The MX vs ATV franchise has been a somewhat niche, yet charming franchise since the 6th generation of consoles, rarely giving us the best graphics or most immersive driving models but certainly a lot of fun races on bikes, quads and ATVs. How does this franchise hold up three generations later? Find out in our review for MX vs ATV Legends, tested on Xbox Series X!
Ready, set, go!
The game, frankly, gives off a rather poor early impression, when the first presentation videos showing around what the game is all about all run at like 15 frames per second for some reason. Surely a glitch and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t fixed in a patch around launch, but that leads us to driving around chasing tutorials and dialogues in an open ranch with very little care for environmental detail or flow. Exploring this small open world-ish area feels like an afterthought, the game’s meat is to be found in the races. Those, however, are not without their own set of issues.
Players will probably want to begin their adventure in MX vs ATV Legends by tackling the career mode, which allows players to customize their racer and their vehicles that, for some reason, all display the exact same performance ratings despite driving rather differently. Aside from painting the various parts of the body, players can buy new exhausts, different rims, coloured handles and much more. Unfortunately, the game constantly freezes for a few seconds when loading an item, and I even encountered multiple crashes while applying some customization. As such, I ultimately elected not to change the default designs of my rides, awaiting a patch that makes the experience of applying my own style a lot less frustrating.
Three styles, three levels of polish
As fans of the franchise know, and with the name of the game heavily emphasizing on said feature, MX vs ATV games offer a decent variety of vehicles to use, starting from the motocross bikes all the way to quads and ATVs – or UTVs, in Legends’ case. Clearly, riding on two tight wheels is not at all the same as doing so on four wide ones, as such the gameplay drastically changes from one kind of ride to another. I won’t deny that I generally prefer car-based racers as opposed to bike ones, so it’s probably not surprising that I find myself more comfortable with quads and UTVs, but the game’s level of polish and optimization is vastly uneven between them.
Bikes offer the deepest of gameplay loops of the three, with players having to manage their body weigth, mid-air rotations and jumps masterfully to not only mantain a good flow, but making sure that the tracks full of ramps, jumps and bumps don’t result in nasty falls. The animations here are really choppy however, with opponents’ movements seemingly missing frames and looking like something out of a stop motion video. Also, the AI here is tough as nails even on the standard settings. Then we move towards the quads, which are extremely agile and easy to manage, with the AI also posing far less of a threat. Lastly, UTVs feel the easiest to use, as accelerating through tight muddy pathways is surprisingly easy, but not for the AI who, on the medium difficulty, literally lap half as slow as the player. And I mean the word literally: on one even that took me just under 5 minutes, the 2nd placed rider took almost 10 minutes to reach the end. What an uneven AI balance…
After the career
The career is therefore a rather unbalanced series of events, where it feels like players need to sweat through some oddly difficult MX races where the AI alternates between stupid errors and ridiculously fast progress, only to then be rewarded by the unlock of new quad and ATV events which are not only more fun but also a lot easier. Career mode isn’t all there is to the game however, as players can of course use any vehicle over any course and all available game modes freely, both locally and online.
Speaking of playing together with others, MX vs ATV offers a solid two player split-screen option, though the performance there is certainly uneven. If the game’s visual assets already felt a bit off in single player, such as the aforementioned stop motion animations and the crowd being flickery, even the framerate takes a hit when dividing the screen into two for twice the players. Alternatively, we can tackle the online modes that pit up to 16 players against each other. As is often the case for pre-launch review windows, this isn’t something we were able to test out however. And I almost forgot to mention one of the game’s few true strenghts: a not particularly packed, but a very well selected licensed soundtrack, including recent greats like Poppy, Meg Myers, Sumo Cyco, with even slightly older names like Asking Alexandria and classics like The Smashing Pumpkins. Pretty banging, I must say.
So what happened here?
On paper, MX vs ATV Legends could satisfy the needs of a niche of racing fans, but the lack of budget isn’t the biggest issue, but the fact that most things feel simply unfinished. The driving model is often unpredictable, the graphics are glitchy, the AI goes from godlike to newcomer from one event to another, the menus often don’t work properly and, in fact, about half the times I tried loading in an event (with the game’s already lengthy loading times, even on Xbox Series X), the game would simply crash to the dashboard. Perhaps the funniest issue is how on some tracks, players can cut half the track by skipping jumps and even the AI is aware of this and abuses it tremendously, while on others the game resets the players for leaving the track by a few inches. Inconsistency is the name of the game.
So can I honestly recommend MX vs ATV Legends in its current state? Not really. The motocross bike races are being done better by the competition, the 4-wheeled vehicles are pretty smooth to drive but the game’s general inconsistency still makes them less fun than they should be, and at this point in time there’s just way too many technical issues, inconsistencies, AI woes and design flaws. It’s already a relatively low budget racer with a quite inviting pricepoint too, but that can’t become an excuse for the launch of a product that simply appears to be unfinished.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC (Steam)|
|Release Date||June 28th, 2022|
|Rated||ESRB E for Everyone, PEGI 3|