MX vs. ATV Untamed
Wow, this game brings back some very happy memories. Back in the early days of PlayStation 2 there wasn't much in the way of fun to be gleaned from the limited range of games on offer; certainly there was a distinct shortage of accomplished multiplayer releases to fill the void (TimeSplitters accepted). Rainbow Studios' ATV Offroad Fury, initially only available as a US import, was a revelation - combining excellent graphics with stupendously fun physics and some genuinely laugh-out-loud wipe-out animations - definitely something of an office favourite at the time.
MX vs. ATV Untamed may be bigger and better in just about every way, but the core gameplay hasn't really changed much at all in the seven years since Rainbow Studios' first ATV title made its US debut. There's still plenty of fun to be had from this game, especially with the vast selection of vehicles on offer and the bewildering array of different game types, but you just can't help but feel that Rainbow Studios has developed this title in some kind of alternate dimension where Sony never actually released MotorStorm.
Certainly, for PlayStation 3 owners, there's absolutely nothing here that makes you feel good about owning the console. While MX vs. ATV Untamed does have a different gameplay focus compared to MotorStorm (the importance of stunts in particular), it does very little to convince you that Rainbow has got to grips with what the current range of consoles are capable of. In fact, in stark contrast to MotorStorm, technically MX vs. ATV Untamed is an absolute dog's dinner.
Off-puttingly bad screen-tear is your constant companion here and there's zero anti-aliasing or much in the way of special effects to smooth off what is clearly a very 'jaggy' looking game. Indeed, MX vs. ATV Untamed is compromised right off the bat by running with a reduced resolution - 1024x576 to be precise, with very poor scaling used to blow up the image to 720p. All of this conspires to create an excessively rough-looking game.
So, as a MotorStorm competitor, PS3 MX vs. ATV Untamed falls flat on its face, and taking a look at the Xbox 360 version it's clear to see why - it's the very definition of an unsuccessful, lazy conversion brimming with blatant compromises that aren't present at all on the Microsoft platform. Resolution is restored to the usual 720p on the 360, edges are more finely filtered, and while screen tear is still ever-present, its impact is nowhere near as bad as it is in the PS3 version.
Overall then, bearing in mind the great nostalgic affection I have for Rainbow Studios' earlier work, it's really disappointing that MX vs. ATV Untamed disappoints so much on both conceptual and technical levels. There's still a core gameplay nucleus here that could be really special and I can't help but hope that Rainbow Studios gets it right next time around.
Turning Point: Fall of Liberty
The concept behind this game sounds great on paper. Set in an alternative dimension where Churchill died before his time, Hitler won World War II and Sony never actually released MotorStorm, it's all about an average New York construction worker caught in the middle of an all-out Nazi invasion of the United States of America. Not only do we get to kill Germans in places other than Europe and Africa, we also get a tantalising 'what if'-style glimpse into the development of the Nazi war machine - from evolved versions of classic WWII weaponry all the way through to ginormous retro-styled airships. In short, Turning Point had the potential to be a WWII game with a unique twist.
Of course, chances are you've either played the game/demo by now, or else you've read Tom's spot-on 3/10 review so you'll know that the opportunity Turning Point represents is squandered by a monumentally predictable procession of poorly put-together FPS gaming staples interspersed with the odd wholly unremarkable mini-game, topped off by a vastly annoying aiming system. It's all wrapped up in what must surely be the most inept handling of the Unreal Engine 3 technology to date. Aside from a small handful of very pleasing environments, most of the game looks about as sophisticated as the average PS2 first-person shooter.
Turning Point's status as the dictionary definition of 'unremarkable' extends to the quality of the cross-platform development. Looking at the bright side, it's an example of an Unreal Engine title that - anti-aliased edges aside - is pretty much like for like on both platforms, with just minor (almost negligible) differences in the screen refresh rate. But when you're dealing with a game that looks as unsophisticated as this one does, it's amazing that there should be any differences at all.