It doesn’t exactly starve you for entertainment, but it leaves you hungry for more
MX vs ATV: Untamed isn’t a bad first attempt to compress the popular racing series into the DS. It’s superior to the PS2 version in terms of playability and feel of the controls, but it lacks depth. There really isn’t much more to this game than racing around a series of tracks with a few different vehicles. Due to the repetitive nature of the gameplay, lack of online modes, and its relatively short length, MX vs ATV: Untamed makes, at best, a good rental.
MX vs ATV: Untamed is a continuation of the Unleashed franchise, which started life originally as the ATV Offroad series. For the first foray into the DS realm, the results are impressive, although you have to dig a little deeper to appreciate them. The racing is fun, clean, tight, responsive, and visually appealing. I think I was the most impressed with the graphics which, despite the tiny screen, made it possible to see all of the vehicles, turns, and obstacles on the tracks. It’s certainly an improvement over the PS2 version in which turns weren’t discernable until you were right on top of them, which caused you to have to memorize the track layout. Don’t expect a lot of background details. The crowds and arena environments are very basic. The majority of the details were reserved for the bikes, quads, riders, and tracks which look really good and animate well.
There is a saying among writers, “When in doubt, leave it out.” In other words, it’s better not to mention a certain fact if there’s a chance you might get it wrong, and it seems to me that developers Tantalus definitely erred on the side of caution with this game. While there is so much missing when compared to the console versions, at least the core gameplay has been given the proper attention. The bikes and quads handle well, whether in tight turns or launching into the air with pre-loads to span those crests and troughs. Some of the features that you are likely to miss include the ability to upgrade vehicles, mini-game modes, outdoor environments, more racers, an online mode, and more variety in terms of tournaments. Still, I would rather have what is offered here than some half-baked modes that weren’t properly designed or tested.
Launcing your vehicle into the air requires timing, rhythm, and pre-loading. By pre-loading, you are essentially storing potential energy to be released when you reach the top of a hill. This will enable you to catch more air and hopefully sail in front of the pack. Jumping is fun and easy; landing is another story, but thanks to the responsive control system, placing yourself and your vehicle squarely on the ground isn’t a hit-and-miss proposition. Cornering can be accomplished by powersliding into turns. This requires that you keep the accelerator pinned while braking. Slowing down by easing up on the gas will cost you time as you try to get back up to speed. These techniques give the actual racing gameplay more depth than your average race, but it’s in the variety of modes and features that this game comes up short.
The game is essentially divided into two main modes: Tournament and Stunt Challenge. In the Tournament mode you will race for three cups using any of the four bikes or four ATVs. You can set the difficulty for amateur or pro. A customizing mode allows you to further tweak the options such as number of laps, rules, and the types of vehicles to be used. The Stunt Challenge is a good mode to get some practice in as you attempt to catch plenty of air and pull off some gnarly tricks. You’ll quickly acquire skills as you try to accomplish the challenges by using all available controls including the accelerator, break, steering, and pre-load controls.
There’s not a lot to get excited about with the audio. There is some music, but it’s little more than generic rock that sounds like a porno soundtrack for robots. The vehicles’ sounds are decent, if a little weak, but that can be intensified with headphones. The sound effects are just above better-than-nothing with predictable crowd responses that sound more like white noise than actual cheering.
You can basically calculate the amount of fun you’ll have with MX vs ATV: Untamed into hours. On average, I would say that if you purchased this game, you would be looking at a fun-factor cost of approximately $12 an hour. If you really enjoy the gameplay, you might be able to squeeze more time out of it with the multiplayer mode. It will accommodate only four players, which is more than enough, but each player will require his or her own copy of the game. Good luck with that. I played against one other person, and it was definitely fun but short-lived. You can play virtually every mode, race, heat, track, and vehicle that was available in the single-player mode. But the novelty of playing against another person is ultimately diminished by the been-there-done-that aspect of the no-frills racing modes.
MX vs ATV: Untamed is an arcade-style racing game. It’s like eating candy floss when what you really want is a steak. It doesn’t exactly starve you for entertainment, but it leaves you hungry for more.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
Vehicles are well detailed and easy to see on the track. Nice, smooth animation. 4.5 Control
Good solid control system. Tight and responsive with good physics. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is generic rock riffs. Sound effects are decent. Headphones improve the quality and intensity. 4.5
Solid racing experience, but lack of variety and features reduces replay value.
3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.