Dec 17, 2007
You’ll probably often hear MX compared to the PS3 launch game Motorstorm, with both offering a similarly comprehensive vehicle set and both flinging mud about the place like a pig in the poo pond. But where Motorstorm is among the most beautiful racers ever made, MX is as plain as a bowling shoe and - because of that, we fear - likely to get a bit of a thrashing sales-wise on store shelves.
There’s no reason why a game with the pedigree of MX shouldn’t be the 360’s answer to Motorstorm’s dominance of the PS3. Instead, it looks barely dissimilar to the last MX vs ATV on the original Xbox, and while it’s true the game is throwing around impressive physics and incidental effects, a straight screenshot makes it look like a hatchet-faced version of the PS3’s premier racer.
The pre-rendered intro looks fabulous and though the video is far in excess of what Motorstorm achieves, it’s closer to the level of graphical excellence Rainbow should have been shooting for. MX vs ATV Unleashed was one of those rare Xbox titles to run in 720p, and comparing the two at the same resolution shows how small the step between the generations has been.
But discounting the visuals, this is a bigger, and in some ways, better game than Motorstorm, which even at its best lacks the depth, width and length of MX. Untamed is a game honed by almost 10 years of playtesting and refinement; a game hammered into shape through revision after revision of Rainbow’s motocross and ATV titles.
Like one of those packed-to-the-rafters titles EA bang out every year with enough gameplay to last you until the next annual update, this is the only mud driving game you’ll ever need. It’s so packed with content, vehicles and race modes, just picking your entry point becomes a real dilemma - do you favour straight racing or stunts? Open worlds or tracks? Mud or gravel? Cars or bikes? Do you want to compete against the best drivers in the world or a bunch of chumps? And in a lengthy career or a custom tournament?
Like a big box of LEGOs, Untamed lets you build your own game - first your event from eight different modes, then your vehicle, which you can then customise with new parts, paint and decals. Next, pick your track from several totally open worlds or the comprehensive set of stadiums; finally pick your opponents, decide how skilled you want them to be and what you want them driving and it’s onto the track for some actual game.
So much to do here and so little of it pretty, but you’ll get over that hump after the first few laps, throwing your bike around the track with crazy moon physics propelling you skywards over every bump in the road and 11 other racers launching alongside you. That initial thrill is one that will stick around, but it’s soon overtaken by the desire for mastery - you’ll learn that to win, you can’t hit every jump at full speed or every landing will be a bone-shattering death plunge; you need to fight the moon physics and pick your landing spot by whipping flat side-ways to kill your upward acceleration and re-direct your wheels. The lower you stay, the faster you can go and the loon-o-jumps that look so impressive become your worst enemy when you’re aiming for a speedy run; every race becomes a test of concentration and micro-management based around keeping your altitude down and your wheels on the track as much as possible.
But like every other task in the game, those speed runs are an option, and one you’ll only need to take at the higher levels. If blasting around the track and vaulting forty feet upwards is your thing, feel free to pop some stunts at the peak of your jumps and whip down for a clean landing.
Freedom makes Untamed one of the best racers around, but the series hasn’t progressed quite as far as it needs to if it’s going to compete against the likes of Motorstorm, Sega Rally and Colin McRae: DiRT. When the man from Rainbow told us MX Vs ATV Untamed is a game motocross enthusiasts would love, we agreed... but only because we’re afraid that obsessives will be the only ones able or willing to overlook its ugly design. The last game in the series was already an astonishingly complete and free experience so while Untamed is similarly packed, it’s no more impressive than the game we played two years ago. Still, even with a paper bag on its head, MX vs ATV on 360 will last longer and be a whole lot dirtier than any other racer you’ll find on the 360 or the PS3.