MTX Mototrax First Look

We get a look at Activision's upcoming motocross game.

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MTX Mototrax is the upcoming multiplatform motocross game from Activision. The game was announced at this year's E3 and has been in development at Left Field Productions for some time. The game made a somewhat inauspicious public debut as a limited demo (featuring sketchy control) that was included with Tony Hawk's Underground. Activision recently stopped by with a work-in-progress version of the PlayStation 2 game that, while still a little rough around the edges, showed promise.

MTX Mototrax takes a slightly different approach from most titles that have tried to capture the sport. The game emphasizes the race experience rather than over-the-top tricks. While you'll still be able to perform your fair share of crazy stunts, the game attempts to focus more on actual races.

You'll find three main modes in the game, each with its own unique race types, as well as a robust track editor that lets you create your own custom tracks. The first mode in the game is the expected career mode, which will send your virtual self--in the form of a custom rider that you'll create to represent you--through a series of competitions (normal races, free ride, and free style) on tracks that are set throughout the world. The mode lets you go through a tutorial in which you interact with various riders in the game, including Travis Pastrana, who will bring you up to speed on how to play the game. As you progress through the mode, you'll participate in 125cc, 250cc, and 450cc races, and you'll also earn new equipment and assorted upgrades.

Exhibition is the next major mode, which is also a single-player experience, that focuses more on letting you hone your skills. You'll be able to race on maps unlocked in career mode that will include a variety of race types such as single race, free ride, free style, and practice course. While all are self-explanatory, it should be noted that the free ride and free style modes are where players who are looking for the opportunity to perform insane tricks can go crazy. A ghost mode is also slated to be included in the game as well. The third mode in the game is multiplayer, which offers four race types; there are three multiplayer versions of the single-player game, and there's a network race. The network race, which will be available in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game, lets you compete against friends online. The PlayStation 2 game supports up to four players online, while the Xbox game supports up to eight.

The game's graphics are looking good and offer expansive environments and a high level of detail. The riders are very detailed and animate well. The bikes show off just as much detail, if not slightly more, thanks to carefully crafted models that you can decorate with various sponsor stickers and decals as you progress through the game. The environments offer a good selection of tracks and settings, and there are nice little touches, including a crowd and a good particle effects system that kicks up a hefty amount of debris as you tear through berms. The game's frame rate runs fast and smooth, which makes for a nice race experience. One of the game's unique touches is the different camera views, which range from a stomach-churning first-person mode to a pulled-back view that reduces your racer to mosquito-size against the larger tracks.

Mototrax's audio is shaping up pretty well. The game features a broad selection of licensed music and ambient sound to set the proper atmosphere for races. The only rough spot right now is with the sound mix on the bike engines as you race, which could use some fine-tuning. At the moment, it sounds like a herd of gassy bumblebees doing laps, but considering the game's unfinished state, we expect this to be addressed as development progresses.

From what we've seen so far, MTX Mototrax is coming along better than we expected. The game offers clean graphics and presents a nice sense of speed, in addition to a decent selection of game modes. If Left Field can deliver strong gameplay to round out the package, MTX Mototrax could be a good addition to the genre. MTX Mototrax is currently slated to ship early next year for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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