Normally when you hear the sound of trail bike engines, it’s due to some annoying 15 year old who’s just passed their CBT, ragging the poor restricted thing up and down your street at 1am. But this? This is where the sounds are meant to be heard.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen an MX vs ATV game. Mainly because the ownership of the studio has changed hands a few times, mostly due to the demise of THQ. So in fact it’s been a good three years since the last one ‘MX vs ATV Alive’ graced us. If you don’t know much about the franchise then the gameplay and the sensibility behind it comes from fans of the big X-Games style indoor arena dirt tracks. The ones those crazy Red Bull sponsored kids fly their bikes up and pull tricks like wild men celebrating the taming of a bucking bronco.
One thing you notice as soon as you pick up MX vs ATV Supercross is that it has had a lot of care put in to making it work. From the most fundamental level there has been constant referral to real life riders for their take on how the game plays and even physics professors coming in to make sure that Newton’s hand is enforced correctly. All this has lead to one thing: An incredibly easy to pick up and play game. Now personally I don’t find racing games too hard to master with the exception of motorbike based games. Moto GP for example I find far too tricky to handle.
MX vs ATV Supercross however appears to have nailed it with their new intuitive, almost symbiotic control set up. You control the direction of the bike with the left stick and you control the counterweight of your body with the right. Sounds difficult but it really isn’t. Think of the first five minutes you spent getting used to the controls in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and you’ll soon become accustomed. Include in that a clutch control with the left trigger and you’ll be tackling those raised dirt corners like a demon… I’ve lost you haven’t I? Well dropping the clutch gives you a great getaway when you hit the gas. Much like a normal bike the kick you’ll get from hitting that biting point will shoot you forward a good deal more than if you didn’t use it. It is also great for race starts. Finally a simple right stick flick for getting the jumps on a bumper to control a trick makes this sound a whole lot more difficult than it actually is.
Which is something great about this game. Once you’ve taken a few minutes to master it, it really rewards you and you feel a lot better knowing you can do it. Most racing games reward you for hitting the right line after the 75th attempt to get that gold medal in training. This game has those pure racing rewards too but just getting to grips with it feels like an awesome achievement, when really the illusion is that it’s quite simple. 1-0 to the game.
Racing so far is a bit more difficult because the difficulty levels haven’t been set up fully yet but that only pushed me to get a great result and the obvious gains you get from hitting the air at the right time, sliding through the corner and shifting your bodyweight before dropping that clutch and zooming off is a great feeling. It’s made even better by how good the tracks are. Challenging? Yes, at times, but it’s the constant evolution of the track that makes it fun. Like rubbering in a tarmac track, the dirt will carve out lines throughout the track from your bikes and they will stay, affecting the contours of the track and adding some more bumps. If you have a big ol’ wipeout crash and skid your prone torso up a bank face first (which I did a few times) then that is also saved. You can go back around a lap later seeing the Moses-eqsue parting of the dirt and feeling the bump in the track it has caused.
There are many licensed riders, sponsors, parts manufacturers involved and the upgrade system is simple and effective. The bikes themselves come in various degrees of powers like the 250cc to the fun pump and squirt of the 100cc. Basically nothing detracts from the racing experience at all. But there has been a lot of care to get involved in the bikes themselves. Customising them, getting zoomed in and seeing what you can add or subtract from the bike is enjoyable and the closest you’ll get without getting yourself caked in grease and oil. I already miss my racing green 250cc with the gold wheels. *sniffs*
The game itself was a lot of fun and when it’s complete it will certainly be a great alternative to the current crop of four wheel games which after a while get a bit asinine. The bad news? Well it is previous generation so it will be PS3 and Xbox 360. The good news? The price. Completely aware that this game is a last generation tech, it will be priced accordingly. That in itself is a refreshing change, but from the shadows of what could have been a completely doomed franchise out of the control of anyone involved is coming an enjoyable, easy to master and rewarding game from Nordic Games that should definitely be worth investing your time in later this year.