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MX vs. ATV Unleashed
Score: 66%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 6
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
MX vs ATV Unleashedís graphics suffer from monotony. The tracks and vehicles that ride over them begin to look the same after a short time of playing. Little variation is present in the riders and their vehicles; customizable clothes and gear are available, but different vehicles just look like they have new paint jobs.

On the other hand, the textures look good, and the physics system allows for some smooth animations. The rag doll physics donít go overboard, and riders crumple to the ground gracefully when knocked off of their vehicles.

The score is a list of hardcore trash. Nickelback, Ozomatli, Papa Roach, and various other hard rock wannabe groups come together to create a list of songs that give the game no style at all. Incomprehensible screams and rhythmically-lacking tunes pour forth from the speakers in an attempt to make you forget that youíre playing a game that isnít worth your time.

MX vs ATV Unleashed is a racing game at heart with tricks and stunts thrown in for good measure. The core is based around dirt bike and ATV racing (hence the name), but there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the vehicles you can use. Monster trucks, golf carts, dune buggies, and even aircraft can be purchased or unlocked and raced for fun or competition.

Despite all the unlockables, different vehicles, and varied tracks, Unleashed is not a fun game to play. The Championship circuits are long and boring, as each track is more or less like the one before it. Little imagination went into them and they blur together quickly. In order to unlock new things and gain credits to shop with, you have to play through the Championship mode. Youíll be randomly challenged by someone, and if you win, you open up that track and get whatever strange vehicle you used on it.

The Single races do little to break up the flow of the indistinguishable tracks in this game. Mountain climbing and gap jumping are fun the first couple times around, but lose their luster quicker than the regular tracks. Getting to fly around in a plane or helicopter is also a cheap thrill that will be short lived in your memory.

A split-screen Multiplayer mode and online capabilities do little to alleviate the pain. Split-screen does make things slightly more interesting than Single Player, and playing Online with a group of other people is always good for a kick. But with the way that Unleashed plays, youíll be hard pressed to enjoy it for more than a moment no matter how many friends you are able to hook up with.

MX vs ATV Unleashed is an easy game to get the hang of. Youíll need to master little more than the gas and brake buttons in order to successfully navigate your way around each track. Winning a race is mostly a matter of staying on the course, but staying in your vehicle helps too. Unfortunately, attempting to do this can be a bit frustrating at times. This is especially bad when you are on the dirt bikes. If another vehicle so much as grazes you while in the air, youíll immediately fall off. Also, trying to gauge what angle you need to land on a jump is difficult, meaning a lot of big air jumps result in crashed vehicles.

Game Mechanics:
MX vs ATV Unleashed isnít the most in-depth racing game out there. The box propaganda claims that it is an ďOff-Road MasterpieceĒ that it is ďUnparalleled by any other racing experience.Ē That last bit may be true, because the game is off on some wild tangent, seeking to please a niche group of off-road enthusiasts by throwing candy coated crap in their faces.

Control over the course of the action in Unleashed can be reduced down to moving the analog stick left or right and hitting the gas button. This is all the control youíll ever need. Beyond the lateral movement aspect of the game, you can try to get huge air on some jumps and perform tricks to earn you more points, a system that would be strictly for show had it not been for the shop where you can spend these points. Performing tricks is a risky, unrewarding act that is unnecessary to win a race.

If you decide to actually try to grab big air on jumps, you also have to learn how to land. Once you are airborne, you can pivot on a three-dimensional axis in order to land flat with the ground. If you donít land the right way, you get to go splat. Itís not so easy trying to figure out the angle of a hill when youíre accelerating towards it, meaning youíll be going splat more often than you think.

MX vs ATV Unleashed isnít the worst off-road game out there, but it sure comes close. All the extra unlockable stuff in the world canít save a game from being this boring. Off-road fans should feel cheated and lied to if they buy into this game. If you want great dirt track racing and other extreme off-roading fun, look elsewhere.

-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

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