Sep 23, 2020
  • Release Date (NA): September 1, 2020
  • Release Date (EU): September 1, 2020
  • Publisher: THQ Nordic
  • Developer: Rainbow Studios
  • Genres: Racing
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
  • Also For: Computer, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
MX vs ATV is a game series that has endured since 2005, but is it worth your time and money on Nintendo's latest portable?
Ben Sellwood

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MX vs ATV All Out blasts out the gate with some pretty funky stats and certainly gears you up for one hell of a ride. The game features a vast open-world to master stunts and explore for events to compete in, upgrading and tweaking parts to customise performance, a showroom to store your customized vehicles, various modes such as Supercross, Nationals, Opencross, Waypoint, and Tag, a banging soundtrack which includes artists such as the Offspring, and it also comes bundled with 2 player split-screen and 8 player online modes (however, other formats get the rambunctious luxury of 16 players online madness).

While this sounds great on paper, I'm going to cut to the chase and give it to you straight. The first, and the most glaring, issue is that the engine is so damned bad. The fabric of the game is spoiled, and almost any chance of extracting any fun out of this title is instantly marred. To add insult to injury the graphics and sounds are just horribly lacklustre, and incredibly dull to experience. In order to make this bland game's review less... bland... I'm going to turn review etiquette on its head, and go through each and every aggravation in alphabetical order, just because it is somehow more cathartic for me to hammer into my keyboard:

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1) A.I.: Erratic. Make one mistake and you're last. Overcompensate for a corner too much and you'll stop dead, letting your artificial competitors breeze past you. At least if you play genuinely well you aren't forced to battle rubber banded A.I. on your tail, if you accrue a lead you get to keep it as long as you don't mess up. The spanner in the works here is that sometimes you will encounter easy A.I. characters on one track and rock hard A.I. for the same character on another. It's a mixed bag whether you will speed to victory or have a struggle on your hands. Thankfully you can restart the race and try again if you feel you're getting unreasonably whooped.

2) Bad Performance: Everything is rendered in an extremely very low level of detail. I guess it is an obvious decision made by the developers to get the maximum performance possible. I'll be honest, this is one of the worst games I have witnessed on the Switch because everything seems to be constantly moving or juddering due to lack of straight edges and weird clipping. I believe that absolutely no anti-aliasing is used throughout, so patterned objects, like stripy metal gates and fences, appear to move and tear along what should be straight lines while they're transforming in scale and perspective.

3) Camera Issues: A plague on this title. It appears to jerk backwards every few frames as if it's trying to recenter your rider on the screen. Going into settings and turning camera shake on seemed to ironically smooth this out, but it was incredibly jarring to look at from the second you start the game. You have several views to choose from, with the minus button controlling that, but the right stick operates your rider's weight distribution, so you can't turn your camera around mid-game to look around you. Another incredible peeve comes from the camera-related photo mode. If you pull some sick tricks and manage to hit pause mid-move, you can access the photo mode and take a snap of your best flex. It's actually decent to observe your rider frozen in time, with some funky multi-iris lens flares thrown in, until you go to resume play. See, the camera neither resets position nor gives you a second or two to adjust yourself for landing. My pro tip is to expect a dramatically OTT crash directly after resuming the photo mode unless you can remember exactly which direction you were pointing or you managed to get major hangtime in order to have any semblance of sticking the landing. More often than not, I ate dirt.

4) Draw Distance: Textures and layered details render just a few feet in front of your rider. As a result, swathes of grass emerges almost beneath you, as if by magic, and it looks like you're trying to outrun the planet while it recarpets every inch of where ever the heck you think you're going. In the distance, you can largely see everything ahead of you, but it becomes massively off-putting when a checkpoint or tree's canopy appears out of nowhere while you're concentrating on your cornering.

5) Framerate: It's plain ridiculous. I had to stop "playing" MX vs ATV All Out in handheld mode as I thought my Switch's GPU was on the fritz. It turned out that the framerate is horrendously bad in portable and not much better in docked mode. At least docked you can see what's going on better in a comparatively reasonable amount of frames per second, but you still get a weird jerky frame feeling no matter which orientation you opt for. I can't really understand why this game chugs the way it does--there isn't all that much going on to cause this.

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6) In-game Purchases: They're everywhere. Considering this is meant to be a £39.99 game you would have thought that most of the content would be on the cartridge. Turns out the base game install is 7.1gb and the developers chose to paywall a huge portion of the game's tracks and vehicles as DLC. Given that the DLC tracks are at the top of the listings, it makes me wonder why they didn't at least shuffle the track order to make the player think that they had the first selection available and that later tracks were perhaps an afterthought and by definition "additional content". Instead, you feel short-changed from the get-go, having to scroll through heaps of stuff you can't even play with until you part with more money.

7) Lack of Visual Variety: A.T.V., or All-Terrain Vehicle, suggests multiple terrains may be used to demonstrate the versatility of them in-game. There appears to be a clutch of rather drab woodland or sandy beach-type environments with a heap of hay-bale tracks and ramps dotted about over them, or indoor arenas, which were used for the most exhilarating events. I never witnessed mud, or snow, or anything majorly extreme, and there was very little variety in how you have to compensate for adverse conditions. With very little dirt, or dust kicking up, there isn't a lot of action going on on-screen to layer in the excitement. An effect like Wave Race's drips on the screen, or a build-up of dusty dirt over time would have elevated this titles interactivity. There are no dramatic lighting, reflections, particle or weather effects. I imagine that crazy scene ripping tornados, lightning and rain, even snow, could have given this game some real wow factor in the looks department.

