, then MX vs ATV Reflex is bringing sexy back. Rainbow Studios, a developer that's been churning out mud-kickin' motocross titles since the PS1 era, has redefined the technology in their latest off-road racer, turning it into a visual and game-changing treat for fans of the genre. Coupled with tweaked trick and steering controls, this dirt-mushing mechanic helps Reflex race past the franchise's previous efforts to deliver an occasionally flawed, but fun-as-hell entry in the extreme sports space.
While other games have made wet dirt beautiful with their terrain-changing technology, Reflex has evolved the tech so it also has a real impact on gameplay. Rather than just treading some shallow grooves in the tracks, players will notice their tires digging deep into the earth, creating gaping ruts and leaving piles of muddy soil in their wake. With each successive lap, these changes increasingly affect how you play.
Lap one might see you free-styling and hitting top speeds with little concern for your environment, but by the time you hit your third trek around the track, you'll be carefully navigating the mounds and holes you and your competitors have created. Of course, it's not just about avoiding obstacles, as newly packed piles of mud can also assist your tricks and turns, and leave the guy tailing you too closely stuck in a rut. This ability to effectively change the course, and therefore the outcome of events, yields plenty of eye-pleasing animations, but, more importantly, adds a noticeable layer of strategy to the off-roading action.
The capability to now pull tricks with three-direction analog stick combos, rather than the staple button presses that most games use, also nicely ups the immersion. But even cooler is the freedom to control your rider independently of your ride; using the right stick, you can lean back and forth or side to side to change your rider’s stance, which assists your steering. Combined with the regular vehicle controls, this feature delivers a much more organic experience, especially when you’re leaning into a sharp turn or saving yourself from a face full of dirt by adding precision to your landings.
While playing in - and with - the mud is a dirt-slingin' blast, the franchise could still see some improvement. Given all the detail-drenched variety and refinement packed into the off- and online modes and challenges, it'd be nice to see that same level of attention paid to vehicle and character personalization and upgrades. Next to the intuitive and crazy-deep customization options of other racers, Reflex's look a bit tacked-on, especially next to the title's polished on-track action. Additionally, despite the great control and terrain deformation improvements, these features are sometimes made moot by physics that bounce you around like a bottle rocket in a trash can. Minor gripes aside, though, Reflex is the most fun you'll have being caked in mud.
Dec 8, 2009