marino's MX Unleashed (Xbox) review

Rainbow Studios Knows Action Sports

You may not recognize the name of Rainbow Studios, but they're the guys behind the ATV Offroad Fury franchise, which has been quite successful.  THQ has gone out and gotten Rainbow to attempt the impossible...make a dirt stuntbike game that doesn't suck.  Let's face it; there are a ton of motocross games out there and pretty much all of them are terrible.  Well, Rainbow Studios succeeded to an extent.  MX Unleashed is easily the best game currently in its genre, but it's not perfect.  The game does have several things going for it though, and surprisingly features several modes of play which make it worth playing.     
 
 
Graphics 
The game's terrain is very similar to ATV Offroad Fury, and that's a good thing.  You can see quite far into the distance and the maps are expansive.  The bike/rider models are superb is detail and design, and the physics of said bikes and riders is more realistic than ever.  And those of you more fortunate than I will be happy to know that the game supports 1080i.  The only drawback is the lack of dynamic lighting that would've greatly improved the detail of the bump mapping that seems to go otherwise unnoticed.  The same lack of lighting also seems to cause a haziness to the overall screen in some situations.     
 
 
Control 
The control has about a 30 minute learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be pulling heel clicker backflips with ease.  As you approach a hill or kicker, you can press down or up to contract your rear and front shocks respectively in preparation for your next trick.  Lean back hard as you reach the top of a kicker and immediately hit forward to throw yourself into a backflip.  It may sound a little technical and complicated but it feels right.  Tricks are executed by combining button presses.  The R Trigger works as a Shift key to give you double the amount of tricks.  It's complex, yet simple.     
 
 
Sound 
So I'm cruising around for about 20 minutes and I'm thinking "Damn, this soundtrack is pretty good!" and then the Chili Peppers' cover of Hendrix from Woodstock '99 comes on and it dawns on me...the game automatically uses your Custom Soundtracks.  Yeah, I'm retarded, but it's a great feature none-the-less.  The game itself features several modern rock tracks, and you can either use those, mix those in with your Custom, or use your Customs exclusively.  As far as the sound effects, they're what you would expect.     
 
 
Replay Value 
The Career mode and Freestyle mode work together to tie all of the game's elements together.  In Career mode you play a more traditional motocross game with races against several other opponents in which you earn points/money to buy new tracks and bikes.  In Freestyle you have objectives to accomplish in the maps that you've unlocked including hitting certain jumps, doing designated stunts based on the scenery, and even competing in a cross-country style race with another type of machine (monster truck, dune buggy, biplane, etc).  So, as you can see, there's a lot ot do in MX Unleashed. 
 
 
Conclusion 
I'm not a huge fan of freestyle motocross, but I watch it during the X-Games.  Let's face it, pulling a backflip or 360° on motorcycle is fuckin' amazing and fun to watch.  MX Unleashed is the first dirt bike title that successfully gave me an enjoyable experience in the MX genre.  Action Sports have some great video games (SSX, Tony Hawk) and MX Unleashed, although it's not quite there yet, is a giant step in the right direction.  Rainbow Studios leaves me quite optimistic about the future of the MX franchise.     
 
 
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the game's release. ***
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