May 20, 2024
The latest in the long-running MX series from THQ, does Legends live up to the hype? In some aspects, perhaps. The Finger Guns review:

Extreme sports games may have had their peaks and trough, but the motorsport types have always powered through. Skateboarding, rollerblading, snowboarding… when was the last time you played an Amped game? But motocross games live on, and now MX vs ATV Legends is looking to capitalise on that.

With a rather on-the-nose title, Legends wants to prove that the genre of over the top racing is alive and well. Coupling three types of vehicle (the buggies wouldn’t fit in the title), it’s trying to have its muddy cake and eat it. However, too much cake causes bloat and bits fall apart.

Which, as you’ll find out, is an apt metaphor for a game that doesn’t quite reach the lofty acclaim its title hopes it would. Rev up, release clutch and let’s find out why…

Legend Has It

Whilst it may be somewhat popular in the UK, MX Vs ATX will never reach the heights that it has in America. Maybe it’s because they’ve got more room to hoon around in, who knows? But in terms of framing, Legends is pretty generic in its “all American hero” spiel.

But do you need me to tell you about story in a motocross game? You, the faceless, generic man/woman in the saddle, are going to be the best there ever was. Starting at the bottom on the local circuit, soon you’ll be rising high and becoming the titular legend and… that’s it. Not that that’s meant to sound derisive, it’s just that plot in a motocross game isn’t really that important.

What you really want to know is whether the racing, be it on bike, quad or buggy, is any good or not…

Two Wheels or Four, What’s It To Be?

Personally, I haven’t kept up with THQ’s MX series since the likes of Superfly twenty years ago. Outside of that series, the last motocross game I’ve played was MXGP 2020 back in 2020 (surprisingly). So, I can’t give you an in-depth look at the world of mud-racing. What I can do, mind, is give you an outsider’s look at whether it’s a good racer or not.

Well, that’s a loaded question. The motorbikes are fun, especially when you get the hang of how track racing and timing jumps works. The ATV’s are also a blast, offering a different experience of off-road racing (not leaning into corners and the like), to equal levels of fun. The UTV’s, the off-road buggies are, unfortunately, absolutely terrible to play with.

It’s like Rainbow put a lot of thought into bikes and quads, but just gave up when it came to the utility task vehicles. The term “floaty” feels particularly apt, but I’d lean more towards “downright bloody awful”. The mix between the three is normally up to the player (more on that later), unlike Dirt which used to force you into certain race styles, but at some stage, you will have to use them.

Finding The Groove

There are two types of races in MX vs ATV Legends: track racing and trails. The former is the more common, based on laps and whatnot, whilst the latter is point-to-point racing. Track racing took a while to get used to, as I’m so out of the loop when it comes to racing lines and dips/jumps in motocross games. The trial racing, however, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Spaced out around ten checkpoints, courses range from mountain tracks to beach fronts, offering up natural-ish lines and hazards to avoid. I saw better results that I did in the lapped events, damned if I know why I was better at it. The game really came to life for me when it came to these events, normally offering up three to four races in an event.

The track racing is also varied, in as much that lapped based motocross races can. I’ve never been great at these races, often mistiming a corner and cutting too early, or hitting the wrong jump point and landing short. Those corrugated/bumpy sections that you need to lean back on? I will never get the rhythm of that down.

Fortunately, the game does have some tips to teach you into at least trying to be good at it.

Clutch’d It

Far be it for me to teach you how a racing game works. You accelerate, brake and corner just as you would in any other game with locomotion and a lap count. In that regard, MX vs ATV Legends is no different, no matter which type of vehicle you’re in. The only real difference that this game offers, against others, is utilising the clutch to help pull out of corners quicker.

The mechanic is pretty simple: L1 (on PS5) is the clutch, holding it down engages it. What this means, in layman’s terms, is the engine will rev but won’t be translated into drive force. What this means in here is if you hold it whilst in a corner, you can “store” revs in as you bank into a turn. Letting go, at the right time, will translate that into a short term boost, if you will. That explanation is as basic as I could make it, I don’t know engine mechanics.

When I say boost, don’t think Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. It’s more a little trick to keep you coming out of corners without slowing down too much. The same can be said for jumps, if you can time it right. Pair it with leaning back on a ramp before pressing forward at the apex, and there’s a momentum mechanic that can see you streaking ahead.

