Off-road racing games typically don't have incredibly long lives and usually end up in bargain bins not too long after their release. THQ and Rainbow Studios hope to buck this trend with MX vs. ATV: Untamed, the next-gen successor to MX vs. ATV: Unleashed which appeared on the Playstation 2, XBox, and PSP.
MX vs. ATV: Untamed features multiple game options. There are nine different types of events to take part in, with a number of different vehicles. Anything from MX bikes, ATV's, monster trucks, dune buggies, and other types of off-road vehicles can be driven, raced and tricked. The nine different events can be tackled individually or in two different types of "career" game types - the X-Cross Tournament or the Event Series. The X-Cross Tournament features branching paths where new events are unlocked after beating certain sets of events. This branching feature allows the player some freedom in choosing what order to compete in events. The Event Series is more straight-forward and linear, where completing a certain event unlocks another similar event, but at a more challenging venue. Progressing through either "career" path awards the player with cash and other rewards like vehicles and gear.
Cash winnings from events can be spent on many shop items. There are many vehicles, clothing, and parts to be purchased. These unlockables can then be used to customized your rider/driver for each different type of vehicle to be used. The large amount of customizing options was surprising and very deep.
Gameplay, at least for me, was extremely inconsistent. I had no trouble mastering most of the actual vehicles or the ATV, but MX events were incredibly frustrating, as I couldn't even win the most basic events using an MX vehicle. This may just be based on my level of suckitude, but it was frustrating nonetheless. Another major complaint I had was inconsistency with obstacles. Many of the barriers in the game are able to be crashed into and moved, dented, and destroyed. However, in one desert race, the monster truck I was driving was decimated by a scrawny cactus. These cacti would literally flip my monster truck upside down or bring it to a complete stop as if I had just run into a brick wall. Also, while on the subject of monster trucks, why are we racing them? When I think monster trucks, I think jumping huge strings of buses and crushed cars, not racing and flipping over every 25 seconds on a mountain trail.
One high point of this game was the extremely varied track selection. The tracks vary from indoor and outdoor settings. With many different tracks to race on and their excellent designs, I was reminded of the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo titles - both known for their excellent and extensive track selections. If you want an amazing ride in this game, just race an OpenCross event on the Lakewood-B track. However, with mentioning Forza and Gran Turismo, one thing that may turn off fans of those racing games would be the lack of precision control in MX vs. ATV: Untamed. Since most races occur on dirt and interactions with other racers can send you from first to last very quickly, racers more familiar with traditional racing games may get quickly tired of their off-road vehicle not being nearly as responsive as more traditional racers.
Visually, this game is not impressive. While the opening cinemas and venues are well rendered, the visuals while racing are not impressive at all. In fact, they are something that may have been capable of a last-gen console. Vehicles, at least from a distance, lack any jaw-dropping pop and the extreme rag doll physics of crashed drivers is a major turn-off as well. Also, the "race girl" that signals the start of each event is incredibly undetailed and is always exactly the same, save for her shirt color and switching from pants to shorts. It felt as if this was thrown in at the last second to match the MX vs. ATV commercials to promote the game.
The games soundtrack is a mixture of fast paced rock and punk which features artists such as Bad Religion, Disturbed, MXPX, Mudvayne, and Pennywise. The song selection definitely matches the gameplay, but the track list does not include a lot of songs. Honestly, after about two hours worth or less of playing, the songs will start to repeat themselves due to this. Also, the lack of variety means many who are not fans of this genre of music will feel completely alienated. Thank god for the 360's custom soundtrack feature.
Overall, this game is the standard off-road / extreme racing affair. Fans of these types of games will more than likely want to pick it up, but fans of more traditional racers or just average players should most likely stay away. The game is fun for brief play, but doesn't have the legs to promote much replayability to warrant a purchase. If you are curious about the game, I recommend renting - as the demo available on the Xbox Live Marketplace is extremely limited and does not give a true insight into the game.