Okay, so Iâ€™m not the most knowledgeable person on the planet when it comes to racing games, but I do know what is and isnâ€™t fun. And Iâ€™m happy to say that MX vs. ATV Reflex is, well, fun. There are a few caveats, but overall itâ€™s a solid experience that should make fans of the genre happy.
For the benefit of those who arenâ€™t in know: this is a motocross game. That means a lot of bikes (of the two-and-four-wheeled variety), a lot of mud, and â€“ especially at the start â€“ a lot of flailing bodies flying majestically through the air. Reflex packs in a wide variety of modes that really exploit everything you might want to do with a bike on a track in the middle of nowhere.
In fact, before I get on to the main modes, Iâ€™d like to give a shout out to Free Ride. Itâ€™s basically just you, your vehicle of choice, and a wide expanse of rugged terrain. Youâ€™re free to race around and leap off cliffs at your leisure â€“ and while it might sound boring, itâ€™s actually a really fun way to kill a few minutes.
But thatâ€™s not why you might buy this game! You need races, and competitions, and the sheer agony of coming last. Reflex has all that in spades, especially the latter bit. Seriously, if you havenâ€™t played MotorStorm or anything else similar before, prepare for a fair number of races where you just keep crashing. But stick with it, because when you finally get a feel for the controls, itâ€™s a sweet feeling to actually stay in control of your bike.
The Motocareer is where itâ€™s at to unlock most of the gameâ€™s content. It has a host of race types, including Waypoint, National, Omnicross, Supercross, and Champion Sport Track. The modes all pit you against other racers, but things are mixed up in a number of ways. In Waypoint, for example, youâ€™re racing from flag to flag across slightly more open terrain than your typical track. Other modes have you in a stadium or eliminate the last-placed rider after each lap. Thereâ€™s a lot here to keep you busy if youâ€™re interested.
The basic driving, as mentioned, takes a bit of time to get hold of. But the physics and controls seem pretty solid, if a bit sensitive. Youâ€™ll soon be able to tell how to stay on your bike after a jump, for example â€“ something thatâ€™s helped by useful on-screen prompts of how you should right yourself. In addition to steering with the left analog stick, you can shift your body with the right stick. Itâ€™s a good system in general, allowing you to lean into corners, pull wheelies, and more. Just keep in mind that itâ€™s also another shortcut to falling off your bike.
And then there are tricks. While in the air, holding down L1 will put you into trick mode, whereby you execute flashy moves with the right analog stick. These all involve certain directional taps or rotating, and â€“ once again â€“ can result in a lot of face planting if you time it wrong. But get it right and youâ€™ll be spinning around your bike like nobodyâ€™s business. Happily, you get judged on your aerial stunt abilities, so if you like racking up points, youâ€™ll be in heaven.
Thereâ€™s one last gameplay-related feature to mention, and thatâ€™s track deformation. Itâ€™s probably been the most hyped feature of Reflex in the lead up to its release â€“ and while it doesnâ€™t affect your performance as much as you might have thought, itâ€™s still a nice addition. Basically, as you drive through mud you leave a gouged trail in your wake, with piled up dirt to either side. Anyone driving behind you will have a harder time with the now-sullied terrain. When you get a dozen bikes driving along a stretch of track at the same time, it very quickly becomes pitted, so things arenâ€™t going to go so well for you if youâ€™re behind the pack. But with a bit of practice, youâ€™ll find it becomes less of an issue â€“ your driving starts to automatically compensate for uneven terrain. Still, it does add a bit to the game, and graphically adds an extra layer.
Speaking of graphics: Reflex looks pretty. Not â€śoh my god Iâ€™ve never seen the likeâ€ť pretty, but nice all the same. In fact, if you switched the graphics out for something from MotorStorm 2 or something similar, I might not notice for a while. Everything is well presented, from the tracks to the bikes to the menu interface. Itâ€™s certainly slick, but by now I think Iâ€™m simply too used to the kind of graphics these consoles can pump out. Still, some of the vistas will still grab your attention, which is a shame when they inevitably cause you to tumble to your death. Same goes for the sound â€“ itâ€™s functional, and exactly what youâ€™d expect from the genre.
Overall, MX vs. ATV Reflex is a pretty complete package, and should satisfy fans of the genre. Non-fans can still find a lot to enjoy as well, particularly the (standard yet satisfying) multiplayer. While it hasnâ€™t lit my world on fire, Reflex is solid fun. Definitely worth a rent to see if itâ€™s your cup of tea.