This game simply isn’t finished. Even after the first post-release patch, there remain fundamental flaws that prevent players from having a good time. This is a shame, as MX vs ATV Legends has some interesting ideas, an open world area, three distinct vehicle types and a vast single-player career.
This is the seventh title in the long-running MX vs ATV series, that started life after combining THQ’s MX games with Sony’s ATV Offroad Fury titles. It features motocross – off-road motorcycle racing, or ‘MX’ – with all-terrain vehicles, also known as quad bikes.
Legends marks an all-new ground-up approach, following 2018’s MX vs ATV All Out, which was met with a largely lukewarm response, to say the least.
Created by Rainbow Studios, the aim is for you to become a champion across multiple disciplines. There’s the aforementioned MX and ATV, but also UTV – a Utility Task Vehicle is a four-wheeled off-road car of sorts, also known as a side-by-side, as it can seat more than one person.
For most of your time in the fictionalised setting, you are racing against AI-controlled rivals with one simple aim: score the most points over a series of races.
Yet the main pull is an open environment, where you can learn, explore, take part in optional activities or unlock collectables. The free ride areas are lush, detailed and sadly, largely a bit pointless.
It serves as your place to complete the tutorials and in-between races you can interact – a static character with on-screen text – with personalities that provide you with new motorcycle parts and well, that’s mostly it.
You don’t ride up to or discover your next career events, for example. They are accessed by the pause menu, which robs the game of vital flow. Simply selecting your next main race from a list just doesn’t have the same allure as finding it within a mountainous region.
When you load up a race, however, the track design has been turned up to 11. There are jumps and then there are MX vs ATV Legends’ jumps. Vast chasms that really amp up the peril.
To execute a landing, you must first leap far enough and to do that pre-loading your rider by pulling back on the analogue sticks is essential. That can lead to a lot of frustration at first, as without a rewind system such as that in contemporary rival Monster Energy Supercross 5, for example, learning each bump, rut and crest of these new tracks can be a challenge.
What compounds the issue is that the game takes an age to reset your bike and rider, to the point where your rivals look to respawn quicker than you. You can manually re-launch, by holding down a button for a few seconds, so you find yourself almost pre-emptively resetting as you know your trajectory is about to end in a faceplant.
When you do smash your bike and rider into the ground, the ragdoll physics are a bit awry, sometimes jittering. It’s neither authentic, nor over-the-top silly, but this strange immersion-breaking middle ground.
Still, at least you can restart a career event, and after a lap or two of working out where you need to pre-load and where to go slow, that’s the best option. Although it must be said, this is only really an issue with the bikes, as the AI programming is wildly inconsistent. On the same difficulty level, you can struggle on two wheels, then boss it on four.
While you may struggle to learn the ropes on the MX races, the circuits are at least diversified, from small, tricky, mud-based venues to vast open sandy affairs. In fact, the environment design, from the set tracks to the free ride environments is this game’s forte – the latter far ahead of other motocross titles’ attempts at large areas.
Strange, then, that the alluring surface design and the vehicles aren’t interacting in the correct fashion at present. Somehow, the physics system makes it feel as if you are skating over the top of the ground, as opposed to the tyres gripping or sinking into it. Even on a supposedly muddy track, the vehicles act as if it’s rock solid, with the suspension animations of an ATV really highlighting how terra firma, tyres and suspension systems aren’t communicating.
Berms don’t seem to affect your bike either. You simply bounce over and around them, as opposed to using them to gain corner speed. Milestone’s MXGP 2021 is far more fluid, and the track character changes how your take each corner. Ultimately, that’s a more satisfying riding experience.
The UTVs are better. Unfortunately, most of the opening hours will be on two wheels and not four and the game crashes hard currently if you select a side-by-side in the open-world setting and pre-patch if you tried to enter their career events.
But even here, the vehicle impacts – and you’ll have more thanks to the UTV’s extra girth and large grids – lack solidity as if they weigh less than a packet of Quavers crisps. The somewhat flawed Overpass from 2020 had more rewarding physics for UTV driving.
On a motocross machine, your rider is more rigid than a Madame Tussauds waxwork. They don’t seem to move, lean or react to bumps in a linear fashion. The arm animation for applying the clutch, for example, seems to act like an on-off switch, as opposed to one humanistic motion.
Simply, you can have a long career mode and varied topography, and heck even some glitches, bugs and game crashes – but the underlying riding and driving experience needs to be rewarding, and I don’t think it is.
Perhaps you look at the yearly Milestone-created MXGP and Supercross dirt bike games and see how they add only minimal features each year, for the most part, and are after a fresh experience.
In that respect, MX vs ATV Legends isn’t quite what you have been seeking. The comparison is particularly pertinent when you consider the game’s first set of paid downloadable content is the officially licenced 2022 AMA Pro Motocross Championship for £15.99/$19.99.
The career progression is decidedly bland too, simply one race after another. You can upgrade your machinery, but it’s not clear enough if you need to. Buying new parts doesn’t add more performance, but tuning those parts does, which seems an unnecessary extra step especially considering you must unlock tuning levels.
The baseline statistics of the unlicenced vehicle line-up all seem to be identical before upgrades, thus robbing the incentive to save up cash and buy a new one and industry-standard features such as a photo mode or replays are both absent.
There is local split-screen multiplayer, however, but the online racing seems to be barren already with us not being able to join a PC lobby since launch.
This brings us back to the fun element. Playing games that aren’t simulators is meant to be a flight of fancy, a break from the norm. When the physics aren’t satisfying, and the career is this ponderous, MX vs ATV Legends simply isn’t smile-inducing enough.
The series has a long and storied history with many loyal fans, and it’s a shame that I don’t think they have a new entry that’s deserving of their fandom. Rainbow Studios also made Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 just last year (interestingly structured in the same way, merging large environments and separate arenas) and I can’t help but feel that Legends needed additional resources and another year of polish before it was released.
There are some of the best tracks seen in motocross racing right here and I like the game’s scope but the lack of riding and driving finesse leaves a nasty aftertaste and it’s this most basic of a requirement that holds it back.
|28th June 2022
|PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
|Best played with