I’ve never been much of a motocross gaming fan. Honestly, my exposure to the genre pretty much starts and ends with Excitebike. Maybe that makes me unqualified to review MX vs. ATV Alive. But I like to think in terms of the cup being half full — with no prior experience, it wouldn't take much for me to find enjoyment out of a contemporary MX game. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to realize MX vs. ATV Alive clearly lives in a cup half empty type of world.
There just isn’t much variety in gameplay options in MX vs. ATV Alive. Single player is not a story-driven affair, where you move up the ranks of the motocross elite. Instead, single player is essentially an arcade mode, where you’ll participate in individual races to earn medals and experience points, which go towards unlocking new gear for your racer and new parts for your bike. The unfortunate thing about single player is there's no way to go about doing it without it feeling like a complete grind.
When you first boot up the game you have access to four tracks — two short, two long — and two freestyle practice courses. You don't unlock any more courses until you reach level 10. Therefore, you're going to be playing the same courses over and over for hours (even on the easier difficulty levels) to unlock a handful of new tracks. Then the process repeats until you get to the final tier of courses at level 25. To further prove that there is nothing connecting each event together, you're spit back to the game's main menu after every race.
Multiplayer doesn’t fair much better, I’m afraid. Options are limited to the difficulty of your opponents, and what you want to ride on. You pick these two options and then you’re thrown into a match, or sent into a freestyle lobby to wait for people to join. There is the option to create your own private session, where you can determine exactly where races are held and how many laps they are, but this requires that you know a bunch of people with the game.
The monotonous structure of MX vs. ATV Alive is a shame because the core gameplay is rather fun and shockingly complex. The game has an interesting take on how you control your rider; you use the Left Stick to steer, the Right Stick to control balance and the LB for the clutch. It’s a system that demands practice to completely master. But once you do, you’ll be flying around turns and hitting jumps at the correct angles like a pro.
MX vs. ATV Alive does provide race goals for incentive to keep playing; however, some of these goals take an insane commitment to complete. With how light MX vs. ATV Alive is for options, I truthfully can't see anyone sticking around long enough to finish some of the third-tier race goal challenges.
Finally, I want to specifically call out the game’s soundtrack. Much like MX vs. ATV’s structure, the soundtrack is droningly repetitive. I felt like I was hearing the same three songs on repeat. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn specific tracks off in the options menu. You're better off putting your own music on your hard-drive, preferably hard music to fit the tone and scene.
If MX vs. ATV Alive was a $15 downloadable title, I could see the draw in picking it up. But as a $40 retail game, not so much. There just isn’t enough variety to the gameplay in MX vs. ATV Alive. Fans of this series might love what Alive has to offer, but newcomers, especially those not heavily invested in the MX or ATV scene, will quickly be bored by the game’s lack of depth.