“Do not imitate the riding or movements shown in this game,” MX vs. ATV Legends proclaims boldly on its load screens. And after the first of many emergency ward-filling accidents, you’ll understand why.
Dirt bike riders are a different breed, and much like your avatar in this game, they don’t seem to have their safety switch turned on. Big jumps, bigger landings, and riding dirt specialised vehicles at lightspeed across angles that shouldn’t be physically possible, are just some of the many ways to crash and burn in MX vs. ATV Legends. Luckily, your internal organs and multiple appendages won’t have to suffer for the mistakes of your virtual body.
You can choose to ride Motocross (MX) bikes, thrash around on four-wheeler ATVs, or even enjoy the bouncy car spectacular, the MTV (basically an ATV with a roof). Each vehicle presents a slightly different challenge and a unique way to enjoy MX vs. ATV Legends. While the ATVs and MTVs can be a lot of fun to explore the open world environments, they are nigh on impossible to race with. Where the AI in MX races doesn’t really knock you about, in the four-wheel races, they see you as an obstacle blocking their perfect racing line and almost go out of their way to PIT manoeuvre you into oblivion.
One of the first things you will notice as you hurtle your pre-corpse around the game is that the physics are overly bouncy. It leans into an arcade style of racing which can be a little weird to get used to at first – especially when landing from big jumps where the margins for landing safely (and most importantly quickly) are remarkably close to the point where you completely wipe out. The penalty for putting your face three feet into the side of a dirt pile the size of your kitchen is incredibly steep, too. You’ll very slowly be reset back to the middle of the track at a dead stop, which can hurt even more if you’re on a slope as you’ll start rolling backwards almost immediately. It’s about as fun as it sounds.
MX vs. ATV Legends is competitive, but only in the sense that the AI is lethally consistent, so it puts the pressure back on your riding style to walk away with the wins. Consistency is the key here. You don’t even need to be outrageously fast to win, you start by not falling off and already you’re on track to beating 50 per cent of the field. Then you add in jump timing to maximise the track flow and the results start taking care of themselves. There’s a handy supply of tools at your disposal which will let you ride to your own limits. You don’t have to use everything they teach you in game, but eventually you’ll find a reason to try something new, and it may just change the way you race.
“One of the first things you will notice as you hurtle your pre-corpse around the game is that the physics are overly bouncy.”
Career mode has you racing a variety of tracks tussling for points with the other racers. Wins gain you fans and sponsors, and give you access to better bikes, better tracks, and more money to purchase upgradeable parts. There are a number of challenging tracks on offer too, not just the standard looped supercross style events, but also lengthy trail runs, which will have you navigating some poorly identified dirt tracks across the sprawling map space in a scrambling race to the finish that will test your orienteering skills.
You can customise your rides with different parts to suit your riding style. Changing your brakes or upgrading your suspension give you a boost in some areas and a decrease in others. And while there are a few pieces that you can change, it won’t take long until you find a set-up that works for you.
Free ride mode is also a heap of fun, opening up large maps that you can explore without having to bump shoulders with 20 other riders. You’ll be able to explore your favourite tracks, or just turn dirt into dust as you chew up the countryside in search of a good view, or just to blow off some steam. It’s a much more zen-like way to approach MX vs. ATV Legends, and it can be incredibly relaxing. There are some collectibles to find, usually at the end of some sort of death-defying jump, but it would’ve been nice to see some more open world activities to occupy your time.
There are some minor hiccups when the music (in this heavily alternative punk rock influenced soundtrack) cuts in and out during racing. Sometimes you’ll barely notice it’s playing, other times it cuts over everything else, including the engine noise, for no apparent reason. There are a few other technical issues that can disrupt an otherwise fun experience, but if your goal here is to immerse yourself in the MX vs. ATV world, you won’t mind them at all. Plus, they’ll likely be eradicated via updates.
MX vs. ATV Legends is a fun hop, skip and jump into the wacky world of giant knobbly tyres, mounds of dirt as big as your house, and spectacular crashes. Fast races and open maps for exploring the boundaries of gravity make for genuine fun, and a worthy addition to the series.
MX vs ATV Legends is available July 1 on PS5, Xbox and PS4.