MX vs. ATV Reflex Updated Hands-On

We head to Vegas to check out the multiplayer in Rainbow's upcoming off-road racing game.

It's easy to get lost in the details of the upcoming MX vs. ATV Reflex from THQ and developer Rainbow--things like the great-looking bikes and ATVs; the impressive vistas and scenic variety in locales as varied as Spain, Oregon, and many points in between; and even the motion-captured "30-second girls" who precede the dropping of the gate at a motocross event. And while those details all add to the racing experience, the heart of Reflex is still beating with gritty grimy dirt, mud, sand, and snow.

It's those different surface types that make Reflex such a challenging experience, as we found out during a recent THQ press event in Las Vegas showing off the latest build of the game, due in December. First there's the look of those different surfaces you'll be driving on. You can tear deep grooves in the dirt with your tires; do a doughnut in place for a while and you'll dig a crater for yourself to drive out of. Every bump and undulation in the track surface is permanent for as long as you run on that level--even when running in the huge open-area free-ride areas that can span many miles of drivable territory.

Art director Ian Wood told us that the new system powering those mounds of virtual dirt allows 10 times the resolution when compared to the polygon-based system in previous games. Undeniably, the dirt looks better than before, but the feel of the ground is just as impressive. Dirt and mud have a completely different feel to them when compared to snow, where even keeping your vehicle moving in a straight line can be a chore.

Rolling with the changes in the terrain will be one of your most valuable skills when racing in Reflex, because sometimes there are rather abrupt changes in surface types--hard-packed dirt changing nearly instantaneously to snow as you move up a mountainside, for example. Couple that with the game's already quick pace and Reflex will keep you on your toes.

Whether going it alone or racing online, Reflex gives you plenty of ways to get dirty.

The focus of the press event in Vegas was Reflex's multiplayer modes. There aren't any real surprises here--you can play practically any mode from the single-player game with up to eleven other people online. These modes include traditional race types like supercross, free ride, and waypoint races, as well as more specialized events like Championship Sports Track and Omnicross, the latter of which lets you race practically any type of vehicle in the game through long, winding courses, full of huge elevation changes and tricky sections requiring serious stick skills.

In addition to the standard multiplayer race modes, we got a chance to check out two online-only modes--snake and tag. Think of snake as a dirt-filled version of the Tron lightcycle racing game. As you race, you'll be trailed by a colored barrier, as will all the rest of the competitors. Any player who hits a barrier is immediately eliminated, and the fun racks up as the environment increasingly fills with each rider's barriers. Tag is a bit more straightforward--the mode starts off with all riders looking for a big ball located somewhere on the map (indicated by an icon on your radar at the top of the screen). The first player to touch the ball is "it," with the goal being to be in possession of the ball for a total of 60 seconds. Any time another rider hits the "it" ball, that rider becomes it. In the end, the game seems to devolve into a bunch of riders jousting it out in whatever open area they can find, but the first few minutes of trying to race to the ball are good fun.

In a way, Reflex might subvert what you know about off-road racing games. For one thing, the ATVs in the game--which traditionally are more stable when compared to two-wheel motocross bikes in other games--are squirrely and incredibly powerful. Reflex might be the first off-road game we've ever played where we actually preferred riding on MX bikes, in fact. The bigger class of vehicles--including buggies, super trucks, and the odd, boxy, and supremely bouncy UTVs--have their appeal too, but Reflex seems to be at its best with the smaller rides.

One day, many years from now, she will regret the tattoo.

A big part of the fun with the MX bikes and ATV quads is the revamped controls--you use the left stick to steer your ride and the right stick to throw your rider's body weight around. At a basic level, you can use this technique to help you negotiate tight turns with great speed; once you acclimate yourself to the system, you'll find yourself using your rider reflex controls to alter the angle of your bike or ATV in midair, perhaps squeezing a few extra feet out of a jump or angling your bike's wheels just over the lip of a jump you'd otherwise crash into. If you're in danger of falling off your bike, a quick flick of the right stick in the direction indicated by a green arrow onscreen will often save you from a vicious crash.

While Reflex seems to be doing a lot of things right, it's not perfect. The quick surface changes mentioned above often feel too abrupt (both visually and from a driving standpoint). Also, crashes are prevalent and rider-to-rider contact can easily spoil the fun--especially at the beginning of a race. It's also easy to get stuck in tricky spots on certain maps that are tough to navigate without crashing, even at slow speeds. MX vs. ATV Reflex is due for release in December.

