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Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
12/21/2007 04:28:00 PM

Review: MX vs. ATV Untamed (360, PS3)

By Arash Markazi

As I straddled onto an ATV in a barren desert just outside of Las Vegas recently, I could only think of one question to ask before I put my helmet on: "Will I survive?"

My friend, a professional MX biker, was ready to guide me around the surrounding dunes, miles away from anything resembling a hotel or casino.

"We'll see," he shot back with a grin as he revved up his motor. "That's the beautiful thing about going off-road. You never know."

While the beauty of his statement was lost on me, there is one thing I learned as I rode above, around and (unsuccessfully) through the Nellis Dunes: It's much safer to ride an ATV or MX bike from the comfort of your own home.

Judging from my experience playing MX vs. ATV Untamed, it's a lot more fun anyway. That is unless you like seeing your life flash before your eyes as you fly off your ATV not once, but twice. Yes, it's safe to say that my days as an ATV rider from here on out will be restricted to the virtual reality that is my living room.

The newest off-road title from Rainbow Studios has been about three years in the making after the company released popular off-road predecessors such as Motocross, ATV Offroad Fury, MX Unleashed and MX vs. ATV Unleashed in the past decade. The latest incarnation seems to be a mixture of everything that made the previous titles successful all rolled into one. You can now race with ATVs, monster trucks, motorcycles, buggies and even golf carts without switching out games.

MX vs. ATV
MX vs. ATV Untamed :: THQ
First things first, the biggest problem I had with the previous off-road titles from Rainbow and THQ were the load times for every game. I think I was able to make a sandwich during the load times back in the day but those days are over. Loading in the game is now disguised as a practice session before the race and you're able to ride around an open arena and practice your jumps on the ramps before your game actually begins. Yes, this might get old after I've practiced for a few weeks and will be yelling to just start the damn game, but for now I'll take it as a pleasant surprise.

A quick look at the menu reveals that the game covers every terrain and style of race possible. There's Freeride, Freestyle, Endurocross, Minimoto, National, Opencross, Supercross, Supermoto and Waypoint. I won't bore you with a description of each, most are self explanatory, but the two to focus on are Endurocross and Minimoto. In endurocross you're racing against other speed demons on in-door tracks straight out of the junkyard with boulders, monster truck tires and water creating an obstacle course that will likely leave you throwing your controller down on the floor until you figure out how to avoid the assorted debris. Minimoto may be the most fun mode to play visually since you're hitting the supercross tracks on minibikes that look like they belong to a bunch of extreme sports preschoolers. While the stunts you can pull off on minimoto are second to none, it's the hardest vehicle to get control off although the wipeout can be just as entertaining as landing a 720.

The graphics were also a surprise. Sure, we've grown accustomed to playing in lifelike environments on Xbox 360 and PS3, but never on an offroading title like this. Since this was the first title Rainbow has ever developed for both consoles, they went out of their way to make the gameplay as realistic as possible and it shows. Check this video out:

While the game will easily be a hit with motocross enthusiasts, especially with the championship series mode where you can earn up to eight individual titles, it will be just as enjoyable for gamers who know nothing about the sport with mini-games such as ATV Hockey, where you can test your tires' traction on the ice, Snake, where each rider leaves behind a beam of light and if another rider hits it they are eliminated or relive your favorite recess activity with a friendly game of tag between off-road vehicles.

Bottom Line
Easily the best off-road game out there right now. I wish it hadn't taken the folks at Rainbow three years to come out with a new game, but the extended development time paid off as their first foray into the HD world of Xbox 360 and PS3 looks like a winner. The online portion of the game may turn out to be one of the most popular features with a 12-player competition and 2-player split screens available.
Gameplay Graphics Audio Online OVERALL
8 8.5 7.5 8 8
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