8) Loading Times: Laboured. Given the sparsity and lack of layered effects, I at least hoped for snappy loading. What THQ has done is brought back the loading times I was used to on PSX and planted them firmly into a media with no moving parts. Incredible.

9) Multiplayer: A pain to even set up! After changing grip order to single Joy-con in the settings, I went to Arcade then pressed Y to enable player 2 as it told me to on the screen. The change grip order screen reappears and asks you to press the 2 shoulder buttons of the Joy-con you want to use, so I did and it changed my P1 Joy-con to now be the right Joy-con, so now with the Right Joy-con as P1 I pressed the Y button to activate player 2. This went on for about four needless changes, and all of a sudden both Joy-con showed up in the in-game change grip order screen, and I could finally try two players! During this entire process, the BGM was weird 5-second looping snippets of nature sounds, no thumping soundtrack to gear you up for multiplayer mayhem.

10) Music: Speaking of, music in general just does nothing for this title. It's either been compressed to high heaven or it has been mastered really badly. Everything about it is flat and unengaging. I was ultra pumped to go all out with "All I Want" by the Offspring, however, it just had no thump or energy and honestly pulled my general demeanour down. Other artists included in MX vs ATV All Out include Torche, Lettuce, Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo. None of these tracks seem to hit the spot in comparison to the rather mundane action.

11) Physics and Rag Doll: These are a great idea, but why does the character self-right themselves after every smash? It feels like the devs never took the time to think if they should resolve rigid body orientation after a crash scenario: they just did it anyway. The resulting sequence, even after what should be a jaw-droppingly huge scale crash of incredible carnage, is a weird little physics-based animation of a man who would have no whole bones left in his body manoeuvring himself around the floor in an effort to get comfy on either his front or back. Another mad science example of physics is that if you drive into a tree at fifty miles per hour, the tree deflects your momentum in an equal and opposite direction and you bounce incredibly unrealistically backwards without your bike succumbing to any sort of damage.

12) Sound Effects: These are quite dreadful. The main MX bike drone honestly sounds like a child blowing a raspberry for the duration of the races. Hitting a tree or trackside object produces a dull clicky-thud sound regardless of how hard you hit it, and hay bails, beach balls, and other movable objects make next to no noise. There is a lack of ambience, a lack of nature, running water, wind; they're all drastically required to build immersion, and a little bird song alone does not compensate for this!

13) Track Deformation: I didn't notice any impact on the terrain at all while using any of the bikes, not while sliding, bumping or crashing. There were no divots left, no trails or carved tracks, just the odd "hole shot" shouted at me every few seconds if I hit a mogul weirdly. I did notice the terrain changing a little with the buggies thanks to the rather awesome chase cam (the use of which during portable play creates a distinct loss of detail on my ATV, namely the suspension vanishes). There is also noticeable and very irregular collision detection causing the vehicles to bobble around and fly off at jaunty angles, defying the laws of gravity, and looking out of place and unrealistic more often than not.

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Well, that concludes my rant, but it segues me nicely into my tiny paragraph of praise. The stunts, tricks and combinations you can create are fun. You have a bit of a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater vibe with the way you can pull a trick while performing a flip or twist and with the ability to make some outrageous air, thanks to borked physics, you can pull together some absolute beasts of a trick run. Finally nailing an unrealistic combo is quite thrilling, but to be honest it only took a few minutes to figure out what I wanted to do, work out the control sequence I would need and then razz up a hill fast enough to pull it all successfully. It's unfortunate that this is essentially a side game, within what is a racing and tuning game, because it's the most fun part to engage with. If they had focussed more on the finer details and scaled back the ambitious yet sparse freeride levels and made a "legacy" edition for the Nintendo Switch then this would all make more sense. As it stands it's just a worthless and awful port.

Overall I can imagine that MX vs ATV All Out probably runs fantastically on the more powerful consoles, but unfortunately, this port has done nothing for the franchise in terms of faithfully delivering an enjoyable experience to this platform. If there was one game I would recommend you to swerve, if you were even considering it, it would be this one. It is simply not worth the money for the botched job that has been done to make it portable and to even get it running on the Nintendo Switch. Steer clear and leave well alone!

Verdict
What We Liked . . . Heaps of events, 6 event types, online and multiplayer modes Lots of tricks and stunts that can be combined together as you wish Plenty of customization options for petrol heads What We Didn't Like . . . Hideous framerate, resolution, graphics and sound Terrible physics, special effects, AI and loading times Too much of the content is paywalled Unintuitive menus that get confusing
3 Presentation
I honestly think this could have been done better. Understandably this is a port of an Xbox One/PS4 title, but the quality is so poor I really wish they hadn't.
3 Gameplay
With the AI being a random chance of being decent or downright unfair, this game doesn't do anything for me. Each race was a slog rather than an exhilarating event, and don't worry disclaimer policy: I will never be able to imitate the riding movements of this game because it's so outlandishly wrong.
5 Lasting Appeal
There is a lot to do and a lot to unlock, but there is the small matter of having to endure the game in order to get there. With a boatload of content locked behind eShop purchases if you genuinely somehow find enjoyment with this title and want to spend even more of your hard-earned on this already £40 game, go ahead.
3
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Apart from chucking together some fierce combos and actually landing a superman-triple-backflip, I really couldn't find much enjoyment in staring at this overly drab flick book of a port. Sure the Switch is underpowered, but this is a real kick in the teeth for fans who would at least want a smooth albeit downgraded "off-road racing and lifestyle experience" on their hybrid console.
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