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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


MX vs. ATV Untamed (Playstation 3)

THQ goes off road with their latest extreme racer, MX vs. ATV Untamed for the PS3. The game allows players to race a variety of vehicles ranging from mini-cross bikes and ATVs plus buggies and trucks. The tracks include everything from indoor cross circuits to massive outdoor waypoint events that offer open-ended racing courses. Untamed offers a great deal of variety in its races, and players can compete in a variety of modes including the X-Cross where they compete in all the game's racing modes. In addition, Untamed delivers some impressive online modes with some cool mini-games for multiplayer fun. The controls are fairly decent and show-off Untamed's arcade physics models, making this an instantly accessible racing title.

You can't fault MX vs. ATV Untamed for lacking ambition. Instead of focusing on a narrow swath of vehicles or a specific type of racing, the game goes all out to include almost every form of off-road racing from MX bikes to SUV trucks and much more. The game's extensive list of options includes the ability to race a variety of vehicles on dozens of different tracks which range from standard indoor courses to open-ended fields where players can race freestyle and rack up points for performing tricks. A number of options enable players to pick and choose from a variety of options including single-player races, multiplayer modes and several tournament options. You can choose from eight unique race types including Endurocross, Supercross, Opencross, Outdoor Nationals, Minimoto and Waypoint. Because each race type has a completely different set of layout parameters, some emphasize jumping and tricks, while the outdoor areas offer a mad scramble that makes for some chaotic, though exciting racing action. To add to the challenge, the different course and race types present players with a unique type of vehicle to drive. This means you'll also need to learn the nuances assigned to it, which means that you'll have to master the intricacies and styles of each to win.

Each of the vehicles presents a unique style of handling and control and this flexibility gives Untamed a bit more depth than is usually expected for a racing game. You'll have to master the art of power-sliding around some pretty tight corners and watch out for other obstacles on the track as well, which makes things a bit trickier than they might first appear. For example, the faster vehicles such as the dirt-bikes and buggies usually perform better in the straights but require a great deal of precision where you have to master your timing around corners. This is important because the vehicles reset if you go off the course for more than five seconds, which costs you valuable time. However, the game's arcade physics means that they don't take damage so you won't have to worry about this aspect during the race. The other racers' AI is fairly strong and you'll have to work and not make too many mistakes if you want to stay in the pack. Fall too far behind and you might as well reset the race. Vehicle collisions occur frequently if you aren't careful and you'll have to look out for other obstacles such as rocks and trees that will impede your progress if you aren't careful. Most of the game's track designs are fairly straightforward, though the open areas and waypoint races can become a bit confusing if you don't pay attention. You may need to practice a few times to get the layout of each track, but the game is fairly painless for the most part.

Controlling the vehicles is a fairly simple task that shouldn't tax most players, the intuitive controls allow you to accelerate and steer using a standard interface. As stated earlier the size and weight of each vehicle makes a big difference in how they perform on the field, though most players should be able to get the hang of things without much effort. In addition to standard driving techniques, players will also have to master a variety of tricks such as grabs and holds on bikes which in addition to giving you style, can add to your point total later on. There's a huge variety of vehicles in the game and a big part of the challenge and fun comes in trying all of them out in the various courses. MX vs. ATV includes more than a dozen different types of vehicles, and players can customize there performance using more than 100 in-game parts and accessories. This allows you to upgrade your vehicles handling and speed. You can also edit the appearance of your vehicles and their riders at the options screen. You can choose to participate in a single race or go all in for one of the tournaments as well, which include standard structures where you compete in a series of races in the same class or the more challenging Supercross where you have to compete in all eight event styles to become the ultimate champion. These modes offer plenty of solid racing, but the game's extensive online modes deliver an even deeper and more satisfying experience. Untamed's single-player modes are quite enjoyable in their own right, but the game also includes an impressive array of online modes that can support up to 12 players simultaneously. There are the usual race modes and some extra mini-games such as snake where you have to trap your opponents. The game performs well online with little in the way of lag or matching problems. There's also a two-player split-screen mode where you can battle a friend head-to-head which also includes an exclusive Hockey game mode. Overall, these modes add to the game's longevity which makes the gameplay deeper title than you'd expect.

However, this is still an arcade-style racer at heart and while the game does a decent job in creating the feel of off-road racing, it lacks in several key areas. While it's not fair to expect every game to equal the visual flourish of Motorstorm, the comparisons are inevitable. Untamed's visuals are decent and the game moves at a smooth frame rate but, its vehicles lack the detail and polish seen in other PS3 games. The environments are likewise flat in comparison and the physical effects of the game, such as the muddy splashed exteriors of vehicles and the destructible, changing terrain aren't included here. While there's more varied settings and more vehicle types in Untamed than Motorstorm, the overall effect isn't nearly as impressive. You can see the different when you compare both games' desert settings, where Untamed's environments feel flat and empty and generally lack the detail that Motorstorm achieved so effortlessly. The controls, while decent don't really offer as much nuance or sophistication, either, which makes the gameplay feel superficial overall. These lacking elements make the experience feel a bit flat overall, which is somewhat disappointing from an aesthetic standpoint. Despite its decent selection of vehicle types and some challenging courses, MX vs. ATV Untamed's overall experience feels like less than the sum of its parts. While there are some impressive elements, our final verdict is that it doesn't deliver on the true promise of the HD generation, and instead feels like an upscaled last-generation title.

- Michael Palisano


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