MX Unleashed Impressions

THQ stops by to give us a peek at the MX game from Rainbow Studios.

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MX Unleashed is the upcoming MX game from THQ and developer Rainbow Studios. The game marks a departure from THQ's previous games in the genre due to Rainbow's unique approach. The seasoned studio's experience with the Splashdown and ATV Offroad Fury franchises brings a decidedly different sensibility to the look and feel of the upcoming PlayStation 2 and Xbox game. We had the chance to see an early version of the PlayStation 2 game, and it looks quite promising.

We saw a demo of some of the races in career mode and a demo of the game's free ride mode, which will let you roam around an open-ended area for fun or to engage in one of four race types. MX Unleashed includes 23 licensed drivers, more than 40 courses, and more than 20 bikes to choose from. In addition, you'll be able to create your own rider and access some different vehicles in free ride mode. The free ride mode will offer four types of events: hits, runs, stunt competition, and machine races. Hits will require you to use specified jump points and land in a targeted area. Once you've perfected the targeted jumps, you can try runs, which will challenge you with a series of hits. Stunt competition is exactly what it sounds like. Machine races, however, are probably not what you'd expect to find in an MX game. The races will pit you against vehicles such as monster trucks and planes, which you'll be able to use in the free ride mode if you win your race against them, for a distinctive change of pace.

The graphics are looking quite polished, thanks to a game engine that is essentially the next evolution of Rainbow's work in ATV Offroad Fury 2. You'll find five main worlds that house the numerous tracks. The vast areas feature spare detail that's clean. MX Unleashed has an impressive sense of scale and a lot of goofy humor. You'll find billboards as you race in free ride mode that should offer a chuckle or two to eagle-eyed players. You'll also find a solid helping of structures and other vehicles--which you'll be able to interact with--peppered throughout the environments. While it's hard to fully appreciate the worlds when you're focused on racing, you will be able to leave the track and try to shave some time off your lap by forging your own path if you like--especially in free ride mode. Rainbow has essentially created a sandbox for gamers to play in. While you can access the four race types by driving over to highlighted areas, similar to how it's done in SSX 3, you can also spend your time experimenting with tricks and jumps. In one area it's possible to get your bike into the basket of a hot-air balloon and enjoy a tour of the area.

While the version of the game we saw was still a work in progress, MX Unleashed is already looking pretty polished. The gameplay is slated to offer a varied experience that should appeal to fans of the genre as well as to casual players looking for an accessible game. MX Unleashed is currently slated to ship early next year for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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jakeboudville

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looking nice