MX vs ATV Alive
For A Game Titled "Alive," It Lives As An Oxymoron
Beginning in 2005 with MX vs ATV Unleashed, Rainbow Studios helped create a franchise based on two existing supercross series, MX and ATV Offroad Fury respectively. In 2011, during the sunset of THQ's bankruptcy, Rainbow Studios released MX vs ATV Alive, the final game under THQ's original run. While the publisher rose from the ashes under THQ Nordic and Rainbow Studios retained its original name, MX vs ATV Alive. While the game would eventually fade into obscurity, in 2022, it became a part of April's Xbox Games With Gold. As the game is free, this means I have to try it out. The joys of having a slow period for release dates on newer titles.
While I'm willing to chalk Truth or Square up as a coincidence for being another THQ title, MX vs ATV Alive highlights a problem with budget titles. Originally, the game's MSRP was $40 which was twenty dollars cheaper than the usual $60 price tag. This was intentional via THQ as the game would launch with limited single-player content yet offer DLC in the future. This was treated as a way to attract a "wider" audience. Those who enjoyed Alive and wanted to buy more premium content could do so in a way similar to most modern "live service models."
A Virtual Paperweight And An Unceremonious End To THQ
There's just one problem with that approach. As THQ folded as a company, so too did part of the game's online connectivity. While I was able to enter an online lobby, confirming multiplayer still exists, the "loads of DLC" were lost in the void. Attempting to enter the menu within the game itself will show a "Connection Issue," meaning a huge chunk of the game is forever missing. "Well, it's okay if the DLC is gone, at least I can still enjoy what the game has to offer," you'd say and you'd be right. If only there was something the game had to offer. THQ took the game's "live service" model and ran with it to their own endzone. Forty bucks at the time gave you a bike, an ATV, four race tracks, and two free ride levels.
There's only a "single-race" mode where you select the AI difficulty and their vehicles and jump into a quick race. At the end of a race, you're given rider experience and vehicle experience albeit a paltry amount. The problem is that the game's content begins to unlock around level 10. That means it takes at least a sizable amount of races to unlock the next track that will ask the same thing from the player until the next threshold. Perhaps this alleviates itself if you play online against others, but not that many people were playing even as a free title.
Preservation Matters To Prevent Situations Like These
I don't think it's possible that THQ knew the severity of their situation that led to their bankruptcy shortly after. Perhaps they felt as if they had a little left in the tank. This business decision didn't prevent the company from tanking and it can be argued that it only caused more problems. Aside from this, how does the game itself play? Confusing. If I can summarize it in one word. MX vs ATV Alive's graphics and aesthetics are spot-on, showing the prowess of Rainbow Studios's darling. The environments and shadows are great, and the textures of the player's clothing are also good. The vehicles feel aggressive and the engine sounds are punchy.
The one thing I struggled with was its controls as there wasn't much of a proper tutorial system. The majority of my time spent was trying to figure out which button did what. Occasionally there would be a tutorial prompt like "Press LB to use the clutch during corners!" but these were few and far in between. I didn't even know how to do air tricks without looking up online and seeing a guide for it. These types of explanations should be included in the game by default. Perhaps this was also a DLC option that was implemented later on?
MX vs ATV Alive Is Better Off Six Feet Under
There are far better games in the MX vs ATV series as well as Rainbow Studios's catalog to even think of considering playing this game. With a peculiar pricing model that wound up on its backside as much as the original publisher did, it's almost symbolic. The only reason I'd recommend this title is that it's, well, free. Xbox Live owners should download it and mess around in two large free-ride areas as you have fun tricking off of sand dunes for an hour then move on to something else.
MX vs ATV Unleashed is a part of Xbox Live's Games With Gold until the end of April.