MX vs. ATV Untamed Handheld Hands-On

We get hands-on with the first version of MX vs. ATV for the Nintendo DS and check out the new PSP version at the same time.

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MX vs. ATV Untamed is about as cross-platform as they come, and will launch six versions simultaneously in North America this holiday season. While Rainbow Studios is focusing on bringing the two next-generation console titles to market, and Incinerator Studios is in charge of the Wii and PS2 versions, there's another team in the wings. Australian developer Tantalus Interactive, who you probably know best for their Pony Friends and Spongebob Squarepants titles, is tasked with creating the DS and PSP versions of the offroad racer.

While their previous titles may suggest Tantalus is a bit cutesy on the surface, they were also responsible for last year's MX vs. ATV title, On The Edge for the PSP. MX vs. ATV Untamed also represents a first for the developer, as is the first time the franchise has appeared on Nintendo hardware, making its debut on both the Wii and DS handheld.

The two handhelds are quite different, with the PSP version looking and handling much like an updated version of On The Edge while the DS version offers a less attractive but still full 3D environment and vehicle line-up. The PSP version features eight series, flag challenges, stunt challenges, and milestones. Milestones are probably best described as 360-esque achievement points for the handheld, and are almost an entirely new mode on top of the single-player campaign. This mode has over 50 challenges to complete, some of which you may do without realising in every day play such as performing tricks over bodies of water, landing stunts and combos, and achieving a set amount of air time. Each task includes three ranks--bronze, silver, and gold--and scale accordingly in difficulty or time required to complete each goal. The PSP version includes four MX bikes, four ATV models, monster trucks, sand rails, golf karts, trophy trucks, offroad buggies, and a snowmobile which can only be used in snow environments.

The DS version is a little more thin in comparison, and does not include milestone mode, instead offering championship mode, stunt challenge and four vehicle classes: 250cc and 500cc MX bikes, light and heavy ATVs, sand rails, and golf karts. All the gameplay mechanics are still present though, and you'll be just as able to clutch, power-slide, and pre-load for big air in the DS version as in its bigger brother versions. Both handheld consoles will offer four-player WiFi ad-hoc competitive racing to determine once and for all who the king of the bus/workplace/playground is.

The PSP is far and away the better looking version of the two, and playing across levels like building sites, farmyards, and the unlockable Area 52 track--which seemed appropriate given the hands-on event was held in Las Vegas--all offer different environmental feels. The DS version on the other hand, while still a work in progress, is not the best looking title on the platform. Perhaps we've been spoilt by titles like the recently launched The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, but while this version offered reasonable vehicle models, environments were spritey-looking with what appeared to be a limited colour palette. All the racing is done via the D-pad and buttons--no touch screen support has been added besides menu interaction, and mimics a decision we've seen made a few times by developers like Codemasters with their recent V8 Supercars: Create & Race title. While the DS version of MX vs. ATV is still quite fun, and retains the arcadey feel of the other games, it just doesn't quite look the part compared to other titles coming out on the hardware.

Keep an eye out GameSpot for full reviews of both games as soon as they're released.

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