MX vs ATV Alive: review

  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), Xbox 360
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: THQ
  • Developer: Rainbow Studios
  • Players: 1 (plus splitscreen multiplayer) 2-12 (online)
  • Site:


MX vs ATV Alive is the first THQ title to be launched with a low initial price point (currently around £25), with gamers then having the option of topping up the game with various downloadable content. This hybrid pricing model is part of a new strategy from publishers, as games begin to move away from physical media into the digital domain. So is £25 too much to pay for a half cooked game, or is there enough here to keep players occupied until the first slice of DLC arrives?

When you load up MX vs ATV Alive, you choose whether you want to ride on the 125cc motocross bike, or the 250cc quad from the title of the game. You start off as a level one rider, and as you play you rank up in the usual way, by scoring points and gaining experience. There are two events that you can take part in; a straight up Race or a Free Ride. Both are self-explanatory, with Race pitching you against other riders, and Free Ride giving you an open world to explore.

A straight Race is one of two modes the game possesses.

The game is controlled using both analogue sticks. One is used to control the bike, and the other to use the riders’ weight to help you around tricky corners. It works very well, and you can pull off some pretty neat cornering manoeuvres without the need to hit the brakes. You can also lock your seat in preparation for a jump, which helps keep momentum going as you bounce around the bumpy tracks. If you find yourself losing your balance, an on-screen prompt tells you to move the right stick in whatever direction the arrow points, which enables your rider to correct himself. It all moves along at a fair pace, which should keep adrenaline junkies happy. The only thing we can say about it though, is that you can start to feel a touch queasy if you play for too long, probably due to the hilly and deformable courses. We certainly don’t recommend playing this game while enduring a torturous hangover!

Initially the game gives you access to six tracks. Two large national courses, two more compact, smaller tracks, and two open-world Free Ride environments to play around in. There are various other tracks to race on, but unfortunately the game keeps most of them locked away from the player until you reach level ten, and then a further batch of tracks are unlocked at level 25. This frankly archaic method of restricting play becomes almost game breaking, as you grind your way through the rankings by tediously racing through the same tracks over and over again to gain enough experience to unlock the next batch of courses. It can take several hours to unlock the first lot of tracks, and by that time you never want to play the older tracks ever again. This idea is probably to keep players playing until the DLC is released, but they should really have either reduced the ranking you need to achieve, or increased the amount of tracks initially available.

The other mode is Free Ride, which gives you an open world to explore.

As you level up, you are given various customisation options, which include new gear for your rider and your vehicles. You can also earn extra rider abilities which you can add to the two provided slots, which can help keep you on your ride, or help to knock other riders from their machines. You even have an ability to earn extra experience as you play, which is quite handy if you are trying to unlock those extra tracks. Experience can also be earned by playing online against other players, which does help to relieve the boredom of playing against the AI riders.

The online multiplayer puts you into a lobby, and each player gets to vote for the track you want to play, from the choice of two on offer. Online play is pretty fluid and lag free, although there were a couple of slight game freezes as new players entered or left the race, but nothing game breaking. As well as racing you can enter Free Ride mode, and explore an open quarry and sand dune environment. Here, experience is gained by performing tricks, such as wheelies or jumps, but these prove to be quite hard to achieve without falling off your vehicle – and there are only a limited selection of tricks that you can perform. MX vs ATV Live certainly isn’t a biking version of SSX! In Free Ride there are also vehicles hidden around the course, which give you bonus points if you find them. As well as online multiplayer, you also get the option to play splitscreen, which is sorely missing from many titles these days, and is a most welcome addition.

The ATVs are slightly harder to control.

MX vs ATV Alive is a difficult game to review, as it is obviously a work still in progress. But even at the budget price of £25, there just isn’t enough in the game to keep players occupied until the DLC starts to become available. The track unlock feature doesn’t help matters, and makes the game feel like a repetitive chore. You can fork out extra money to unlock everything, which we think defeats the purpose of the budget price. The lack of a proper career mode is also a major omission, which would have gone some way to relieving the repetition of single races. We can’t help but feel that the game itself should have been released as a download to begin with, or they should just have kept the game in development until all the extra modes and features were ready. Because as it stands the game is more in purgatory than Alive!


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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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