MTX: Mototrax REVIEW

MTX: Mototrax Review (Xbox)

“MTX Mototrax” is the latest motocross game to be released for the racing oriented gamer. A collaboration between Left Field Productions and Activision; “MTX Mototrax” is going to try and capitalize on the recent praise given to “MX Unleashed”, with the hope of conquering and winning the battle for the best current motocross game.

“MTX Mototrax” has the typical options you would expect from a motocross game. The Exhibition options allow you to try all the different racing modes in the game; from the stunt laden Free Ride, to the racing circuits on either the indoor Supercross tracks, or the outdoor Motocross tracks. There also is a Ghost mode that allows you to run a lap, then try and beat that ‘ghost’ on each successive lap. Doing so gives you a new goal to beat and a new ghost. This works well for practicing, but that’s about it. With the size of the Xbox hard drive, it would have be nice to see these laps saved so you can come back and race against your ghost later, or allow another player to do the same on your Xbox.

If you have creative juices flowing and the Supercross tracks in the game don’t satisfy you, then you are in luck. “MTX Mototrax” includes a very easy to use track editor, called the Dirt Wurx Track Builder. Placing the track pieces is a simple process. When it came to editing what you wanted each track piece to look like, that was a little more difficult, at least initially, but then it became just as easy as laying the track. It is not a free-form editor though, as you have only pre-determined pieces that can be scrolled through and placed in a subsequent spot. Another limitation is that the only type of track that can be created is a Supercross track. Making a large outdoor motocross track is out of the question. Saving and practicing on the tracks is simple and quick to do, which makes editing on the fly fairly easy. This mode probably will not see long-term play solo, but your creations might see some extra long-term play if you have a couple of buddies around.

“MTX Mototrax” offers one thing MX Unleashed did not, and that’s online play. The Playstation 2 version also is online playable, though its features may not be the same. In online play, you can choose to race either of the different types of tracks (motocross or Supercross) or try the free ride modes of either a Freestyle Battle or King of the Hill. There are a few stats kept for those of you that like to see how you match up against others. There are weekly and overall lap records, which are kept per track, mileage records, keeping track of your mileage driven on each track as well as total overall mileage, and then also a total time record which takes into consideration your lowest total time using your best lap times on each of the tracks. From there it adds them up for a composite total. The previous item is very similar to the MotoGP series from THQ in how it keeps track of this. Another page seemingly borrowed from MotoGP is involves how you are able to choose tracks and modes. If you have unlocked them offline, then you can set up a race and use that particular track, otherwise you better hope someone else has that track unlocked already and hosts a race on it, or you wont see it until you earn it.

The last mode of play, which is also the heart of the game, is the Career mode. You start out the career mode by creating a rider (you can also create a rider from the main menu for use in any mode of play.) and assigning the equipment and clothing you wish to wear. Once that has been completed, you are brought to the starting free ride area to start learning and showing off your skills. As you explore the area, you will have tasks you must complete, which earn points that open up more areas. During this, you will enter different classes of events in the Motocross and Supercross series. You will also earn new sponsors, equipment, and new bikes. All of what is done in the career mode is kept track of on your PDA via an email system. The entire interface is setup well and is easy to maneuver through. It’s easy to find out where you want to go next, or see what goals you have accomplished or yet to accomplish. The problem with career mode is that it starts feeling repetitive after a period of time. There are only 16 racing tracks in the game and just a handful of freestyling environments. These environments are not very expansive, either. They have some nice qualities to them but are very short in nature.

Most of the time when you look at the graphics of a title, your concentration is focused on is what is seen in front of you since that is the primary concern of the gamer. With the graphics here, however, the first thing that I noticed were the detailed backgrounds. I was very impressed at some of the features in the background of the tracks. The backgrounds really helped set the tone of the particular track, whether it was the spanning arena or subtle features that are observed while touring around a Supercross track.

The dirt bikes also look good in showing off subtle features while racing, and the first-person perspective is one of the best racing features of the game (I know it is supposed to be realistic - but the helmet in the Supercross races was a little distracting.) The frame rate hums along very nicely 99% of the time. I had just a couple blips where the frame rate dropped, but it was ever so slightly and so brief that it didn’t affect anything at all. The graphics in the game are dark, and it’s a huge disappointment. Some tracks are ok, but some are extremely difficult to race in without turning the brightness up on your television, which is a pain. This doesn’t always help either, as some are just too dark to even make sense of, and the created tracks you make continuously have this problem.

Disappointing as well is the placement of items on your screen. While most of the time it is OK, but when you are in a race, the problem shows up. Every time you switch places with another rider - or sometimes even when you do not - a listing of the racers appears showing that their positions have changed places. This takes up a good third of your screen and can make seeing certain things on the track (barriers, trackside objects, corners) a pain in the neck. If it was a clear type display it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the text is obstructive and directly in your way. It doesn’t just disappear after an instant either. The display usually stays on your screen for a couple seconds. It would be nice if I could just forget about this while racing, but it is just that intrusive. It even gets worse online though the text is slightly smaller, but you also have the gamertag of the other riders above them and everything still just becomes a large cluster of letters on the screen.

