If you’re a fan of off-road racing games, chances are, you’ve played a Rainbow Studios title in the past. Their most recent MX vs. ATV series has fared quite well and although the last iteration, Untamed , wasn’t quite as polished as we would’ve hoped, MX vs. ATV Reflex seeks to up the ante. The bottom line is that if you enjoyed the previous entry, you’re bound to love Reflex , simply because it’ll be a more advanced and more polished production the whole way ‘round. But you will have to get used to the new controls, which is our first topic in this preview: instead of the standard setup, where the left analog stick controls both the vehicle and rider, you will have separate controls for each in Reflex . The left analog still handles the vehicle but the right controls the human atop it; in this way, you can complement the turning of your chosen off-road machine with the shifting and leaning of your body. Now, you can just ignore this new option and ride around with just the left analog, but if you wish to master this particular racing experience, you’ll need to alter your body’s position accordingly.
Of course, you may not want to confuse the issue because the right analog also handles the stunts. Basically, all you need to do is hold down the clutch (designated by L1) and move the right analog in whichever direction you choose; the movement will dictate the stunt you execute in midair. You can either hold the stick in one direction for the rider to perform one simple move, or you can go for the more advanced – and time-consuming – tricks by moving that analog in a variety of directions. Now, while the controls are still straightforward and won’t come as any surprise to veterans of the off-road racing genre, there is one intimidating aspect that might make you a touch nervous. Instead of racking up points for successful tricks, your stunts will be examined by a special panel of judges; one each for a particular part of the stunt. Variety, technique, difficulty, etc.; it’s all fair game, and if you mess it up, they’ll most certainly tell you all about it. The good news is that you’re not restricted to the stunts that are pre-programmed into the game; if you want to create your own tricks, you are free to do so and the judges will reward your creativity.
We’re not really sure how the player will benefit from well-judged stunts, but we have to assume it may come in the form of unlockable stuff. In other words, the better you do in the air, the faster you’ll be able to gain access to new items and equipment, but this is only a guess. This pretty much takes care of the new control and stunt systems you will see in Reflex , but there will be technological advancements as well (we can always use more of those, right?). For instance, Rainbow Studios clearly wants to take another innovative step in this genre when it comes to affecting the terrain: when you ride your dirt bike around, for example, you will leave a tire trail in the dirt or snow. And while we’ve certainly seen that before, what we haven’t really seen before is how the newly removed dirt and snow doesn’t just disappear. According to IGN’s hands-on session, dirt that gets tossed will build up in small piles wherever it lands. In other words, the course will look significantly different after a few laps, and it may actually affect the vehicles, too. This is a fantastic and much-appreciated addition in our eyes.
Lastly, we should probably appease those who have often complained about the sensitivity in terms of crashing. Basically, in past titles, if you didn’t land a jump exactly correctly, you could easily end up facedown in the dirt. Unfortunately, you just didn’t have any way to control this if you were off in midair, and races could be lost based entirely on awkward landings. But this time around, when you see the rider begin to slip or fall to one side, a green arrow will pop up on the screen; it’ll either be on the left, right, bottom or top of the screen. If you quickly tap the right analog stick in the direction indicated by that arrow, you will save your rider from what might appear to be an inevitable crash. You may sacrifice some momentum but at the very least, you won’t have to suffer through a major drawback that could easily cost you the race. If this mechanic works out well, we’ll definitely want to see it in other off-road games, just because it’s a common problem in the genre. Granted, those who want ultra-realism may not like the idea of that green arrow, but for the most part, these titles are all about speed and adrenaline. Physical accuracy is evident, but it’s not paramount.
MX vs. ATV Reflex is scheduled to release later this year and again, if you’ve enjoyed past titles or are just an off-road racing fan in general, it’s right up your alley. We always like to see a development team implementing both upgrades and new ideas and provided the technicals are sound, the final result should be entertaining.