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MX vs ATV Legends

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Release Date: June 28, 2022


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PC Review - 'MX vs ATV Legends'

by Cody Medellin on June 27, 2022 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Featuring the deepest career mode to date, MX vs ATV Legends invites you to carve your own path to the podium with unprecedented player choice including sponsorship opportunities and special invitational events.

For the faithful MX vs ATV fans, the last title that was universally praised was MX vs ATV Reflex. It was a fun racer that felt realistic but provided the opportunity to perform the big jumps from highlight reels; it also brought along the right attitude with the music and announcer from countless motocross ads. That was 13 years and two console generations ago, and the games haven't gotten better. MX vs ATV Alive was a good game that was marred by being a DLC experiment. MX vs ATV Supercross felt wrong all over, and the only way MX vs ATV All Out got any better was through countless patches over a few years' time. MX vs ATV Legends is a revamp of the series but, in truth, it feels like another low point for the long-running franchise.

MX vs ATV Legends begins with you riding a bike at the top of a hill. You're told to get to the bottom to meet with the owner of the farm, and that's the first tutorial. Once you reach the farm, you need to drive to a few wavy tube men to get through more tutorials that teach you essentials, such as how to jump or get a speed boost. When you finish the tutorial, you can access the rest of the game, which requires you to pause and select from one of several options in the menu.

If you've played MX vs ATV All Out, you'll be very familiar with Legends because it's pretty much the same setup as before. It fares a little better since you immediately start with the driving tutorial, but it remains an overly long and tedious process. Having to seek out each of the four different tutorials feels unnecessary, since the hub world is ample enough to learn the basics. It feels pointless to have extra tutorials to cover different cameras. Having to complete every tutorial before we can begin feels unnecessary, as does the inclusion of superfluous characters and a hub world. You'll barely have any desire to explore, since most of your time is spent in menus. As far as first impressions go, it is a poor one.

The focus of the game is in the campaign mode, which goes through a series of races to win cash and fame. You start with a motocross bike, and finishing the first race gives you access to the ATV. Finishing the third race gives you access to the UTV, and from here, you can switch freely between the three different driving disciplines. The game promises branching paths through your career, which can take quite some time since it spans the course of several years.

If you're coming into Legends from a car racing background, you'll quickly discover how piloting all three of these vehicles is a completely different experience. A big part of that comes from how the body gets used for bikes and ATVs; the extra weight is factored into turning and leaping from ramps. Lean in for tighter turns, lean away to correct them, and tilt to compensate for the landing angle. There's some technical nuance here that's not present with most other racing vehicles, which makes the ATV and motocross bike racing subgenre fascinating for those who have an interest in the sport.

The quirks when driving all three vehicles also reveals a physics system that feels out of control. Land wrong on either the ATV or bikes, and you could crash for no reason and fly to unnatural heights. Despite having four wheels, you have a better chance at facing the wrong way if you take a turn badly or get slammed from behind. Drive with a UTV, and things get much worse because those vehicles are too sensitive. Get a slight tap, and you spin out of control. Get hit by some water, and the vehicle suddenly steers into hazards and flips over; getting any sort of air means you'll land upside-down. It's comical to watch, but it's so frustrating to play that only the most patient person will make any progress in the UTV campaign.

If you can somehow come to grips with the broken physics system, you'll find that there is a myriad of things that ruin the racing experience. There are a number of different racing styles to conquer, but it is often difficult to tell where you should go, since the tracks often crisscross. Trails were often fun in previous games, but the lack of visible markers means that players must drive by instinct and hope for the best. As a result, none of the tracks feel fun.