Finally someone gets it right. Rap, pop, or hip-hop doesn’t belong in a motocross game, especially one that also has an X-Games feature involved. Hard, head-banging rock and metal are what’s needed and you have that and then some here. Call it a bias - as I am a metal head at heart anyway - but any game that has Static-X, Slipknot, Dope, and Black Label Society in it is has a strong point emphasizing action. The action delivers and the music delivers the action with an exclamation point. The Xbox version does offer custom soundtracks. So if you want your rap, pop, or hip-hop you’re free to listen to it – as long as you have it on your Xbox hard drive, of course.

The rest of the sounds include the typical whine of the dirt bikes, which, when you start upgrading, start to really sound different. This sells the fact that you have a more powerful bike well. Other sounds you will hear are thuds when you run into a barrier, and occasionally you will hear an announcer to introduce a race, and a PA announcer during the races. Outside of that, there is not much else in the way of audio; nor is it really needed to add any more value to the title.

I was initially unimpressed with the riding and racing techniques of “MTX Mototrax”. I felt that it didn’t really replicate the style or the rhythm of dirt bike racing like “MX Unleashed” did. The more I played, however, the more I felt that the statement was very wrong. Initially, while racing the whoops sections made me wonder what the developers were thinking. Every time I ran across one my bike would slow to a crawl while going across, losing very valuable time. Then I decided to actually look at the book - and lo and behold - I have to actually lean the bike back through them. Once this happened, voila! I was blowing the AI out of the water. Which leads me to the next part: the racing is way too easy against the AI. There is no catch-up logic here, which is a good thing, but it can also be bad, as numerous times I would make a mistake being up by fifteen to twenty seconds, and still wouldn’t have anyone catch up to me. This makes for some very uneventful racing in the early goings of your career. It does get harder, but it takes a while to get to that point, and once there though this issue is a forgotten problem. Just be prepared to have a little bit of boredom set in while getting to this point in the game.

The tracks are very well done. The jumps seem very satisfying, and you can get some wicked air on some of them. You will find out while racing that the clutch is your most important friend - along with preloading for jumps. When to use it and how much is key here. Not every jump needs a preload to clear it or the subsequent jumps that may follow. Most of the tracks are laid out very well; where you will definitely need some skill to stay consistent while racing them, and with the races consisting of multiple laps, you will need to get familiar with the tracks to have success.

On the other hand, tricks were a real sore spot with me. I felt like I should be playing a fighting game, not a motocross game, with the time I had to perform tricks, and the button combos needed to successfully pull of the trick. For the bigger tricks, the number of times I had to press them and then also land was confusing. Granted, I am probably not the best person to test this as I suck at fighters to begin with - but I won’t be the only one frustrated at the trick system. Preloading for tricks can be done in two different ways. One way is by pressing the left thumbstick down, then up, using your meter as a guide as to how large of a preload you will have. The other way is with the A button. This way when I first read it in the manual made me think it was going to be a cheap way to preload. It did just the opposite though; this way actually gives me time to time my jumps and also point for a precision landing. Those that like the ‘traditional’ way of preloading still have it at their leisure, but I found the single button press to be a welcome addition.

Online play is done well also, with some exceptions. While the racing is very good and you get to race with up to 7 other players, it is a pain in the neck to find a race and other racers, as the numbers of people online was very sparse. I am writing this about three weeks after the initial release of the game and for the number of people to be this low is not a good sign. I found more people online in “MotoGP 2” and that has been out for over ten months now. Luckily the servers are going through Microsoft, as you will always have the opportunity to race with someone, you just need to hope that someone is actually there so you can have fun. The other exception is when you are the host. Once you set up a race the only way to change your locale is to end your session and start anew. When combined with the problem of not being able to find a lot of racers you have a situation where you go where the action is at instead of being able to determine where the action should be.

“MTX Mototrax” is a good game. If online play is the reason why you are getting this, then you have the right title. Unfortunately, the lack of users playing this title may make this a hard sell. If you are looking for a fun dirt bike racing game, this fits the bill. It is a toss up between which one you want to choose, whether it is “MX Unleashed” or “MTX Mototrax”, as they both have something for fans of the sport. “Unleashed” is much prettier but “MTX Mototrax” on the track exhibited a lot more fun. If you concentration is going to be on large environments to tour around on, this one is definitely not your title, and you will feel shortchanged.

Does “MTX Mototrax” win the current battle with “MX Unleashed” as the motocross game of choice? It depends on the user. As for myself, I do not believe this is the best title, especially if the only drawing point of is the online play. It just doesn’t have enough variety to satisfy the offline gamer. I definitely would recommend a rental to check it out and see if “MTX Mototrax” will trip your trigger, as my tastes are definitely different and most common gamers may find they like this to a point, but I think a lot of hardcore gamers will find reasons why this will end up living a short life in their console after some playing time.

MTX: Mototrax Score
out of 10