MX vs. ATV Alive
|Xbox 360||PlayStation 3|
|Install||2.7GB (optional)||411MB (mandatory)|
|Surround Support||Dolby Digital||Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM, 7.1LPCM, DTS|
Woah, a brand new game for just 23 quid? What's the catch? THQ's grand notion for MX vs. ATV Alive is to flog the game cheaply in what you might call a content-challenged format, with the player able upgrade the core package to their liking by selecting from a range of DLC.
To get you in the mood a one-use code in the box offers up a couple of extra tracks (we could only look at those on the Xbox 360 at the time of writing, owing to the lack of PlayStation Store access). It's an intriguing concept, but the problem is that there's a palpable lack of content in the basic package and it's difficult to avoid the feeling that the game is attempting to nickel and dime you to fill the void left by the lack of variety in the core offering. There are some bizarre elements to the way that the existing content is delivered to the player - the unlocking system drops new levels at set stages as opposed to gradually opening them up as you play.
It's a bit of shame because MX vs. ATV Alive is a lot of fun. Although there's a tangible lack of variety in the environments, the tracks are well designed, the MotorStorm-style ground deformation is excellent and the superb physics model is married to an intuitive, rewarding control system. The twin analogue sticks are used for vehicle controls and the positioning of your body respectively: a set-up that gives an additional dimension to the player's interface with his off-road weapon of choice. The effectiveness of the controls is further reinforced by excellent use of joypad rumble - you can almost feel the ground below you and the controller is actually helping to inform your decisions.
Also noteworthy is that the developers have also done an excellent job with the cross-platform element of the project - there's very, very little to tell these two games apart.
MX vs. ATV Alive uses native 720p on both consoles, but neither of them offers any kind of anti-aliasing. This is a bit of a shame, as the only major issue we have with the visual presentation of the game is in various forms of aliasing - it's not just the edges that are the issue here: fine detail in the ground shimmers badly and is quite distracting.
Just about the only difference you'll see in the comparison assets comes down to the allocation of foliage, with the obvious conclusion from our screenshots being that the Xbox 360 suffers in comparison to the PS3 version in certain levels while the 360 has the upper-hand in others. It's little more than incidental detail really, but when we're squibbling about the odd bit of minor fauna here and there, we can assume that in every way that matters these games are essentially like-for-like.
Aside from the anti-aliasing situation, the only blot on the copybook concerns some very intrusive screen-tear. Bearing in mind the complexity of the environments, combined with the massive variation in the amount of vehicles on-screen at any given point, achieving a v-synced 30FPS would have been a real achievement, but unfortunately the developers didn't quite manage it.
Short of implementing a triple-buffer solution (with the latency implications this entails), the chosen method of dropping v-sync when a frame runs over budget was probably the best way to go. A decent frame-rate is absolutely essential in this kind of game, where the players requires a sustained level of visual feedback in order to feel "at one" with the terrain beneath the vehicle's wheels. So how do the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game cope?
While torn frames are never too far away, it actually takes some serious load on the engine to drop down from 30FPS, so there is that essential consistency to the controls - the sacrifices the developers have made in terms of the image quality have been worthwhile. In terms of the two platforms, during the run of play they seem to be very much like-for-like, though it does appear that it is the 360 version of the game that does have the edge here when you pore over the analysis.
Overall then, in terms of which version to buy, it's something of a photo-finish with almost nothing to tell these two games apart - certainly from a gameplay perspective - with just a bit more screen-tear on PS3. If you can cope with the DLC mechanism for bolting on more content, it's a solid buy on either console.