- Publisher: THQ
- Developer: THQ Digital Studios Phoenix
- ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
- Genre: Racing
- Pros: Solid controls; track deformation; MX bikes fun to ride; easier to play than past games
- Cons: Not a ton of on-disc content; takes too long to unlock stuff; ATVs kinda suck; no Supercross events
THQ has made it clear that DLC is the future of MX vs. ATV Alive, but what do you actually get for your initial $40 investment? Not much, unfortunately. You get 18 tracks - 12 outdoor motocross tracks, 4 short tracks, and 2 open world free ride tracks. A measly 10 bikes - 6 MX and 4 ATV (not counting hidden vehicles). And that is pretty much it. New copies of the game come with a MotoClub Pro code that lets you download pro rider James Stewart's compound which opens up a couple more tracks. The MotoClub Pro code will also give you other free DLC down the road as well.
I know that 18 tracks sounds like a lot, but the track designs are only so-so. The short tracks are just absolutely terrible and too small to be any fun. The free ride tracks are tiny and boring (but they do contain hidden extra vehicles) compared to the open worlds of previous games. And while we do like most of the 12 motocross tracks, the fact that there are zero indoor supercross tracks is disappointing.
It is also a letdown that there isn't any sort of career mode, or trick mode, or championship season, or anything. You just pick a track, set the laps and A.I. difficulty, and race.
DLC tracks and bikes should (we assume) be available to use as soon as you buy them. As of now there isn't anything of note other than the free James Stewart compound to download. One thing I want to say about DLC is that gamers shouldn't view it like you have to buy everything to get the "full game". You don't have to buy everything to get the full experience. You can ignore customization options. You can only choose to buy one bike manufacturer DLC. You can just buy tracks you want. In this way, you can get more of what you actually want for your $60-70 total when all is said and done versus buying a normal game for $60 and getting a bunch of stuff you don't care about.
All of the gameplay discussion above has to do with MX bikes. The ATVs, on the other hand, don't fare so well. The controls are the same, but they react quite differently. While the MX bikes feel intuitive and are pretty easy to throw around corners, the ATVs are kind of a pain in the butt. They are a lot harder to square up going through rhythm sections, they spin out easily in corners, and they just aren't as fun to drive. You do get better with practice, but it is a fairly steep learning curve.
Visually, MX vs. ATV Alive is a nice looking game. The bikes and riders look decent, and get dirty as you race. They don't have super animation, but it is fine. The tracks look good and actually deform and form ruts, which is very cool and can affect gameplay.
The sound is only so-so. The vehicle sounds are all pretty one-note, and the soundtrack is predictably full of rock and punk songs. Xbox 360 custom soundtracks to the rescue!
In the end, MX vs. ATV Alive is a solid game but questions of overall value cloud things up a bit. The minimal on-disc content, lack of any sort of career or championship modes, and fairly stupid unlock system (seriously, level 25 to actually see everything?) are definitely disappointing. I know $40 is supposed to be a "budget" price, but I'm not sure there is $40 worth of content here. The game does play quite well, though, and being able to add your own mix of content via DLC means that you can eventually build up a solid features list yourself for roughly the price of what a full normal game costs, which is ultimately the reason behind THQ's new DLC driven model in the first place.
It makes for a hard game to review, honestly, because while I'm not crazy about the content you get for your initial investment, three months from now it could be full of amazing DLC (and likely a lower MSRP) and be totally worth it. I say rent it now, and maybe even pay for the $5 DLC to unlock everything on-disc, but as the price drops you should definitely consider a purchase.