MX vs ATV Alive is a bizarre game. This is an era where game developers sometimes tend to make sacrifices on the single player side of things so they can focus on the online multiplayer components of their games. However, none of those games ever force you to play multiplayer the way MX vs ATV Alive does. Don’t get me wrong; the single player modes aren’t locked away, but the way the game levels you up, you will either endlessly grind by replaying the same events over and over, or be forced to hop online.

Getting down and dirty

Getting down and dirty

It’s no secret; MX vs ATV is a franchise in decline, thanks largely to the abysmal MX vs ATV Reflex, the previous game in the series. So to make this game more attractive, THQ has adopted a novel pricing strategy. At Rs 1,499, Alive is cheaper than most new games, but what this means is that it comes with no frills. All you get on the disc is the very core; everything else is sold separately via DLC. It’s just the sort of strategy that a series such as this demands, because no one in their right minds is going to spend Rs 2,499 for an MX vs ATV game anymore.

This new strategy almost works too. Alive succeeds where Reflex failed – the gameplay. This is an off-road racing game, where – as the name suggests – you can choose between dirt bikes and quads/ATVs as your vehicles. As with any good game, controls are easy to pick up, but difficult to master. While simply negotiating turns and overtaking opponents is simple enough, keeping your speed up as you constantly encounter bumps, ditches and big-air jumps is considerably harder, and there are a couple of tools that the game grants you to get a leg up on the competition. The first of these is the clutch, which helps you accelerate off the starting line, out of corners, and while landing jumps. The other is the seat bounce, which allows you go higher and farther off jumps. The problem, however, is that the game doesn’t explain how either of these features are used. Because this is a lower priced game, it doesn’t come with a manual, and strangely, neither is there a manual in-game.

I really shouldn't have had such a heavy lunch

I really shouldn't have had such a heavy lunch

So you’ll have to go to the game’s website and download the PDF version to figure out the controls.
Racing in MX vs ATV Alive is extremely aggressive, and there is frequent contact between riders, especially on the smaller tracks. You’re encouraged to use other racers as barriers and speed breakers, but you’ll find the aggressive AI using you for the same. To ensure that this doesn’t result in frequent, annoying crashes, the game includes the wreck avoidance feature. When you’re about to lose balance and crash, you’ll notice a prompt on screen telling you to push the analog stick in a specific direction. Doing so in time will allow you to stay on course. It works way better than it did in Reflex, and it’s a great way to keep the momentum up in these intense races.

There’s no career mode to speak of; just a bunch of regular lapped races and smaller races on tiny, overlapping circuits, which level you up as you win and earn in-game medals. After around four races, if you’ve performed well, you’ll find yourself at around level 4, and that’s where you’ll hit a wall. Every subsequent race is locked till you’ve reached at least level 10. After that, there’s a free-roam mode that gives you three open environments to muck around in, perform tricks (which aren’t fun to pull off at all), and find hidden secrets. Doing so will also earn you rewards and level you up a little further, but you still won’t reach level 10 from just the single-player modes.

Fog you too

Fog you too

So even if you happen to be the kind who hates interacting with other human beings, you’ll have to either play split-screen multiplayer or head online to level up further and open up the remaining races. Thankfully, your single player level will carry over to the multiplayer, and vice versa, and you also earn XP for playing split-screen. So you’re encouraged to play everything the game has to offer. Except that you aren’t so much encouraged as you are forced. You either play multiplayer, or just be happy replaying those four single player races and free-roam areas over and over. There is another way out, by the way – pay $6 extra and unlock everything. Nice of them to give us that extra option.

No one likes being told what to play and when to play it, but thankfully, the multiplayer is just as fun as the single player, so you won’t mind it that much once you get into it. Even considering that, however, there just isn’t enough content here, and maybe that shouldn’t come as such a surprise from a game that costs a good Rs 1,000 less than others. But had the developers chosen to include more race content rather than the expansive customization options, we’d be a lot happier. The amount of vehicle and player customization, both visual and performance-wise, is quite impressive, but it just feels weird in a game where the actual gameplay content pales in comparison.

Catch me if you can

Catch me if you can

MX vs ATV Alive has surely turned the series around, with fun, aggressive and chaotic off-road racing. It’s a shame that there isn’t enough content to make this a game that we can whole-heartedly recommend, but at Rs 1,499, it isn’t a game that will leave you disappointed either, provided you’re up for both single-player and multiplayer action.

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