MX vs ATV All-Out Review (Switch)

After the incredibly charming and fun trip through the paper mache world of Paper Mario: The Origami King, I needed a bit of a break from the long-play games. It took me over a month and half to finish due to having a newborn, and my wife had just the idea – for my birthday, she surprised me with the new MX vs. ATV game on the Switch, MX vs. ATV: All Out. I adore this series and its predecessor ATV Offroad Fury and have been following it for many years, not only as a source of gaming adrenaline since the Playstation 2 era, but also in discovery of some of my favorite music to this day. The ATV Offroad Fury games are simple time capsules of the time period to which they belong, and I still pop them into my PS2 from time to time to enjoy that simplicity again.

I don’t play many racing games anymore but a) being quarantined (is anyone else doing this anymore?) sucks, and b) with a newborn, I can’t see myself getting out on the dirt bike any time soon. MX vs. ATV: All Out is all I got when it comes to adrenaline for the foreseeable future! That being said, I’ve been having a blast with this game, and despite every sports and racing game turning into DLC hell these days (this game included), it’s one of the few times I’ll allow myself to splurge and just buy it all.

The last time I played a dirt bike game was MXGP Pro about a year ago. I got pretty into it for a few hours, but several small details ruined the game for me, and to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of the track layouts of MXGP. I prefer the high-speed, huge jumps of AMA motocross, and of course, supercross, which is indoor arena racing with massive jumps and a focus on rhythm over pure speed. The fact that MX vs. ATV: All Out has both of those racing styles (along with others, which I’ll get into in a bit) all in one package is a huge win, because they’re such different disciplines of racing.

Vehicle Physics and Tuning

Let’s talk about the most obvious part of a racing game: physics. The physics are pretty good in MX vs ATV: All Out. Developer Rainbow Studios has had a lot of time and titles to figure out the whole physics thing, and All Out included I still think that their titles strike the perfect balance between arcade and realism. You don’t want to be able to case on a landing and just have your rider bounce back in the air, but you also don’t want to constantly tip over from leaning too hard. All Out will absolutely destroy you if you make huge jumps and land improperly.

Of course, you can change the tuning on your bike to improve your suspension, and while tuning is a larger topic, it’s clearly evident if and when you’ve made adjustments to your suspension. I never futzed much around with tuning in most racing games, as I never felt like it was really doing a whole lot, but wow can you tell that things are happening here. While the tuning menu itself may be a bizarre, buggy mess, cranking up the “Tires” setting causes you to have virtually infinite grip; you will never slide out again on a sharp turn. In fact, you’ll stick to berms like moths to a flame despite being in pinned fifth gear. And not for nothing, but this is awesome and lets you carry speed like an absolute mad lad. It’s fun!

Going back to physics, while the physics vs. the environment are pretty good, and damn fun, physics between you and other riders are a little off. T-bone another rider at top speed and you’ll either a) implode, or b) launch off them as if they were a quarter pipe. It’s not uncommon during the holeshot to absolutely get blasted halfway across the track because you got jammed up between the other riders. Of course, at this point you might as well reset the game, because there’s no way in hell you’re getting back up front. Just like with real motocross! Realism!

That being said, one could argue that this realism is decent when it comes to bad starts – getting back in the lead from a crash on the first corner is extremely difficult to pull off in real life and in this game. But the glitchiness that can sometimes accompany starts is a tad frustrating to say the least.

Hey, let’s talk starting gates for a minute. I take issue with the fact that the gate always drops at exactly the same time. See, in a motocross race (or supercross), the bikes are running, are in gear, and the riders will rev the bikes up to their limiter. As soon as the gate drops, they dump the clutch and absolutely blast out of the gate like a rocket ship going to space. This is one of the coolest moments of motocross and the fact that the other racers don’t rev, is a bummer, as well as the fact that you can just wait until exactly the right head-bob to dump the clutch and shoot out the gate. It takes the massive tension out of the moment.

Holeshot from the first-person view.

Let’s get off the topic of physics for a while – the takeaway here is that they are fun and allow for plenty of tomfoolery that’ll keep you entertained for hours. I can scrub and whip for days, and I absolutely love how while you’re in the air, it actually provides legit feedback when you hit the brakes (front wheel goes down), and crack the throttle (front wheel goes down). Not just that, but actual physics behind whips and scrubs are pretty damn on point. I can scrub all day and it never gets boring!

I mean, just look at this freaken scrub @ 0:23:

Bubba Scrubbed that sonovabitch!

Game Modes for Hours!

When I first got into this series with ATV Offroad Fury back in the PS2 days, my favorite game mode was, no doubt, Freeride. Listening to the music and sending huge jumps over mountains was a series staple. In MX vs. ATV: All Out, Waypoint mode is still a part of the deal, and it’s tons of fun. The levels that eventually open up are varied and challenging in their own ways. Some of them have tons of elevation change, and so you need to be much more careful about sending blind jumps. If you crash upon landing, you will be placed back in front of the last jump you hit, which is a huge punishment. Instead, you need to plan your leaps-of-faith much more carefully, sometimes opting to take the longer way around and playing it safe.