Opponent AI seems to lack the balance that racing fans look for. Whether you set the game's difficulty at its easiest or hardest, opponents constantly crash into you or each other. Play with UTVs or ATVs, and there's certain to be a pileup at narrow paths and moments when opponents rear-end you and cause you to spin and face the wrong way. There's now a grace period when racers respawn on the track so no one causes a wreck, but the bumper car style of racing is in sharp contrast with the more sim-arcade style the series is going for. One noticeable annoyance is that the game has constant rubber-banding that only works one way. Respawn into the track at least twice, and opponents will easily overtake you; catching up to them is almost impossible if you're trying for the lead. Most of the time, the AI in conjunction with everything else so far will cause you to restart the race rather than try to fight and retake your position.

The most damning of these elements comes from the overall performance. We tested the game on two different machines, both with 16GB of DDR4 RAM: an Intel Core i5 7600k with a GeForce GTX 1070 on a 1440p monitor and a Ryzen 7 5800x with a GeForce RTX 3080 on a 1080p TV. We played the game with unlimited frame rates and with frame rate caps of both 30fps and 60fps, and we tinkered with as many options as possible. No matter what, the game exhibits a constant and frequent stuttering issue, where it either freezes or the camera suddenly jolts forward before pulling back. It's a choppy experience and unique in that no older racing games have exhibited similar issues. From mistimed inputs to possible bouts of nausea for more sensitive players, this issue paints the game in a level of jankiness that is enough to turn you off from it, even if all of the aforementioned issues were magically fixed.

Legends features a myriad of bikes, UTVs, and ATVs to buy and tweak, but just like the gameplay, it comes with a few gotchas. For starters, none of the vehicles have differing stats. Whether you buy the more expensive rides or go for the cheapest one, the stats for each vehicle are the same, so you're only paying for aesthetics. You can tweak the vehicle, but the options are quite limited. Making things interesting is the fact that you have enough money after the first three races to fully kit out all three of your starting vehicles to their max levels, with plenty of cash to spare for both rider and vehicle cosmetics. Every reward becomes useless after that, so the drive evaporates to win races and get better vehicles and improvements.

If there is one redeeming quality to Legends, it is the multiplayer — the parts that we could play, at any rate. Online play supports up to 16 players, and you always have access to a practice track, so you don't spend any downtime staring at menus. Due to the lack of cross-play and the fact that the population is small during the review period, we couldn't check out the online performance. Multiplayer remains a bright spot due to the presence of split-screen play in the exhibition mode. It's restricted to just two players, but local multiplayer in any racing game that isn't a kart game is a rarity, so it's nice to see it here, even if the rest of the experience isn't up to snuff.

Like the rest of the game, the overall presentation is handled poorly. On the sound front, the soundtrack seems fine, with a decent mix of old and new rock as well as a few tracks from other genres. You might have a hard time listening to the soundtrack, as the game has a combination of poor sound balance and editing. The volume of each song isn't equalized, so you'll hear some parts of the same song get very loud before dropping back to a more quiet level for no reason. Songs that had to be censored have the offensive sections completely muted, so even the accompanying beat is cut. It's a sloppy musical job, while the vocal performances are simply present, and the sound effects also have the same volume inconsistency as the music.

Graphically, you'll be hard-pressed to find any changes between this and MX vs ATV All Out. The characters look decent enough, but their animations are poor, as evidenced by the constant twitching and frame movements they display at the starting line. The environments are fine but suffer from constant texture pop-in, while the effects (like dust clouds) look no better than they did several console generations ago. The best thing that can be said is that this would've looked good almost 10 years ago, but it comes off as wildly outdated now.

It is difficult to recommend MX vs ATV Legends under any circumstances. The opening moments are punishingly slow to get through, and the whole process of going through the events lacks any polish. The races all suffer from a myriad of issues — including bad track design, wonky physics, constant stuttering, and a fiddly handling system against braindead AI. With the ability to power up all three of your vehicles after only three races, the drive to progress is barely there. This is a case where there are plenty of other motocross racing games that are worth your time, unless you're willing to wait a year or two to see if the team can throw enough patches to make this somewhat decent.

Score: 4.0/10

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