A Fight to the Finish Line
MX vs. ATV Reflex for the DS is unique. That means it’s different, not necessarily better, so don’t get your hopes up. This DS version is different from the console edition, as you might have already assumed, but it’s also different from the PSP offering. Believe it or not, that is a good thing because the PSP version is totally flawed. Unfortunately, the best thing I can say about this game is that it’s better than the PSP version. MX vs. ATV Reflex for the DS is a below average game. It has some novelty factor, but it won’t be your go-to game by any stretch. It’s a sloppy game with plenty of flaws that are certain to disappoint even the most forgiving of racing fans.
If you’ve heard the hype, then you’re aware of what is being touted as a revolutionary control system developed for Reflex. The Rider Reflex control system and the Rhythm Racing physics engine allow you to control the rider separately from the vehicle as well as destruct the environment in real-time. With this feature it’s possible to tear up the track, leaving ruts and grooves for your opponents to get caught in. Apparently, this destruction to the track is persistent, meaning that it will remain destroyed for the duration of the race. Unfortunately, that feature is not included in the DS game. The Reflex feature is supposed to let you manipulate the rider in an effort to influence the physics of the vehicle. Move the rider forward, backward, or from side to side to gain momentum or improve balance to perform more exciting tricks and stunts. This system affords you more realistic control over your vehicle for cornering and avoiding accidents. Once again, this system is absent from the DS version.
So, what exactly can you expect from the DS version of Reflex? If you don’t expect anything more than an arcade racer, then you’re not going to be terribly disappointed, but it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the hype when you see the TV commercials for this game or other promo that tends to favor what’s available for the next-gen consoles. All DS and PSP owners have to expect is an inferior version of a next-gen console game, but to leave out the main features that define this game is misleading and irresponsible. This version should not have the world “Reflex” in the title.
If Reflex were a budget title, it could make a decent stocking stuffer, but there’s nothing here that you probably don’t already have in an off-road racing game. Presented in 3D, this is not a bad looking game. It displays some nice vehicle models, as well as nicely rendered environments that maintain a steady framerate with no seams or pop-ins and has a good, smooth draw distance. Sure, there isn’t much detail to the arenas and environments, but there’s no use being fussy at this point as amazing backgrounds are not a deal breaker. What’s going to break the deal is the control system, or as I like to call it, the lack-of-control system.
Vehicles include various bikes, ATVs, and even Monster Trucks. The trucks promise the most fun, as they can crush other vehicles and seem to have a general sense of foreboding and resiliency, but they don’t respond well to commands. They are difficult to maneuver, especially in tight corners where there is an obvious lag in response. You’ll be turning the truck and waiting for the command to kick in. It’s like the truck is sliding on ice then eventually regains its grip. The bikes and the ATVs are more responsive, but only slightly. There is an overall lack of finesse with the controls, and that’s not because it’s arcade-based. Sharp turning and jumps play an important role in this game. Powersliding around turns allows you to float around corners while applying the brake, maintaining maximum acceleration and getting back up to speed when the track straightens out. Jumps not only help you cover more ground more quickly, but they also allow you to perform stunts and tricks which can be lucrative for points that can be used for upgrades.
Pressing down on the D-pad before a jump allows you to load it. This will give your launch more power, allowing you catch more air, preferably to perform some involved tricks and stunts. Using the Y button in conjunction with the D-pad, a series of tricks can be accessed. There are some 30 different tricks but you’re going to wind up using about five of them on a consistent basis. Some of the tricks don’t start immediately, and if you don’t have enough airtime, you’re going to crash. A crash avoidance feature is implemented where you press the D-pad in the direction of where you want to go in hopes of staying upright. It will only save you if you’re at that pivotal moment where things could go either way. At any other time, it has as much influence on your vehicle as twisting your body does to an already-rolling bowling ball.
Bumping into other vehicles will only slow you down, and even when they bump into you, it will still slow you down while not always slowing the aggressor. You have to really aim for a wall to make any waves, at which time you are just respawned on the track none the worse for ware. Overall, the game is unbalanced in the A.I. department. There are no subtleties with the opponents. They are either full-tilt aggressive or passively indifferent. Things balance out better in the four-player mode, but the controls are still an issue. Up to four players can race in the local ad-hoc multiplayer mode, but only one copy of the game is required. I imagine the developers realized that it would be difficult for players to find others that had wasted their money on this game.
Musically, the game sounds like it was scored for a watch or a ring tone. The tunes try really hard to rock, but they just sound wimpy and contrived. The sounds of the vehicles are decent and give the game some sonic credibility. Voiceovers and sound effects are basically nonexistent. My favorite sound in this game is the sound it makes when I turn it off. If you read this review before Christmas or your birthday, do yourself a favor and ask for another gift. You shouldn’t expect to get this game unless you’ve been naughty or someone doesn’t like you.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Definitely one of the best things about the game is 3D-style graphics. 1.5 Control
Definitely the worst thing about the game are the sloppy and unresponsive controls. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The engine noises are decent but the music is cheesy. 2.5
A barely playable arcade game with no lasting replay value.
2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.