Reflex: Ready to Go!
When it comes to motorsports, it doesn’t get much more exciting than outdoor motocross. Off-road tracks, brutal conditions, and, of course, diverse vehicles make motocross a thrilling sport. Motocross is also one of the best sports to experience through a video game. The MX vs ATV series has been around for several years now, and if you have any interest in the world of motorsports, then you have probably heard of this acclaimed series.
However, since 2007’s MX vs ATV Unleashed was so well received, it is hard to imagine where the series could have gone from there. With plenty of vehicles, events, and multiplayer modes, it looked like Unleashed was going to represent the apex of the series. What else could developers Rainbow Studios possibly do with the series? Well, it turns out they had an ace up their sleeve. This year’s MX vs ATV entry, Reflex, implements one new element that is executed so well that it changes the entire experience: new control.
While driving mechanics in previous MX vs ATV titles worked well enough and certainly got the job done, none of them really had a lot of precision to them. Using the left stick, you could point your driver in any direction, and as long as it wasn’t a terribly dramatic stretch, the driver would just glide along. However, in MX vs ATV reflex you’ll have to do a lot more than just steer the vehicle. A new Reflex system has been implemented to allow you to have complete control over your rider’s body weight during the competition. This mechanic is tied to the right control stick, and has some pretty awesome implications.
For instance, if you are zooming along on the inside of the track, but there is a wide turn coming up on the far left, you can turn the vehicle all the way to the left as well as shift your body weight in the same direction to make an extremely speedy “whip” maneuver which will take you through the turn at a near-90 degree angle. Your movements must be precise and your timing on-point, but pulling off moves that use your weight as an advantage is very satisfying and is the easiest way to get ahead in the game’s many events.
However, even the best may make a wrong move from time to time. To help ease this issue, Reflex has included a recovery system that lets you know when you are close to losing control, and will show you how to shift your vehicle appropriately to compensate for your error in driving. Of course, you won’t always be able to use this mechanic, as there is nothing that can save someone trying to perform a jump while shifting their weight to one side (and performing a sad sort of barrel roll). But, this system is great for accidental overshots or common minor driving mistakes.
The new control scheme is really a delight, making the game experience as great as it is. And It is a good thing that it does, because content-wise MX vs ATV is on par with its predecessor. The career mode is jam-packed full of events for bikes, ATVs, buggies, and even light trucks. These events range from straight up tournaments to freestyle competitions where you can ride around and select events from the environment (sort of like an off-road Burnout Paradise). While the smaller vehicle events benefit greatly from the new control, providing a new type of experience, the light truck categories feel a little stale, and I have to say that I found myself avoiding these categories altogether in favor of the razor-sharp simulation feel of the bike and ATV courses.
In addition to the single-player mode, MX vs. ATV: Reflex has plenty of multiplayer content to keep the serious motocross fan engrossed. There are, of course, ranked and unranked matches where you can challenge friends to race around one of the game’s many tracks. But interestingly, there are also two mini-game-style challenges (tag and snake) included to help keep the multiplayer mode nicely varied. The tag mode is essentially like “keep away,” where the goal is to keep a ball for the longest amount of time. Snake, on the other hand, is more strategic and involves your ability to trap opponents by driving around them (like a snake).
As far as visuals are concerned, MX vs ATV Reflex looks great. The game uses a new graphics engine that displays and compounds track damage in a way similar to the Dirt series. The damage system is especially impressive on some of the more open courses, where you can rip your way though bright grassy areas as well as tear up dirt-based tracks. During a trick run, I actually damaged the track so much that my driver had to lean forward while I was accelerating just so he could get out of the giant hole my repeated trick runs had caused.
In addition to the impressive track damage system, MX vs ATV has a lot more going for it in the graphics department. Tracks feature plenty of detail, and open-style tracks have plenty to explore. There are also plenty of natural features like cliffs, hills, and water bodies that all have a spectacular level of detail. The vehicles all look very nice as well, and the total visual package is one that developer Rainbow Studios can be very proud of.
MX vs ATV Reflex is an interesting title. Content-wise, it’s nearly identical to its predecessor, with plenty of vehicles, motocross events, and online multiplayer components working together to form a cohesive title. It would have probably garnered quite a bit of praise if it had just been left at that. However, the addition of the new control scheme is definitely a game-changer. The entire game feels different with the new control options, and this fresh experience is definitely one that old (and new) fans should experience.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
Tracks look great, vehicles are detailed, and environments are lush. Damage system also looks great. 4.7 Control
Controls make Reflex a completely fresh-feeling experience, and are the best reason to pick this title up. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is generic, but motor sound effects are very high-quality and realistic. 3.8 Play Value
Career mode is a bit on the short side, and there isn’t much in the way of new challenges or modes. Still, there is a lot to do, and the new control keeps things from getting stale,. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.