The MX vs. ATV franchise has been around since 2005 and despite it being a rather modest game, the franchise has still managed to ship a rather large number of units. For that reason, THQ decided it would be the perfect candidate for their new financial model - selling a game with less content for a cheaper price, which can then be supplemented by microtransactions if you want. But even with the cheaper price, it feels as though too much has been sacrificed.
When you first start up Alive, the base content doesn't seem too bad. You have the option to check out two lengthy races, two short-course races and there are two playground areas for you to perform tricks and just muck about. But after you've done the four available races and played about for a bit, Alive's limitations start to kick in due to a poorly designed levelling system.
There are other courses to play in the basic package, but because the content has had to be streamlined, unlocking even the second wave of tracks requires some grinding. And in a driving game, this is pretty unforgiveable. The second set of tracks only unlocks at level 10 and by that point, you will have become more than cosy with whatever track you wanted to grind on.
The grinding is made a little less arduous by the unlocks you acquire for your vehicle, but it doesn't change the experience all that much. You'll still have to grind through the same track(s) over and over again just to unlock some new challenges. It's a real shame, because the courses have solid designs, but with the vehicle staying the same, and with such a limited pool, it can't help but become monotonous.
The controls are very much on the simulation side. It controls like a standard game for the genre, but there is one big exception - the ability to heavily influence your rider's weight on his vehicle of choice. This is done by using the right analog stick and it compliments the racing model nicely.
As well as being able adjust your weight when performing standard moves, like cornering or jumping, the game also includes some context-sensitive quick-time events. If you get hit, or you go slightly off-road, a large orange arrow will appear. Pressing the right analog stick in the right direction will allow you to adjust your weight, failing to do so will see you bail.
There is a decent competitive feel with the AI, and none of them do anything stupid. But it's quite strange that altering the difficulty doesn't seem to make too much difference - especially when doing a short-course event. You can race on 'Amateur' and come 6th, then bump it up to 'All Time' and come 1st by doing very little different. It's not like your skill would increase that much in one race.
From the perspective of graphics, MX vs. ATV Alive isn't the most demanding of games. Graphics are very standard, but at least the sound design makes up for this. The soundtrack is perfect for the game, while the crowd effects really help to enhance the overall experience. The sounds of the vehicles themselves are just the icing on the cake, but it's a shame there is such a disparity between the two different elements. Sure, THQ wanted this to be more of a "budget" retail title, but that doesn't mean that production values have to suffer as well as content.
Vehicle customisation was previously mentioned, and while it is mostly cosmetic, it will affect different stats on your vehicle. You probably won't feel much of a difference when racing, but you can change almost ever aspect of your ride - from the handlebars to even the type of brakes you use.
But even with these options, it's really difficult to overlook that the content included in the game, in the form of extra courses, is just too tedious to unlock. This can be supplemented by additional content from either the PlayStation Store or Xbox Live Marketplace, but despite giving it plenty of time to come back up, the PlayStation Store still wasn't up at the time this review was written. It's a shame, because even with the Free Ride events, it just doesn't feel like the game has enough solid gameplay, or a solid enough progression system to warrant playing it for long.
MX vs. ATV Alive is an experiment for THQ, but they may need to tinker with the formula a bit more if they wish to continue down this road. The game has some great customisation options for the vehicles, but the levelling system is so tedious players might get bored before they even unlock the first set of tracks. Hopefully THQ can take the feedback on board and come back with a more solid installment next time.
|Weight adjustment system is pretty cool.|
|Nice customisation options for vehicles.|
|Decent track design.|
|Poorly conceived levelling system.|
|Changing difficulty doesn't seem to do much.|
|Not enough base content.|