THQ, if you missed it, has just announced MX vs ATV Reflex
, the next instalment in its licensed off road series set for the PS3, Xbox 360, PSP and DS. I was down at THQ's press event – Gathering of Developers – to take a poke around the new game a couple of days ago and get my mitts on a 360 controller for a little while.
We've got the features of the game pretty well covered in our interview with the game's art director, Ian Wood
, so I won't drag on about them here. For the purposes of my hands-on, the main things to consider were the game's persistent terrain deformation, the painstakingly-rendered art style Ian was keen to point out in the pre hands-on demo and, most importantly, the new, dual analogue control system.
Terrain deformation is the thing on that list most likely to make you yawn at this stage in the console cycle, so I'll get it out of the way. The idea is that tracks you make as you race remain on the track, affecting how it feels. In theory, by the second lap of any race it should be statistically unique. I haven't had a million monkeys sat in front of a million Xboxes, so I can't verify that, but I can say that terrain deformation works
. It's present in MotorStorm
, and I've flogged Pacific Rift
to death, but I never noticed it having such an impact on my races as I did after doing a donut on a snowy, mountainous free ride level on the back of an ATV, then riding right across it. Maybe it had something to do with being punched in the brain with how big a deal the mechanic supposedly is, but it did make a definite difference.
Then we've got the art. Ian had some techy facts about how much detail has gone into the art, but I'm just going to tell you that it's real purdy. The aforementioned mountain environment had mist floating around it that gave the place an almost tangible atmosphere, while the tracks I left in the snow were thoroughly convincing. Similarly, the landscape and track around the motocross race I took part in – Pine Tops – was dense and lush and really easy on the eye.
The thing that has the best chance of setting Reflex
apart from its peers, however, is the dual analogue control. It's specific to the bikes and ATVs, and basically enables a player to control the machine with the left stick and the rider's weight distribution with the right.
In a race, this basically means that just pulling on the left stick gives you a wide turn, while pulling on both in the same direction gives you a much tighter turning arc, even edging you out into a bit of a drift. It works well, adding a more technical element to your turns.
It goes beyond that, however. It also enables you to do something Rainbow Studios calls Wreck Recovery – an important feature, given that one of the complaints about Untamed
was that riders were sent tumbling to fiery doom too easily. If you're heading into a crash, the game points an arrow in the right direction to correct your mistake. If you shift your bodyweight in time, you're spared. It's not a magic, catch-all solution to any kind of crash you can imagine – if a truck lands on you, you're still a meaty pancake. It is, however, a system that should
help players not spend too much time sitting around, waiting to re-spawn. I say 'should', because it probably only helped me about 70% of the time.
I'm prepared to give the mechanic the benefit of the doubt for now for two reasons, however. 1) I didn't get to play for that long and it's not a mechanic I'm familiar with – I expect it to take some getting used to. 2) Sometimes I suck at games.
Finally, the dual analogue mechanic is worked into the stunts system for freestyle events. In a system not dissimilar to skate.
, tricks are pulled with movements of the right stick – it's a logical system, given that that's what's shifting your weight around. There are 45 tricks in total – 90, if you count the fact that they can be performed on either side of your machine. I found it quite, *ahem*, tricky to get to grips with. I spent a lot of time in a broken heap on the floor. I am, however, prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt for now – please see 1) and 2) above.
all seems like a pretty good idea. I want to play more and I want to investigate dual analogue control because I had some of that "fun" stuff that games sometimes provide, and Rainbow looks like it might put MX vs ATV
on the off-road map this time.