MX vs. ATV Untamed Updated Hands-On

With its launch rapidly approaching, we take another spin on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of MX vs. ATV Untamed.

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Last month, we checked out THQ's MX vs. ATV Untamed on all six of the platforms shipping this year. Our previous hands-on time was fairly short, and we didn't get a chance to experience much of the single-player campaign, save for a couple of races in each vehicle type. With the game scheduled to appear on shelves in mid December--just in time for Christmas--we've taken one last look at the game before it arrives on store shelves.

MXs are speedy, if a little fragile to ride.
MXs are speedy, if a little fragile to ride.

The build we saw last month was still in a preproduction state, but it was stable and complete enough to give us a good indication of the final version of the game. The code we're looking at this time around is not that much more advanced, with what we can only assume have been minor bug fixes and gameplay tweaks since we saw it last. Now that we've played the game on a few occasions, the real hit-home feature is that the vehicles feel genuinely different to control depending on what you're driving. The moto class handles and feels totally unlike the ATVs, and hopping into a dune buggy again completely changes the way you'll need to drive the track and navigate environmental hazards. It might not sound like a big deal, but we've played enough off-road (and indeed on-road) driving simulation games to know it's worth pointing out when it does occur. Rather than use one stock-standard physics model and rework the art of the tracks to give the illusion of variety, MX vs. ATV Untamed makes you feel like you're switching games when you swap vehicle classes.

Another huge feature of Untamed is the almost total rewrite of the competitor AI you'll encounter as you race. Rather than clump in sections on the track, acting as a rolling barricade to stop you from passing and taking the checkered flag, the other bikes, quads, and cars will really make you work for it, weaving through each other, cutting you off, and having accidents on the same landings and hairpins you will. It results in plenty of track debris, and we can't tell you how many times we were landed on by an overzealous rider looking to push it just that fraction too hard and causing us to crash.

The preload mechanic is the bread and butter of racing in Untamed--learn it, live it, love it. Being able to successfully launch and land will not only keep your competitors at bay, but will shave valuable seconds off your lap times. Properly timing a preload is the difference between doubling and tripling jumps and rolling over them like a rank amateur in dud surf.

The PlayStation 3 version of MX vs. ATV Untamed includes Sixaxis support, giving you the option to hold the right trigger to accelerate and then steer by twisting and turning the controller to move the vehicle. Each vehicle has its own parameters and handles quite differently. This means that larger vehicles such as monster trucks are easy to drive because they hold their line quite well with a large wrist turn, but it also means you won't be able to maneuver quickly away from oncoming hazards or other drivers. Bikes, in comparison, are quite twitchy, and a sharp wrist flick can send your bike spinning like a top.

Eager MX vs. ATV devotees need wait only about another month before the game goes on shelves in North America. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are quite similar, both visually and in terms of gameplay, but whether or not Sixaxis will be enough to push gamers trying to make a decision between the two versions remains to be seen.

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