STAFF REVIEW of MX vs ATV Legends (Xbox One)

Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

MX vs ATV Legends Box art Starting out as a crossover game between two different brands back on PS2 in 2005, MX vs ATV over the years became its own brand and series as it offered a unique take on the sport(s). Over the years though the series has gone through some great highs thanks to MX vs ATV Reflex, and unfortunately, many lows. Having been a fan since its first iteration and playing almost every single one, I was quite excited to see a new MX vs ATV game releasing this year with Legends. Given that the last two games weren’t generally received very well, I had high hopes to see a massive improvement this time around, especially since we’re now in a new console generation.

As the title implies, you’re not only racing MX bikes but also four wheeled ATV’s as well. While the title doesn’t denote it, there’s also Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV) that are now an option as well. UTV’s are generally meant for work duties, so why not slap some racing wheels, shocks and gear on them and have you barreling down the desert towards the finish line as well? With massive new environments, a robust career mode across all vehicle types and more, I had high hopes for a strong return to the series with MX vs ATV Legends. What we get though is something a little bit different.

After completing a tutorial that shows you the basics, you’re then dropped into your massive farm where you’re able to freely ride around as you please with no direction or real guidelines. Hitting the menu button is how you’ll choose Career, Online or any other options, but absolutely nothing else is shown to you, like how to upgrade your bike or more. The bulk of your time is likely going to be spent in Career mode, a much larger experience than I was expecting, which is a blessing and a curse.

You begin by racing your MX bike in an event that you’ll be lucky to finish somewhere middle of the pack, even on the easiest difficulty. I get it; you’re brand new to the game, don’t know how to control the bikes yet, haven’t learned the tracks and jumps and still figuring things out. Having you be lucky if you don’t place last though on your first race isn’t a great motivation to want to stick with it much further. You learn from this first race that the AI doesn’t play fair, nor do they care if you’re in their pathway. Not placing on the podium on the first race on the easiest difficulty? I knew something was off. We haven’t even begun to talk about the physics or jumps yet either.

I eventually progressed and unlocked ATV’s and UTV’s, so figured I’d give them a shot. Turns out that each vehicle type has its own separate career, so there’s basically 3 full career lengths here to spend time in, though if you can actually do so without become frustrated is another story. Given that controlling my MX bike was quite ‘slippery’, I figured that racing ATV’s would be better, you know, due to having twice as many wheels. Boy was I wrong.

Somehow the controls for ATV was much worse. If you don’t just tap the stick to steer you end up oversteering and basically spinning out. But doing this means actually making the turns near impossible at the same time. I did eventually get the hang of it but it never felt great, always guaranteed to mess up corners and spin out at least a few times a race.

Naturally, I had to try the UTV’s next, figuring since it’s more like a traditional vehicle it would control better. The best way I could describe how the UTV’s handle was this: Have you ever driven your car with bald tires? How about bald tires trying to take a corner on a sheet of ice? What about bald tires on ice and your steering wheel basically doesn’t work? You’re probably starting to understand what I’m getting at. I thought the MX and ATV controls were slippery, but UTV controls, even after completely upgrading them it got no better. It’s almost as though you’re constantly drifting and have to pre-steer before you actually get any traction. It’s simply 'off' and doesn’t feel good to use at all and I shouldn’t have to struggle to drive in a straight line without constantly fishtailing. I avoided using UTV’s as much as possible, that’s how infuriating it is.

I will say, once I upgraded my MX bike fully after saving up I was performing much better. Even with these upgrades the controls never really felt great, but I did manage to figure out how to deal with it slightly better. AI though is all over the place, as sometimes they are super aggressive and you’ll barely be able to even keep up with them since they don’t seem to always follow the same laws of physics or rules that you do, and other times you’ll beat them with over a minute to spare. There’s no consistency, so I’m not sure if there’s something off for the AI riders in general or that it’s tied to specific races.

I’ll give credit where it is due, and the track design overall is actually done quite well, regardless of which type of events you’re racing in, especially in the new Trails style races. Just a fancy name for Checkpoint races, Trails events were by far the highlight in a sea of frustration, even if they lasted a little longer than expected. These were huge unique maps racing from point A to B to C until you cross the finish line. These were at times much more ‘extreme’ maps, either jumping huge chasms or racing up or down a mountain, which was quite an experience in first person view. It seemed AI had a hard time keeping up on these types of races as opposed to more traditional supercross or nationals style for whatever reason though.

Here’s where things start to go downhill though. As noted above, the controls for all vehicles seem independent, but never feel great, even after fully upgrading. You’re constantly sliding, so when you do inevitably crash and bail, thankfully you can respawn instantly with a press of the button, usually. Your hub world that you have to jump back to after every few events seems like a huge waste of time. Sure, it gets upgraded as you progress through the campaign, but so what? The jumping mechanics also simply feel ‘off’, as you’re going to likely land short on the jump and bail or never be able to get back up to speed until the next set of ramps and jumps regardless how I tried to preload.

