XBOX REVIEW: MX VS ATV UNLEASHED

MX vs. ATV Unleashed is the consummate arcade racing game. Though it's developed by Rainbow Studios and features many of its innovations from past games such as the Fury and Unleashed series, there is not one game that packs as much entertainment punch into one package as you'll find here.

MX vs. ATV is not a compilation nor is it a "best of." It's a new game that puts bikes and four-wheelers in direction competition. But it's much more than that. There are monster trucks, sand rails, bi-planes and even golf carts to race and destroy. If you get bored with NASCAR sims or powersliding around city environments then this is the game for you.

The sheer number of modes and options is staggering. You can play alone, with a few friends in your living room or against the world online. Modes include Quick Race, Career, Freestyle and both on and offline multi-player modes. The tunes are composed of bone-crushing guitar riffs with a predilection for Cookie Monster-style vocals. It suits the genre much better than any lame hip-hop tracks.

When it comes to comparing and competing, the bikes and the ATV are evenly matched. They both have great acceleration, sharp turning radiuses and the ability to preload a jump and catch some air. One area in which the ATV should have the advantage is in sand. Anyone that's ever ridden a dirt bike on sand knows what I'm talking about - two-wheeled vehicles were not made for sand. The game seems to ignore this fact and doesn't require anymore skills to drive a bike over sand than it would over a solid track.

Beginners and intermediate players will get the most out of this game. The races become more difficult gradually. Getting started takes mere seconds. Most players will be able to handle themselves quite admirably for the first 15 races. If you're looking for more of a challenge you can always increase the difficulty.

I'm not a big monster truck fan and this mode didn't influence that conviction one iota. These vehicles require a different degree of control than I care to exercise. I like the tight and responsive control of the bikes and quads as opposed to the sluggish, top heavy trucks.

Freestyle mode lets you experiment with different vehicles, techniques and riders. There are 24 riders and for the life of me I can't notice any difference. It's not as though there is one super-rider and the rest are duds. These are all professional drivers. When you get into the more difficult races the outcome can be determined, or undermined, by the slightest mistake. That's my or your mistake, not the character that's sitting on your machine. If you're not a skilled player no rider is going to help you. Yes, some of the machines do perform certain tasks better than others. Some have faster acceleration while others may have better stability. However, you will find yourself compensating for the differences naturally. That's the key to good gaming - flexibility. If you play all the different modes and ride all of the vehicles in this game you can't help but cultivate many valuable skills. They may not get you through med school, but they'll get you through having to watch reruns of Survivor with mom, dad and sis.

The game is clean looking without too much superfluous detail. It's better to be less busy than cluttered and Rainbow knows that, especially when designing for the PS2. The graphics could have been significantly upgraded for the Xbox. Technically there is nary a glitch to be had. I can't say this is the best game ever made but as far as the arcade racing genre is concerned it would be difficult to imagine how to improve on it.

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System: XBOX
Dev: Rainbow Studios
Pub: THQ
Released: March 2005
Players: 1 - Multi Online
Review by Stew XX
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
5.0
VALUE
5.0