Reflex isn’t the first motorcross title under the MX vs Atv brand name to make it to the Playstation 3, but a quick look comparing it with the covers of the other game might give you the impression that they tried to create something a little more adventurous in this title. Firing up the game is the true testament of it’s calibre, a pretty cover a great game does not make.
Having started almost from scratch to create this iteration, Rainbow Studios have gone back to the root of how you control the rider, and how he/she interacts with the environment and how it reacts back. There are a lot of new features in this portion of the game that deserve a mention, terrain deformation, independent rider body control, and an impressive physics system. The gameplay however, can often be lost in such a flurry of new additions to an existing franchise, Reflex does not suffer in this area and off road racing fans can rest a little easy knowing that it is a solid step up from the previous releases.
Realism is a strange concept in videogames, sometimes you want it, and other times you don’t want pure fantasy. MX vs ATV allows for escapism via realistic mechanics combined with the ability to do things most of us will never come close to performing in real life. Yes, I can ride a motorbike, but no, I wouldn’t survive trying to make a 15m jump at 60kmph, death would be swift and brutal, I expect it would make a fantastic YouTube clip, but it is not something that will be happening in the foreseeable future.
Reflex is both accessible and incredibly deep through it’s new control system, a four year old can play it quite comfortably, while an older more grizzled gamer will find comfort in the challenge that lays within the experience. The left thumbstick controls the steering/bike, while the right sees you manoeuvring the riders weight to further increase the agility during races. Leaning back gives more traction, left and right assist in making swift corners or sweeping turns. The rider control comes into play while landing jumps, you need to tap the rider into the proper position if you have taken a heavy landing or the bike is getting a little out of control, the prompt appears on the screen and if followed you continue on your way, if not, face meets dirt.
The addition of terrain deformation is a bit of a mixed bag, it’s a great step forward towards interactive and realistic tracks, it does however make for some random moments of insanity with the amount of impact that it can have. A bike can easily gouge out a rut the depth of half a wheel which will then cause someone else’s rear wheel to snap out to the side while cornering, it’s a very extreme example of what real deformation happens in the real world equivalent.
Tournaments and races are structured in a style very similar to Motorstorm 2, it’s simple and effective. Races and tournaments are unlocked as you progress through the game, elimination races are mixed in with supercross and time runs and there are also open world challenges with have silly exploration medals for finding obscurely placed flags (the internet was my friend in this instance). Nothing incredibly exciting in this area, but it’s more about what you do on these tracks and races, how much you enjoy the getting from point A to point B.
The loading times, when getting a race ready, would be incredibly tedious were it not for the loading playable arena waiting area, instead it was actually a very fun part of the game. Once the track is loaded it can be started instantly, a must have feature for someone like myself. The draw distance of textures is quite obvious while playing in the open world maps, pop up also occurs at times. I don’t however remember any frame rate issues and the amount of detail is satisfyingly accurate, there wasn’t a single visual element that was severe enough to spoil the experience.
Offering a more technical experience than Motorstorm, and more rounded than Pure, Reflex is hard to beat. Four different varieties of vehicles, lots of tracks, online and offline, there’s not much left wanting. It’s a shame that this might get passed over simply because it released in the same year was a heavy hitting race title like Forza. Would definitely recommend.