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MX vs. ATV Untamed

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Racing
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Rainbow Studio
Release Date: Dec. 17, 2007 (US), March 7, 2008 (EU)

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PS3/X360 Preview - 'MX vs. ATV Untamed'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 10, 2007 @ 12:36 p.m. PST

MX vs ATV Untamed features bigger, more populated outdoor open-world environments, an X-cross career mode showcasing all eight vehicles and the all-new EnduroCross mode pitting gamers against logs, rocks, mud-pits and more, and illustrating the full potential of the franchise's Rhythm Racing physics engine.

Freedom is the name of the game in MX vs. ATV: Untamed. There's none of that worry about a "storyline," "qualification" or any of those other trivial things. You pop in, you pick the mode you want to play and you're off.

Gamers with a competitive spirit will instantly be drawn to the Supercross, Supermoto and National modes, which should be familiar to longtime MX vs. ATV players. Each one is a competitive race with either an ATV or a motocross bike along a variety of terrains. National is across dirt roads and outdoor environments, Supercross is stadium racing at its finest and Supermoto is a mix of the two.

For those looking for a different form of competition, Untamed also features a freestyle event that allows players to compete and see who can pull off the most insane stunts, rather than a simple race to the finish. However, while racing fans are sure to enjoy these modes, the real appeal of Untamed is when you leave the area and enter the wide-open world.

Free Ride is, as you'd imagine, allows gamers to pick one of Untamed's huge environments and cruise around at their leisure. This can be done to practice a course, just to explore and see the detailed and expansive environments, or even to compete in a variety of sub-missions within the Free Ride mode. While it's not quite as competitive as the other modes in the game (outside of the sub-missions, of course), it's a lot of fun to take a dune buggy or ATV and cruise around the dirt roads, performing crazy jumps and insane stunts without the limitations of a cramped arena. It's a great way to relax or simply brush up on your skills for the other events.

Endurocross is probably the toughest of the new events in Untamed, and it's easily shaping up to be what separates the expert racers from the novices. Endurocross courses are not what you'd expect from a racetrack: They're covered with boulders and logs, deep pits of water, muddy straightaways and any other obstacles nature can provide. Control, not speed, is the primary focus in Endurocross; the goal is certainly to beat your opponent to the finish line, but you can't do that with pure speed. The countless obstacles and pitfalls that comprise the Endurocross tracks make top speed almost impossible to reach, so drivers have to maneuver around the dangerous traps while still maintaining good speed. It's a lot tougher than it sounds, and even the most skilled of MX vs. ATV veterans will find a challenge on Endurocross tracks.

While the other modes may be more challenging or more detailed, my favorite event is shaping up to be Waypoint, which is sort of a combination of Free Ride and a race. Gamers are thrown into a wide-open environment and told to race through a series of waypoints, but how they get from point A to point B is up to them. Want to use the power of your monster truck and race straight on through, ignoring obstacles with superior handling and horsepower? Go for it! Likewise, gamers can use a faster and sturdier dune buggy to find shortcuts through smoother terrain, try to make difficult jumps to go over terrain, and anything else that comes to mind. All that matters is that you get to the waypoint before the other racers. More so than any of the other modes, this game mode really highlights the off-road nature of your vehicles.

Minimoto is perhaps the oddest of the events in which you'll compete. A minimoto is, unsurprisingly, a miniature motorcycle that resembles something on which a clown would ride around. These super-tiny motorcycles have the power to compete with their older brothers, but it requires a lot more skill for a full-sized rider to keep these miniature monsters under control. The Minimoto event focuses on drivers performing way-out tricks, only they've gone from "amazing" to "hilarious" as you watch the various racers pull off handstands and tricks while riding what appear to be children's motorcycles. To make things even more amusing, these minimotos tend to go out of control much faster than their bigger brethren; performing turns and stunts requires real practice, or else your racer is going to fly right off. It's a completely bizarre event, but it has the potential to be a lot of fun, especially at parties.

One of the most interesting and unique features in Untamed is the vehicle selection. As veterans of the franchise know, although it's called MX vs. ATV, you have many more vehicle options. Racers can jump in everything from motocross bikes to monster trucks to dune buggies, each of which handles significantly different from the other vehicles in the game. Just because you've mastered how to tool around in an ATV doesn't mean you'll be able to directly transfer those skills to a motocross bike; similar vehicles, like the motocross bikes and the minimoto pit bikes, sometimes require very different skills to control. This variety means that for gamers who want to master it, Untamed will keep them busy for a very long time; gamers who just want to play online will be able to focus on a favorite vehicle and still stand a chance.

Untamed looks great. All of the vehicles are modeled in stunning detail, and they can even be further customized with modifications to designs or coloring to ensure that every racer can have a vehicle perfectly tuned to his desires. The outdoor environments are huge and varied, with a number of amusing details and interesting environments to explore, all with nary a hitch in the frame rate. However, one of the most impressive parts of Untamed is the loading times, which are both minimal and handled extremely well. Whenever the player picks his race, the game instantly loads a playable practice arena where gamers can take their vehicles for a test run while they're waiting for the level to start. This may seem like a small thing, but it's a wonderful way to prevent loading times from cutting into the fun of gameplay. This practice arena is even available online, so gamers who are waiting for friends to log on can perfect their motocross stunts while they wait.

MX vs. ATV: Untamed is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the MX vs. ATV franchise. MX vs. ATV is always well known for its excellent controls and superb graphics, and Untamed looks to continue that proud legacy. The new modes really serve to emphasis the off-road nature of the motocross bikes and ATVs, and they'll certainly become new favorites of gamers who like their racing more rugged. Fans of the franchise and newcomers curious about off-road racing will both certainly want to check out MX vs. ATV: Untamed when it roars into stores later this month.


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