As you earn money by progressing through the career you can then spend that on new gear, colors, parts and upgrades. Focus on getting upgrades, as this is how you increase your base stats for your bike and vehicles. For each part there are three tiers of upgrades but also two different sets based on which stats you want to focus on. It seems one set is more geared towards off-road whereas the others are meant for supercross. With a few upgrades you’ll do much better with MX, but fully upgrading my ATV and UTV’s didn’t seem to make much of a difference at all.

You can purchase new parts as well, but it’s simply cosmetic, so there’s no point until you have nothing else to spend your money on. There’s no real world brands, so don’t get excited to see any of your favorite manufactures and part companies. Even changing colors on your gear costs money, every time, so you made a mistake and want to go back to the color you had previously? That’s right, you’re paying again.

The worst offender when it comes to bike upgrades though is that you’ll earn and unlock new bikes and vehicles as you progress in the game, or can purchase very expensive ones whenever you like, but there’s no reason to. Your beginning bike (there are 2 and 4 stroke bikes though) is statistically no different than the most expensive bike you can purchase. Yes, you read that right. Why spend money on a new bike, other than aesthetics, when it’s exactly the same as your previous? I don’t understand this at all, as it doesn’t even change the maximums your stats can reach with upgraded parts either.

There is multiplayer for those that want to play with siblings or friends, splitscreen (2 player only) or online (2-16 players), also able to group up as a squad. While there is online functionality, good luck finding a single person to race against. Even on launch day I wasn’t able to find anyone to race against, and since there’s no crossplay I don’t have high hopes for community longevity.

Now I normally don’t like to focus and point out so many negatives, but when I go through my notes when I’m reviewing and realize the vast majority is issues and bugs I ran into, it needs to be mentioned. There’s a laundry list, but in no particular order:

It’s as though there are animations missing. At the starting line when you and your opponents are twisting the throttle, there’s only an ‘on’ and ‘off’ position, so you get this jarring weird lack of animation at the start of every race. In quite a few races it’s as if the further away your opponents were, the less FPS they had. Kind of like how objects don’t look as good in the distance, it’s like they had to save memory or something by using less frames or animations on other racers in the distance.

Speaking of frames per second, they are simply missing in the cutscenes for new events in Career Mode. A video plays when you reach a new event or race series, but it plays at like 10 FPS and is insanely choppy like you’re watching a slideshow. There’s a massive amount of texture pop-in as well, not only in game, during loading and racing, but even in menus. Glitches happen so poorly in menus that it takes a good few seconds for vehicles and textures to load. It’s awful to the point where I thought a day one patch was missing. Oh you want to load into the menu or maybe pause your game? You better hope the game want to do the same thing. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for the pause menu to appear or be responsive. Load times for actually starting events is even worse, even when installed directly on the internal drive of a Series X.

First person view is absolutely exhilarating and quite an experience, but it’s also nauseating because of the camera shake and tilts. When racing in first person, it seems the level loads only what’s in front of you, but because of the loading issues described above, sometimes the track is literally ‘loading’ right in front of you as you race. This becomes very disorientating and gives a very odd effect. Equally as bad, the compass/minimap isn’t always fully loaded as well and updates at random times.

Crashing, hit detection and out of bounds is another constant struggle, one that isn’t anywhere near consistent as well. Hit a little cone or barrier and you might plow through it, the next time you might possibly get launched 10 feet into the air and bail. Cut a little corner and it might reset you back on the track instantly, other times you might be able to be Out of Bounds for 5 seconds or more without any repercussion. On one Trails race I somehow missed a jump but was able to continue going down a different trail to the end, skipping three of the checkpoints.

Lastly and the worst offender is the audio as a whole. It’s as though no mixing or checking was done to any part of the audio at all. There’s a soundtrack with licensed songs, but it’s not balanced or mixed properly, so one minute you think the music is gone or cut out, the next you realize your TV or headset volume is about to blow out your eardrums. Coupled with a terrible soundtrack aside from a song or two (objectively of course), there’s a wide variety of musical genres but this means you might tolerate one half and hate the other. Engine sounds even cut out after a certain RPM or speed, adding to a general inconsistency.

A lack of meaningful customization, slippery and borderline broken controls based on which vehicle you want to race, and PowerPoint slide deck animations was a constant disappointment and frustration. Yes there are three full Career Modes to sink time into and track designs were quite good with varying elevations and layouts, but the myriad of issues makes MX vs ATV Legends a low point for the series, even at its normally reasonable $40 CAD asking price. I normally wouldn’t recommend getting an older game in a series, but when MX vs ATV Reflex from 2009 is still the best in the series, that speaks volumes.

**MX vs ATV Legends was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 3.6 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 4.0 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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