With high-profile games such as MotorStorm and Dirt already released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the bar has been raised for recent off-road racing games. Rainbow Studios' MX vs. ATV Untamed feels a lot like previous entries in the MX vs. ATV series and, as a result, doesn't meet that same standard of quality. Nevertheless, despite its problems, Untamed manages to be a worthwhile and jam-packed off-road racing experience.
With a huge assortment of vehicles, you're bound to find a ride you like in Untamed.
As with previous versions of the MX vs. ATV series, Untamed tosses in a mess of rip-snorting off-road vehicles your way: everything from your standard MX bikes and ATV quad racers, to dune buggies, monster trucks, and even pocket bikes. The different vehicles have their handling quirks--for example, MX bikes are more nimble but less stable than ATVs --but all of the vehicles are governed by Untamed's fast-and-loose take on physics. The result are vehicles that are able to make epic jumps, turn and twist in midair, and, if you're careful, land with four wheels on the ground and minimal damage to vehicle or rider.
However, landing those jumps can be a dicey prospect. When tackling the largest jumps in the game, you never really know for sure when or if your rider is going to be eating a mouthful of dirt after a nasty-looking crash. Of course, part of this is a result of the game's rhythm-racing concept, in which the player is required to preload jumps by pulling back on the left analog stick and pushing forward at the lip of the jump to add extra height and distance to the jump. Learning when and where you need to preload is one of the skills required for making your way through the game. Unfortunately, Untamed is inconsistent in its approach here. Often what seems to be a perfect approach for a landing will result in a painful-looking and time-wasting spill.
As a result, gameplay in Untamed is an odd mix; the game encourages players to pull off massive jumps and chain together continuous trick combos but, because of the touchy physics, it often seems as if the game is fighting itself, preventing the player from landing those tricks. This is most pointedly felt in the freestyle events in the game's huge X-Cross Tournament single-player mode. The X-Cross Tournament will have you driving every type of vehicle in the game and playing in practically every single mode available as you make your way through a linear tournament.
Unlike the race modes that make up the majority of the X-Cross Tournament, the freestyle events are solely trick-based. Here, racking up trick points is the goal and, unlike the rest of the mode, the game's arcade physics seem bent on preventing you from succeeding at, or indeed enjoying, these freestyle events at all. One peculiar quirk of the X-Cross Tournament is that you can't restart an event once you've begun it, so if you fall behind quickly, you'll still need to finish the event completely before going back and trying again.