|System: X360, PS3, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rainbow||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. 1, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-12||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Travis Fahs
June 10, 2009 - It feels like Rainbow Studios has been at the motocross game forever now, but in the last couple years, it's become apparent that they've just been running out of steam. It's not that the games have been getting worse, but rather that they just seem to have sunk into a rut of the same old gameplay and features. For that reason, we approached the demo for MX vs. ATV: Reflex with a bit of apathy, but we were greeted by a newly energized Rainbow Studios, hard at work reinventing the series. If what we played was any indication, the series may have more life left than we realized.
The most fundamental change comes to the game's control. Previously you would just steer your vehicle as in any racing game, but this isn't completely true to the sport. To rectify this, the developers are using the right analog stick to map body movements. This adds a new dimension to riding and doing tricks, and the system was intuitive, if not exactly easy. It took some practice before we got the hang of manipulating the vehicles without wiping out, but the added control is going to be a major asset. Once we got the hang of it, the Rainbow Studios rep showed us how to do circular motions on the right stick to pull off tricks. This system replaces the Tony Hawk inspired button press system, and in fact the face buttons didn't seem to do anything at all.
The other major new feature is track deformation. Since the last game in the series, Rainbow has managed to get the individual polygons making up the track down from feet to just a few inches, so all the tiny bumps and pits in the road are taken into account. As you go around turns, you'll pack the dirt down (or in the case of one of the stages shown, snow) and leave behind a groove in the road. This isn't just for show; these grooves will affect your riding, and they can be used to help round corners and shave small amounts off your time. It's one of the more subtle elements of real motocross riding that has been neglected in the genre, and it makes for an interesting addition.
We only got to play one actual race, during which the most glaring flaw of the game became apparent: the A.I. needs a lot of work. Opponents weren't just competitive, they made Road Rash's racers look like gentlemen. After being run off the road a few times, the rep apologized and said that the A.I. was something that was still fairly early and would undergo a lot of revision. The three other courses we sampled were all freestyle tracks, each with very distinct designs, ranging from a dirt arena, to a snow covered mountain, and a lone stunt course set on pavement the only such course in the game, we're told.
Reflex still needs a coat of spit and polish before it's ready, and it launches in just a few months, but what we played is a very good start. For those who have grown tired of the series, this could be the perfect place to jump back in we just hope those evil opponents mellow out a bit in the final version.
CCC Freelance Writer