I, personally, struggled with it on the MX track racing. Point-to-point didn’t really utilise it with its long stretches, and the ATV’s are powerful enough to not really need it. But don’t let my failings put you off; on the odd occasion I got the hang of it, it did work.

Doing It For The Likes

In terms of career progression, being the main gameplay tenet here, there isn’t a massive variety here. Races are laid out like a calendar/weekly schedule of upcoming events, ensuing you systematically make your way through them. That part’s pretty standard.

What isn’t normally standard, but seems to tie in with this whole “integrated [fake] social media life” thing is the fan system. Every race sees players net new fans. The higher the position, the more fans. But the caveat is that some events will be locked out until the prerequisite amount of fans is hit.

So you could be doing alright in ATV, but you need to race some bike or UTV events to unlock the next available quad courses. It’s nice in that it encourages (read: forces) you to vary it up a bit, but it can derail the momentum of one discipline. Yet if you’re constantly smashing golds, be it from skill or lower difficulty, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

Mud and Rainbows

You might be wondering why it’s taken me this long to talk about how MX vs ATV Legends looks? Well, if you need me to summarise: mostly brown. It’s a motocross game, not one of tarmac straights and pit stops. We’re all furrowed dirt lines, ramps and trees that magically get in the way when you least expect it here.

That’s not to say it’s ugly, it’s just motocross. Rainbow have made some nice tweaks though, as jerseys do ruffle in the wind and mud splats as you slide through it. But that’s where the niceness ends, sadly.

In my time with it, I had some insanely awful track pop-in, which ruins a race when you can see the track sorting itself out just before you hit it. The menu itself kept glitching out on the back and forth between screens, which was, without exaggerating, giving me a headache at times.

The game had three updates in that time, both pre and post release date, and I didn’t see any improvement with it. It’s a shame, as with the right spit and polish Legends could look incredible. But the roughness, outside of the mud and rocks, really just let the experience down.

No Tricks?

The other aspect that really disappointed me with Legends is the lack of trick modes. Maybe it’s because I’m a relic, hanging on to the memory of MX Superfly and Freekstyle (now that’s an obscure one) but I like tricks in a motocross game. Outside of being able to flip, spin and occasionally tail whip, there’s nothing. No Superman’s, coffins, elaborate aerial gymnastics… nowt.

Which as I say, maybe it’s me not getting the memo that this is “serious racing” now, but it would have made it more fun. Again, this is purely subjective, because some players might just like the two race types with three different vehicles. But for me, especially in a game carrying THQ’s MX brand, I was a bit disappointment.

The other disappointment comes from the lack of features outside of racing. The garage is a laugh, limited to a few branded vehicles or cosmetic upgrades to buy. Or, if you’re lucky, you win some. But there’s no tuning, despite what the option says. It’s literally moving to the next upgrade level of an item and equipping it.

Which, for a sim-like racing game, seems a bit lite. Do you want to be a serious racer, or an arcade-style affair, MX vs ATV Legends? The disjointed approach isn’t really swinging it for me.

Get That Holeshot

On the whole, then, MX vs ATV Legends is going to get a tentative recommendation from me. There are aspects I like, such as the aforementioned trials races across bikes and quads. I massively enjoyed the first person camera, which hangs just above the handlebars, for that slight sense of immersion. The other angles all made it seem like the rider was too stiff and rigid, but FPV is a game-changer.

Sadly, it’s just a bit too bare bones outside of racing. Upgrading and buying new vehicles just feels token, rather than something to invest time in. Even the multiplayer is basic: find lobby or make your own, choose a race and type, away you go. Not that I’m a massive online player anyway, but still, even I thought it was lacking.

But, if you can look past all that and want something a bit more fun to Milestone’s serious sims, then this will fill that gap. They may patch out the technical issues, like screen tearing between menu screens, but who knows?

Offering up something more lighthearted than a Milestone sim, MX vs ATV Legends does racing competently, be it bike or quad. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the UTV’s, or the game’s complete lack of anything outside out of its racing career modes. It’s certainly one for MX fans, but not for those looking for more content and fun in a mud-racer.

MX vs ATV Legends is available now on PlayStation 4 & 5 (reviewed on latter), Xbox One and Series S|X and PC.

Developer: Rainbow Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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