Games & Tech

Review: MX vs ATV All Out Is a Solid Entry in Rainbow’s Racing Series

Screenshot: MX vs ATV All Out

MX vs ATV All Out is a game with a legacy behind it. In fact, Rainbow, who with THQ Nordic was responsible for all out claims they were the original off road racing team and “pioneers in rider-bike physics.” Though I love arcade racers I haven’t played around as much in offroad games, and my recent explorations into it for reviews have proved mostly maddening. But I did play the origin title of the whole Rainbow offroad/motocross timeline– MX vs. ATV Unleashed, from all the way back in 2005. I got it as a rental, and though I had fun with it, I wasn’t super compelled to keep the game in my lineup long. MX vs ATV All Out gives me a lot of the same vibes that Unleashed did, and it’s simultaneously its strong point and its Achilles heel. 

It’s important to mention that though MX vs ATV All Out is not a new game. It originally came out in 2018 as a rebuilt “evolution of the franchise” to enjoy on consoles and PC and has recently been ported to Nintendo Switch. To its credit, not much has changed with this port, or surprisingly, this title versus that first encounter with Unleashed. It’s got great bike physics, a pretty nice assortment of tracks, a decent amount of customization, user friendly UI, some pretty appropriate racing jams to ride it out to, and enough variety in modes to make it a good bet you’ll find something you really love doing. 

Screenshot: MX vs ATV All Out

One thing I really liked about MX vs. ATV All Out right away was its open world tutorial hub. It gets you on the bike right away, and are dropped right into a free range course you can toy around in aimlessly until you feel like completing the tutorials and events. It’s a great chance to get your feet wet with the feel of the vehicle you’re using, and in an even smarter move by Rainbow and THQ Nordic, you’re not forced to drive from one tutorial or event to another if you don’t want to and can simply select what you’re trying to do from the menu instead if you’re itching to race and dispense with aimless driving.

In MX vs ATV All Out you have a lot of options for how to play. There’s local co-op with two player splitscreen Switch offers up to 8 player online multiplayer. If you’re flying solo like me, a ton of solo modes from multi-event series to single events and more. Race types include Supercross, Nationals, Opencross Freestyle and my favorite, Waypoint, where it doesn’t so much matter how well you can run a clean line on the track as it does that you can actually jump over an entire ridge and land on your feet as you carve your own path through the course to the various checkpoints you need to sail through to claim victory.

Screenshot: MX vs ATV All Out

Tutorials are detailed and introduce you to the main types of races you’ll be able to take on. You’ll start off on the bike, which was a bit of a caution flag for me, as I’ve usually leaned towards a more steady on its feet ATV in these sorts of games, but it turned out the bike is really the way to go, and though the game in some cases requires you to use an ATV or bike only, most events and single races can be completed on either. 

Bikes feel great, and I believe Rainbow when they say that they pioneered bike racing physics. It feels a little skatey at first, but with a few simple upgrades to handling and suspension, you’ll be carving your way around tight corners and landing ridiculous jumps before you know it. As I was failing a bunch of races and figuring things out, I was still having a great time learning to cut clean lines and land stupid jumps I should likely not even be attempting. In fact, the bike physics were so fun on the tracks it started to remind me of one of my favorite games of all time, SSX Tricky. 

Screenshot: MX vs ATV All Out

Unfortunately, ATVs in MX vs ATV All Out don’t inspire favorable comparisons. They’re sluggish, corner like boats and are generally not worth it when you could just as soon take a bike out. I started a second career just to play with the ATVs and found myself very quickly abandoning that idea because it just wasn’t fun despite dumping some hard earned win cash into upgrading my ride much the same way I did my bike, for handling and suspension.

Aside from career option problems and ATVs being mostly a bust in my book, MX vs ATV All Out also features a lot less racing content than I’d expect out of the box.Though I liked the variety of tracks from beach to desert and arenas, a lot of content is locked behind a paywall.

Screenshot: MX vs ATV All Out

 This was especially frustrating when it came to the sort of racing I most enjoyed in MX vs ATV All Out–the Waypoint races. Once I learned the ropes and started having success, Waypoint was my favorite type of race and the one I excelled most at, but after I aced the original series of Waypoint races and went looking for more, I was disappointed to find there were no more I could access without the DLC, and further disappointed to learn that buying the DLC only added one more set of Waypoint races to the mix. 

One of my other major letdowns in my time with MX vs ATV All Out was with its “tricks.” As I mentioned earlier, at its best points, MX vs ATV All Out was giving me some serious 90s boarding game vibes–something I considered a huge plus. So when I realized there were freestyle events and completed the trick tutorial, I was super excited to add some real style to my speed. 

Screenshot: MX vs ATV All Out

And, though the game implies you’ll get some sort of cool points for that in the end the only time that such combos and tricks really matter for anything other than a crowd roar here and there is in the freestyle events themselves, which unfortunately, like the Waypoint races, are few and far between even if you do purchase the DLC. Courses are fun and well thought out, and these races and series are a great time, but I couldn’t help but wish there was a more balanced mix. 

Graphics too are nothing to write home about. And while you could chalk that up to it being a port of a game from 2 years ago, there’s a host of examples of ports that have better polish, including Nintendo’s own Mario Kart that put that excuse to bed. Character models are blocky, making the race babes even cringier, and draw distance is low, though vehicle and rider detail, and even fabric textures are beautiful, which creates a sort of confusing dissonance or uncanny valley kind of feel.

Screenshot: MX vs ATV All Out

For all its problems though, MX vs ATV All Out still manages to be a good time. Track variety, customization options and at least bike controls are excellent, and even if you’re constantly coming in 8th, you’ll make enough money to tinker in the garage and with tuning, and eventually buy higher end vehicles capable of giving you an increasing amount of advantages that will, with any luck help you break into some of the higher difficulty events, earn more money and keep progressing.

MX vs ATV All Out gets the balance between the fun of an arcade racer and the replayability of a more difficult technical racer just right, giving racing game enthusiasts of all kinds a chance to play around and have fun with enough depth of content to manage a middling replayability factor. But, with an imbalance between the titular MX and ATV and a lack of variety in the meat of the base game, even if you just want to waste a few evenings bouncing around dunes and zipping across creeks you might find like me,  it’s not much of an evolution.

MX vs ATV All Out is available now on Nintendo Switch.

 

 

 

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