Editor's Note: The original version of this article suggested that MX vs. ATV Reflex will support eight players online. The game will actually support twelve players online. GameSpot regrets the error.

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Discussion

25 comments
DKHardee
DKHardee

@gamerjerome just hit select button to change the camera view... but I agree... the double joystick play sucks bad

gamerjerome
gamerjerome

I just downloaded the demo. I was looking forward to seeing how this game would be. I'm very disappointed. No matter what, it's an arcade game but it's trying to be realistic in some sense but fails to do so. Controls are stiff and why do I have to use both joy sticks to play? I didn't see a EA stamp on the cover? Controls are more complicated than they need be. I'm not looking for a learning cure rather something fun to play. The camera is really bad, too close, stiff. The terrain groves where a good concept but it was way too much and ended up being more annoying than anything. I'm sorry but any ATV/Motocross game should just take cue from ATV Off Road Fury. Then again I didn't like Pure either. These games are all graphics, crappy game play. Id rather play excite bike 64 for the rest of my life.

motoKTMrider
motoKTMrider

this game is rad, you can actually do scrubs and whips that look realistic :) and the graphics are sic as 10/10

nfs112
nfs112

Cant Wait...Demo 11-12...YEAH!!!!!

joezombie15
joezombie15

looks good but it still seems like its going to feel a bit too much like mx vs atv unleashed to me. just better graphics.

BlindmanNL
BlindmanNL

Looks nice, bad thing I don't have a PS3. I do have a PSP but I don't feel like buying it on hand-held.

RGDT021
RGDT021

Looks good, I had hours of fun with Unleashed so hopefully this will fill in the PS3 void...

McDog3
McDog3

So since there are "online-only" multiplayer modes, I can hopefully assume there is split screen multiplayer as well? I find it incredibly sad I have to ask this about a racing game but it's becoming an extremely horrible trend to include online play but no split screen for some reason....

pilot_riaz
pilot_riaz

. The quick surface changes mentioned above often feel too abrupt (both visually and from a driving standpoint). Also, crashes are prevalent and rider-to-rider contact can easily spoil the fun It's out in Dec and they have these problems upto now. I doubt they will have time to fix these issues. The game is mostly done now and they need a few weeks before the release day to make the CDs, instruction booklet etc. I hope they tweak these issues in a patch

Mr_Manikin52
Mr_Manikin52

I still want a PS3 JetMoto game. *tears*

davidamos
davidamos

does anyone know if there'll be supermoto in this one? i love supermoto and unleashed had a good (if not short) bit of it... not played untamed, although i believe that also had supermoto...

bootsgame
bootsgame

lets just hope it turns out a good game :s

ACAClA
ACAClA

hope its good, always wanted a good moto game for 360

Elvis481
Elvis481

Yeah, Unleashed was great... its a shame what they did to it in Untamed. I'm hoping Reflex will fix all of that, but I wont be reserving or buying until I play it firsthand, either via a demo, friends, or a store display.

chinchilla177
chinchilla177

all i can say is, i miss mx unleashed. the first one. before any of the other junk got thrown in... keepin it simple. hours ridin around the freestyle events with friends and finding fun hidden buildings, ramps, etc

Jackyll87
Jackyll87

Nothing about the game.... Just hats off to Mr.Ekberg for the caption of the second screenshot. ( the tattoo one).

DA_SHREDDER
DA_SHREDDER

I got the ps3 version of Untamed and the piece of crap didn't even have voice chat. If you wanna get a great racer and you have a ps3 just get Pacific Rift. If your just into doing stunts and doing crazy tricks get Pure. Dont get me wrong, this game looks better then fuel, but thats not saying much.

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

Untamed was a bit naff but this looks like it might be a lot better!!

metalkid9
metalkid9

I dunno why I just thought of acid reflex :S

simonsworld
simonsworld

yea i think it gonna be fun, comparing it to PURE (excellent game) is unfair, why cant ya have or desire both? the MX side of it personally am happy with.

RockZillaX
RockZillaX

MX Vs ATV Untamed sucks IMO though I got it super cheap at play-asia.. I wish they would use real world bike and ATV brands.. Its kind of lame to have a Rainbow bike, helmet and apparel. I will definitely wait for the reviews on this one.

Torres_
Torres_

Never played the first one but my guess is that Pure is still the ATV game you wanna get.

rival3n
rival3n

I'm stoked. Hopefully I won't be getting hit with flying tuff blocks come December...