While the desire for innovation is a virtuous ambition, some developers would rather pursue perfection- offering a succession of sequels aimed at the realization of a specific genre. Such is the path plotted by Phoenix-based Rainbow Studios. Save for a few curios like the PSOne-based shooter The Hive or Deadly Creatures for the Wii, the developer’s body of work is faithfully fixed on racing titles that have challenged the tradition of tarmac-based competitions. From ATV Offroad Fury’s bevy of berms to Splashdown’s foray in wet and wild jet-ski events, Rainbow has been dogged in their pursuit, delivering a variety of racers built around a pre-loading mechanic. Undoubtedly, the studio’s most prolific franchise are the MX vs. ATV games- a nearly decade old series where two- and four-wheeled machines contend for domination of the dirt.
But when publisher THQ folded last year, the MX vs ATV games were left in limbo. Fortuitously, Nordic Games was able to acquire the license, allowing Rainbow to give the seventh-console generation console owners with at least one more lap around the earthy track. While the release of MX vs. ATV Supercross for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 occasionally reveals the markings of a bargain-priced game, it’s also an enjoyable, if not particularly progressive, off-road racer.
Forgoing the traditional energetic cinematic sequence common to most contemporary titles, Supercross shuttles players directly to the main menu. Beyond altering the look of the avatar and using unlockable parts to improve the performance of their bike or quad, players have the option to jump into a quick race or commence a career campaign. Here, each of the eleven core competitions task players with sequences of either eight or seventeen events at a variety of authentic U.S.-based venues. Expectedly, podium finishes bestow new equipment or performance parts, pushing players to remain and the front of the pack.
Racing borrows core mechanics from 2009’s MX vs. ATV Reflex, allowing players to steer their vehicle with the left analog stick, while shifting the rider’s weight with the right stick. In execution, it’s a control scheme that balances versatility with instinctiveness, permitting players to accurately careen around berms. Pre-loading, or maximize the trajectory of your jump, if accomplished by pulling the stick back during the incline, then flicking forward at the peak of the ramp. The core change to Supercross’ handling comes in the reduction of in-the-air maneuvering, with the game sequestering the ability to manipulate your vehicle with supernatural capacity. While the game also give gamers the ability to stunt, pulling off tricks offers no actual benefit during races, which is probably why the game fails to even mention their inclusion.
Other than any lack of requisite daredevilry, sprinting through Supercross’ selection of seventeen tracks is enjoyable, with higher difficulties settings offering some tense and tough competition. Like any racer, the game demands track memorization, so riders can float along the top of whoops and avoid casing a jump. Agreeably, Rainbow really accentuates the difference between its two and four-wheeled machines. Bikes offer a bit more grip and are probably well suited for newcomers, while more experienced racers will appreciate the challenge of keeping their powerful quads from careening through the soft barriers.
At times, your AI opponents can act a bit ditzy, missing simple jumps and careening off-course (until they are jarringly reset). Players who tire of these competitors can jump online for events that can accommodate up to twelve participants. Pleasingly, online performance provided reliable, with matchmaking quickly ushering a pool of players into a match, while heats exhibited a minimum of lag.
Visually, MX vs. ATV Supercross is competent, with all the fundamentals of motocross agreeably rendered. One of the title’s best visual effects is the way a rider’s suit ripples in the wind, helping to convey the game’s sense of speed. Although wipeouts betray the game’s sense of authenticity, they are incredibly enjoyable to watch, as ragdoll physics catapult riders into spine-splintering animations. Elsewhere, bike, quads, and riders are all nicely drawn, and the game’s tracks show some impressive texturing. Sonically, Supercross’ combination of generic metal and dubstep attempts to establish a rousing cadence, but is largely forgettable.
Although MX vs. ATV Supercross isn’t revolutionary, there’s no denying that the game is a rousing, off-road racer. Sure, amenities beyond upgrades might be sparse, but Supercross captures the fundamentals, which is critical condition for the genre. Any other transgressions are diminished by the title’s reduced, thirty dollar MSRP. With an entry fee that affordable, devotees of dirt-based racing might want to consider a purchase.
MX vs. ATV Supercross was played on the Xbox 360 with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Publisher: Nordic Games
Release date: October 26th, 2014