|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tantalus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 15, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
MX vs ATV: Untamed isn't a bad first attempt to compress the popular racing series into the DS. It's superior to the PS2 version in terms of playability and feel of the controls, but it lacks depth. There really isn't much more to this game than racing around a series of tracks with a few different vehicles. Due to the repetitive nature of the gameplay, lack of online modes, and its relatively short length, MX vs ATV: Untamed makes, at best, a good rental.
MX vs ATV: Untamed is a continuation of the Unleashed franchise, which started life originally as the ATV Offroad series. For the first foray into the DS realm, the results are impressive, although you have to dig a little deeper to appreciate them. The racing is fun, clean, tight, responsive, and visually appealing. I think I was the most impressed with the graphics which, despite the tiny screen, made it possible to see all of the vehicles, turns, and obstacles on the tracks. It's certainly an improvement over the PS2 version in which turns weren't discernable until you were right on top of them, which caused you to have to memorize the track layout. Don't expect a lot of background details. The crowds and arena environments are very basic. The majority of the details were reserved for the bikes, quads, riders, and tracks which look really good and animate well.
There is a saying among writers, "When in doubt, leave it out." In other words, it's better not to mention a certain fact if there's a chance you might get it wrong, and it seems to me that developers Tantalus definitely erred on the side of caution with this game. While there is so much missing when compared to the console versions, at least the core gameplay has been given the proper attention. The bikes and quads handle well, whether in tight turns or launching into the air with pre-loads to span those crests and troughs. Some of the features that you are likely to miss include the ability to upgrade vehicles, mini-game modes, outdoor environments, more racers, an online mode, and more variety in terms of tournaments. Still, I would rather have what is offered here than some half-baked modes that weren't properly designed or tested.
Launcing your vehicle into the air requires timing, rhythm, and pre-loading. By pre-loading, you are essentially storing potential energy to be released when you reach the top of a hill. This will enable you to catch more air and hopefully sail in front of the pack. Jumping is fun and easy; landing is another story, but thanks to the responsive control system, placing yourself and your vehicle squarely on the ground isn't a hit-and-miss proposition. Cornering can be accomplished by powersliding into turns. This requires that you keep the accelerator pinned while braking. Slowing down by easing up on the gas will cost you time as you try to get back up to speed. These techniques give the actual racing gameplay more depth than your average race, but it's in the variety of modes and features that this game comes up short.
The game is essentially divided into two main modes: Tournament and Stunt Challenge. In the Tournament mode you will race for three cups using any of the four bikes or four ATVs. You can set the difficulty for amateur or pro. A customizing mode allows you to further tweak the options such as number of laps, rules, and the types of vehicles to be used. The Stunt Challenge is a good mode to get some practice in as you attempt to catch plenty of air and pull off some gnarly tricks. You'll quickly acquire skills as you try to accomplish the challenges by using all available controls including the accelerator, break, steering, and pre-load controls.