Out of all the game types, racing games are some of the most skill-intensive experiences you can find. Not only do you need to learn the basic handling of your vehicle, but you also need to know the layout of the course, your location on the track, and the locations of the other racers. Motocross is an even more extreme example, as your rider's body plays just as important a role as the bike itself.
These are some of the reasons why I like motocross games, including MX vs. ATV Alive. Like the MX vs. ATV games before it, Alive puts you out on the dirt in aggressive, high-speed competitions. You'll race across sprawling canyons and thick forests, all while managing your bike and rider's position. The racing itself is fun, but the overall experience is hurt by a number of technical quirks and a course unlock structure that feels more like a bad role-playing game than a racer.
During play, I opted to disengage the rider assists so I could be in total control, and I stuck with riding the motocross bikes because they're more fun and easier to handle than the ATVs. Regardless of your choice, you'll need to think about where you are on the track at all times, as a great deal of the MX vs. ATV Alive experience is about maintaining your speed while traversing tight turns and hitting jumps.
To do this, you need to be mindful of your bike and your rider. With the right stick, you control the Rider Reflex system, which modifies your rider's posture and weight to assist with turns. It can also be used to save you from a costly wreck, or help boost you off of jumps. This is where your skill level comes in, and it also adds to the fun in a major way.
My biggest complaint when it comes to MX vs. ATV Alive's gameplay is the reset system, which is meant to get you back on the track in the unfortunate event that you go careening off the road. Ideally, you should be able to tap a button at any time to reset your rider, but MX vs. ATV handles rider resetting poorly.
You can only get back into the action when your rider has gone off course and stays there for several precious seconds. If you know a screw-up is inevitable, you can't preemptively reset and avoid the wait. Even worse, if your bike gets caught on a piece of the environment and you're not far enough off course to activate the reset state, you're left there struggling. It's frustrating, to say the least.
The events in MX vs. ATV Alive are spread across a number of different track types. There are 12 national tracks (longer races), four short tracks, and two free ride areas (three, if you count the downloadable James Stewart Compound). I wasn't interested in the short tracks because they were, as the name suggests, short. All the national tracks, however, are great and make for exhilarating events. I just wish there were more than 12.
The most baffling thing about MX vs. ATV Alive is its unlock structure. When you first boot it up, you only have two national tracks to choose from. You can't play any others until you reach level 10 (your rider earns experience for completing events). In short, you'll need to race the same events repeatedly just to get at more tracks. The next course unlock happens at level 25, which takes a long time to reach.
For those that want to shell out extra money, you can pay to unlock everything from the start (including all the vehicles). This presents you with a horrible choice: you can laboriously compete in events to expand your experience, or you can pay to access content you should already have. There's just no reason why unlocks couldn't have happened more frequently.