IGN Review of MX vs ATV Untamed
During PS2's heyday, THQ's MX vs. ATV franchise was worth its weight in gold. Rainbow Studios was putting its heart and soul into the racer, bringing countless features each year that pushed the envelope for what motocross games could do on the system. As time moves on, however, so do primary SKUs, and with Rainbow now sinking its time into the 360 as its main platform, the PS2 (and Wii, by association) product is bound to drop a bit in quality. On the PlayStation side, MX vs. ATV Untamed was received extremely poor, with a handful of excellent racers to weight against from the best years of the PS2's life. Needless to say, the bar is extremely high in the world of MX vs. ATV.
On Wii, however, players are at a bit of an advantage as far as MX vs. ATV Untamed is concerned. Both the Wii and PS2 versions were developed side-by-side by developer Incinerator, but with no previous MX offering on the system, PS2's disappointing finish to an impressive era is actually a pretty decent first attempt on Wii, and it's obvious the extra time between PS2 and Wii's release was put to very good use.
Untamed continues the MX vs. ATV tradition of delivering a ton of content, spread across a huge list of modes, each inspired by the extreme sport of motocross. Players can jump in the seat of MX bikes, ATVs, sandrails, monster trucks, trophy trucks, and tongue-in-cheek extras such as the tricked out 4X4 golf cart. What Untamed sets out to deliver is hands-down the best motocross experience out there, with an emphasis on rhythm racing, and preloaded jumps via a quick snap of the Wii remote. In its default control scheme, players control their vehicle with the analog stick, using C and Z and a combination of nunchuk and/or Wii-mote gestures to pull off tricks, similar to SSX Blur. Also available is the option of using Wii-mote only for tilt control, or sticking in the classic controller for a more traditional experience.
But does it all come together? To an extent, yes. Unfortunately over the years the MX license has gone from a pure trick/racer to a "Jack of all trades, master of none" racing equivalent to GTA. It's all about open worlds at the sacrifice of framerate for a go anywhere, do anything feel rather, than the strict racing regimen of the past. On paper the list of modes seems never-ending, with quick race, X-cross, national, supercross, supermoto, opencross, freestyle, free ride, waypoint, hill climb, and challenge races available from the very beginning of the game. In reality, many of the modes are made up of the same style of events (obviously, as it's all about racing), and while the tracks and vehicles are fun to drive, the game also follows the standard of actual MX racing, so you're often doing two full races around each track, both of which can take up to eight minutes or so. That's a lot of repetition.
With that being said, there's a simple joy in riding through the tracks that isn't found anywhere else on Wii right now, and that goes for something. The physics system is very floaty, but with games like Excite Truck already on the system, and titles like Excite Bike 64 building Nintendo's past on 64, it really doesn't phase us. Yes the game is floaty, more so than any of the previous MX titles, but it's also a bit less on the sim side, and more arcade-like in design. The freestyle portion of the game is very underdeveloped on our opinion though, as tricking with the Wii-mote and nunchuk is really fun and rewarding, but you've only got a handful of areas where tricks are rewarded. Oftentimes we'd have a more entertaining experience from booting up free ride and just driving, or hitting up the PS2/Wii exclusive Ski Jump mode and launching into seven-trick combos over and over. Unfortunately, if you're a racing purist and want to avoid tricking altogether, trick points essentially equate to how many actual store points you have, so a few runs down the Ski Jump track will result in hundreds of thousands of points for the store, while racing events can reward zero points for amazing, record-breaking first place finishes. It just isn't balanced.
On the visual front, the Wii and PS2 versions of MX vs. ATV Untamed are identical, and that's disappointing. We've seen pretty impressive visuals on Wii thus far, and it's more than obvious at this point that Wii has more power than PS2 or GameCube (look at THQ's own de Blob for proof of that), but MX Wii got the same treatment as PS2, and given how poor the PlayStation version of the game turned out, it's high time THQ ditches that system, eats the sales, and looks to the future, as a Wii-specific MX game could set the tone for a half decade of huge sales. PS2 is on the way out, and it's holding the Wii version down substantially, as the frame rate drops constantly, visuals are muddy and basic, and it has an overwhelming feeling of last-gen to it that some gamers won't be able to shake. As for the audio offering, Untamed's track list is made up of the expected punk, metal, and rock, but we never went as far as to skip songs or turn tracks off, as the overall audio experience was pretty enjoyable. Sound effects could use some work, but the music is diverse and pretty upbeat.
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