As I mentioned in my recent Reality Check column, when MX vs. ATV Alive arrived in stores earlier this week, we had yet to receive anything resembling a reviewable copy of the game. The good news is that shortly after the aforementioned column was written, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 retail copies of the game arrived in the mail. I've spent several hours checking out both versions since then, and our review won't be ready until early next week, but I wanted to post a heads-up on how the game is treating me thus far.
The first thing I noticed about MX vs. ATV Alive is that it doesn't feature a career mode. Rather, you simply have a persistent character across all single-player and multiplayer races who levels up the more you play. That's all well and good, except that your rider needs to reach level 10 before you unlock a decent number of tracks on which to race. Prior to that, you have only four full tracks (two of which need to be downloaded using a code that comes with new copies of the game, so they're currently unavailable on the PS3), two short tracks, and two free-ride locales. Racing the same tracks over and over again isn't a huge deal because they're well designed and there are multiple difficulty levels to choose from, but MX vs. ATV Alive definitely feels repetitive early on because so little of its content is unlocked.
Like MX vs. ATV Reflex before it, Alive is played using a dual-stick control system; the left stick steers your chosen vehicle while the right controls your rider. It's a good setup, and it's taken me a little while to get comfortable with it, but it makes getting huge air off of ramps and successfully negotiating sequences of humps pretty satisfying. I'm mostly playing on the default and Pro difficulty levels right now, and I feel like the game is posing a pretty decent challenge. Unlocking upgrades for bikes and ATVs (vehicles level up independent of you depending on how often you use them) makes winning races much easier, but that's quickly remedied by cranking up the difficulty, at which point you earn experience more quickly.
You can also race online if you're looking for a challenge, of course, though for obvious reasons, I'm currently only able to test this on the Xbox 360. I've yet to race in a full field of 12 riders, but getting into lag-free races with seven or eight other players hasn't been a problem at all. My rider is currently at level 15, and I'm hopeful that, over the weekend, I can get him to level 25 and unlock the six or seven tracks that are still grayed out on the event select menu. I guess I could just go to the in-game store and pay $6 to unlock everything, but where's the fun in that? Some areas of the rather unwieldy "MotoClub Depot" don't appear to be open for business just yet, incidentally, but it's clear that while this is a $40 game, the hope is that you'll spend more money buying new rider gear, vehicles, events, and even butt patches for it.
I look forward to delivering a full review next week. In the meantime, if you already bought the Xbox 360 version of the game and happen to be playing online this weekend, keep an eye out for me playing as JusticeCovert.