by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
When you are developing an off-road racing game, it helps if you can tap into the talent of past and present riders who get themselves muddied professionally. Add 10 years worth of game development talent into the mix, and you have the foundation for a great racing game.
MX vs. ATV Supercross will be the first title in the franchise to be published by Nordic and they could not have made a smarter move than to leave it with the original designers Rainbow Studios. Sitting down with Executive Producer Ken George at Gamescom, it was clear that - after a rocky three year hiatus - the studio is keen on proving their mettle.
Gameplay over graphics
Graphically, their work is not going to blow you away. The team's focus is solely on designing great gameplay and finding the right mix between the realism of a simulation and the fun of an arcade game. Rainbow wants to hit that sweet spot between a game that is easy to pick up but difficult to master. They are doing so by giving experienced players tools to really push to the limits while keeping the game enjoyable for beginners.
On the realism side, MX vs. ATV Supercross sports gear and parts from some 80 off-road companies which can be used to customize bikes as and jerseys to your liking with items you might find in real life. And tracks start to degrade as bikes mull the dirt around, deepening the ruts in heavily ridden areas and digging holes where riders got stuck. As a result, tracks are far more dynamic and bike handling changes dynamically throughout the race.
To keep the game fun, some compromises had to be made. The tracks, for instance, are a little wider than they would be in real life to make it easier to get around them at great speed. Crashing, the developers realized, is not fun for anyone.
One of the features I had most fun with was the ability to not just control the steering wheel, but also the body of the rider itself. Leaning in left or right gives you quite a bit of control over the bike and combining it with the normal steering actions, corners felt tight and natural. Moving the rider forward or backward on the bike affects how it handles both on the ground and midair, for instance causing the nose to go up or down. Breaking the front wheel while you're in the air stops the wheel from spinning, causing the nose of the bike to dive even faster.
Rainbow has plans to support MX vs. ATV Supercross long after release and, seeing their enthusiasm, I have every reason to believe that it won't be dead in its tracks once the rush of release is behind us. If you are a fan of off-road racing, you're in for adrenaline pumping action.