Competing in professional motorsports seems like a terrifying venture. Luckily, for those of us who like to keep our bones intact, the MX vs. ATV series has allowed us to sample the excitement from the safety of our television set. Together with Elliot Olson, senior game designer at developer THQ, we hit the track and went hands-on to find out what's new in the latest entry of this off-road racing series.
With Alive, THQ is taking some of the focus off first place. Sure, getting the number one spot is nice--especially when you get to rub your buddy's face in it--but coming in fourth or fifth will net you something as well. That's where the experience points come in. No matter where you race, what you do, or how you place, you'll always be completing challenges and unlocking points. You can then spend these points on new parts for your vehicle, outfits for your character, new tracks to race on, and more.
The outfits are purely cosmetic, but the parts can be used to tweak the performance of your ride. To give yourself even more of an edge in the race, Alive also features a list of rider skills for you to unlock and use with your racer. You can equip up to two skills at a time, which can help you take more hits before wiping out or provide bonuses to the experience points you gain.
Being able to take some extra punishment is important since Alive had us getting a little more physical with the other racers than we've seen in other games. As Olson pointed out, in the previous MX vs. ATV games, you never wanted to touch any of the other racers. If you bumped up against somebody, you were more likely to end up face down in the mud than anything else. Now you have some leeway to bang bars with the other contestants and focus more on the race rather than respecting other people's personal space.
Even if you're not knocking your buddies off their bikes, newcomers to the MX vs. ATV series may be nervous about wiping out in their first races. However, with this racing series, Olson noted that the developers have always tried to find a balance between accessibility and authenticity. And while these two categories aren't mutually exclusive, they often cater to two very different groups. Alive doesn't have any flying turtle shells or cartoon banana peels, but the game's handling still seems forgiving enough that even new riders should be able to get the hang of things quickly. And like with the other games in the series, Alive looks like an authentic off-road racer, complete with screaming motorcycles, muddy tracks, and painful-looking wrecks.
We had fun during our brief time on the track. The reflex stick from the previous game is back, and using it while popping the brakes to make a near-90-degree turn while sliding through the mud was exciting. The game was easy to jump into, thanks in part to the jump and cornering assists, and although we came in fifth place, the game made sure our other achievements were at the forefront.
After our less-than-stellar performance, Olson took us on a tour of one of the game's short tracks. These smaller venues are designed to distill all of the motorsport's carnage and chaos down into a few lethal laps. Right away the figure-eight track he had selected turned into a battleground as his character fought to break past his opponents in front. At the same time, he also had to avoid the racers behind him when the track looped back on itself..
After that, we decided it was time for a break. To help us relax, we loaded up a massive sand dune in the game's free ride mode and practiced our jumps and midair stunts. If you think you've got what it takes to be the next Tony Hawk on a motorbike, you can enter Freestyle Jam. This mode actives a 60-second timer and tracks how many points you can rack up in that time performing tricks. Afterward, you can hop on the leaderboard and see how you stack up against your friends. Whatever your calling, you can check on MX vs. ATV Alive on May 10 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.