MX vs. ATV Untamed Exclusive Hands-On

GameSpot gets some exclusive hands-on time with the latest game in this dirt thrashing title.

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MX vs. ATV Untamed
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Yesterday we got exclusive hands-on time with the newest game in the MX vs. ATVoff-road series, MX vs. ATV Untamed. Untamed represents the first next-generation title for the franchise, and will be available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms. It will also be the first MX vs. ATV to go all the way cross-platform, and will be available on the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo DS handheld. This is a significant departure from MX vs. ATV Unleashed, which was only available on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 systems.

In addition to casting the net further and offering more supported platforms--including its first appearance on Nintendo hardware--MX vs. ATV: Untamed also has a stack of new features. These include eight different series: Supercross, Nationals, Opencross, Supermoto, Freestyle, Waypoint, Minimoto, and the hugely popular Endurocross sport, the latter of which pits the player against not only other riders, but also the environment, with races on a simulated indoor cross-county course with water hazards, and rocks to climb on top of the usual dirt slopes.

MX vs. ATV Untamed will feature plenty of new game modes.
MX vs. ATV Untamed will feature plenty of new game modes.

Untamed will feature 10 brand new outdoor tracks--including mountain ranges--with expansive draw-distances. If you can see it, chances are you can ride it. We couldn't get an exact figure out of dev team Rainbow Studios, but our demo team suggested it was in the realm of several miles in each direction. The cannonball also makes a return appearance, shooting you back into play if you find yourself hugging one of the zone boundary walls.

Vehicle selection plays a huge role in a title like this, and newcomers and fans of the previous games alike will be pleased to hear that motorcycles, ATVs, monster trucks, sand rail, golf kart, trophy trucks, off road buggies, and ORV sport vehicles will all be supported when the game ships. The airborne vehicles from Unleashed have been sent to the big dirt graveyard this time around, although developers were quick to point out that while the air vehicles are gone, they've compensated by giving ground vehicles more vertical jump in this version.

If the range of modes and vehicles don't manage to keep you busy, the development team is also throwing in five mini-games on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions in the form of section races, graffiti, snake, hockey, and tag. These will ship as playable options from the outset, so you won't even need to unlock them in the career mode if you find you want a break from straight racing. Both the Wii and PS2 versions of the game will include mini-games, but they do differ slightly. In place of the next-gen title ones above you'll find hill-climbing, gap events and ski-jumping--ala Winter Olympics long jump with vehicles.

A game as large and varied as MX vs. ATV Untamed can get a bit unwieldily to navigate the various challenges, modes, and options. For this reason the new version will include a feature called X-Cross Tournaments and will give you a flat view of your progression through the game. You'll work your way towards the final showdowns in each series, but the flow-chart style layout shows you all your options at once, allowing you to go down a different path without feeling like you need to complete a particular challenge to continue.

Next-generation graphics have brought this title a long way, and even as a work in progress the visuals are impressive to say the least. The power of the Xbox 360 and PS3 has also allowed the team to experiment with first-person view racing, and for the first time it extends to the stunt mode. We saw the first-person view while racing a bike, and while the lack of handlebars seems a bit strange at first, the dynamic nature of the view means that taking a flat road will give you a stripped-back view of the world, while ploughing through environmental obstacles like logs, dirt mounds, and hills will show off your player's helmet, arms, and part of the bike's chassis where appropriate.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions will both offer two-player split screen, as well as online support for up to 12 players per game. Rainbow knows how precious your time is, so rather than have you sit around twiddling your thumbs as you wait for either your single-player or online match to load, you're immediately presented with an open space you can practice moves in, try out your latest tuning preferences, or show off your skills. The space doesn't end when the game has loaded, so you can continue to hang out here, trying out new ideas until you're ready to begin. You'll even be able to tune directly from the area, letting you tweak your preferences on the fly and test them in real-time.

Opposition rider AI and game control handling have both received work in Untamed, so rather than offer what they refer to as "rubber-band" AI, game-controlled players will respond more intelligently, cutting smarter lines and acting more like competition than track litter. In our play, it wasn't uncommon to see AI bikes crash trying to over-perform and unlike the previous game, they now spread out more evenly, avoiding bunching in packs. The game controls are intuitive, but are still as twitchy as ever, closely mimicking their real-world vehicle counterparts. Motorbikes can be oversteered quite easily with the left analogue thumb stick if you swing it too quickly, and like most racing games the right trigger handles your acceleration with the left trigger used to brake. The coloured buttons are used to control your stunts. The PlayStation 3 version of the game will include user selectable Sixaxis support allowing you to effectively replace the left thumb stick with waggle motions by steering your player and setting up preload movements to help give you bigger air from the top of jump edges.

What would an MX vs. ATV game be without music, and work has been put in to include music that's fun to ride and drive to rather than just throwing in the latest hits for the sake of it. Included are bands like Bad Religion, MXPX, and Dinosaur Jr.

Next-generation has given MX vs. ATV not only a graphical new lease on life, but has allowed it to blossom across new platforms, and add a tonne of new features. If you loved the series previously, there's more than ever before in this game when it ships before the end of the year. Keep an eye on GameSpot for the full review.

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