Supercross mode is a lot of fun, and as it’s much more rhythm based, it takes a lot of practice – but once you hit that magic flow, there’s nothing more satisfying than hammering down solid laps. Mastering the suspension pre-load is an incredible feeling. You’ll also need to master this to clear some of the huge jumps on the Nationals tracks, particularly before you have any major upgrades for your bike.

Opencross I can take or leave – they are clearly built for UTVs which is a part of this series I always ignore. The tracks are short, don’t have a lot of jumps, and are overall, quite boring.

How Do I Play This Game?

An area that needs more detail is in instructions of how to play the game. In this modern age of no manuals, it seems developers have just gotten lazy, because they don’t actually tell you how the damn game works 99% of the time. You just have to figure it out.

When you first start the game, you have only a few different series that are open to you, Waypoint and a few others. But, you can’t just jump right in and start racing 450 Supercross. This makes total sense and I prefer it that way – you gotta earn your stripes, just like with real racing! But what confuses me is the set of iconography that MX vs. ATV: All Out utilizes. How the heck do I actually unlock these other race series?

Next to each locked series is a trophy icon with a number next to it – presumably this means you need to win X amount of trophies to unlock the series. Ok, fine. But then I win a few races, and the number doesn’t go down. Does this represent the number of races I need to win? Do I need to simply get on the podium (so, first, second, or third place), or do I need to get first place? Does this actually mean I have to win that many SERIES, as opposed to races? Again – there’s no information on this at all. I just kept playing and at some point, extra series kept opening up. But I still am barely halfway to having all the race series’ open and I’m around 20+ hours of playtime. What’s up with that? Some direction would really go a long way.

Also, uh, does anyone play this game online? Asking for a friend who can never seem to find anyone to play with…

Poor-formance or Pro-formance?

The performance of MX vs. ATV: All Out is just OK. Keep in mind, this is game that originally launched a few years ago back in early 2018, so it’s fairly recent, and I didn’t expect a whole lot on the Switch hardware. One of the biggest losses you’ll experience if you choose to play this game on the Switch is that you lose the gorgeous 60fps framerate that really takes a detail-oriented game like this to the next level. While bikes can carve out ruts in the dirt, you won’t notice a whole lot of it, because the detail level of the grittiness just isn’t there. Dirt biking is a dirty sport. It’s even right there in the name! Dirt biking. We’re not polishing silverware for a dinner party here, we’re riding a motorbike through the dirt at absurd speeds. This is a shining example of a game that needs the extra horsepower of the PS4, Xbox, or of course, a PC.

That being said, I don’t think it diminishes the fun factor, but if you’ve played it on any other system, this will feel like a massive downgrade. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend looking up gameplay from any other console, because it’s more false advertising than anything else. Of course, I knew this would be the case, but I bought it on Switch because of the portability. The pop-in might bother some people – I am not one of those people.

What the Hell is Up With the DLC?

So, yeah, there’s a lot of paid DLC in this game. But, something’s gotta pay the bills, and licensing fees are not cheap, so I can really understand a lot of these decisions. You’re not paying for fake gear; in fact, that can all be obtained for next to nothing using the in-game currency, which you acquire quite easily through normal gameplay. You essentially pay for track packs and bikes, and if you’re anything like me and follow this sport, legit tracks based on real world locations that I’ve both watched these races as well as raced on myself, is pretty f’ing cool.

THAT BEING SAID – I have tried time and time again to purchase the 2020 Nationals track pack, but I can’t find it on the eShop. What the hell, THQ Nordic? Take a look below:

See those little aggravating boxes on the left? Yeah, that means I have to buy it. OK, great – here’s my mon— wait, what the hell? This just takes me to the eShop for all DLC in the game. Where’s the specific one I’m looking for?

Oh. It’s not on the eShop. Yeah, I can’t even hand my money over for this, and it blows. Furthermore, trying to find information on a specific version of a specific sports game is next to impossible. I imagine the overlap of professional motocross fanatics and game forum users is roughly the same as centenarians who are also active serial killers.

The Lack of the Motocross Atmosphere

In this age of a global pandemic, the Monster Energy Supercross season which runs from January through April, unfortunately was cut short and had to finish off in a stadium with no crowds. Take a look at this highlight reel from the entirety of the 2020 Supercross season. For some background, the last race to occur in front of a live audience was in Daytona (timestamped in the first video):

Take a look here. Pay attention to the excitement as there’s a close race for first. It’s exciting, it’s bright and flashy, it’s LOUD. Now take a look at the next race (or keep watching from the first video, as they mention COVID-19) which took place in front of absolutely nobody, like all sports nowadays:

See the night and day difference? Well, granted it was literally a night and day difference, as upon the continuation of the season after the delay, all subsequent races then took place during the day despite historically being a night event, but my point is, it all feels too empty. This is the best explanation I can give for my feelings towards the atmosphere in MX vs. ATV: All Out on the Switch – it feels like racing in an empty stadium. I don’t know if it’s different on the PC or other consoles, but something just feels a little sparse.

Overall, All Out needed more time to bake in the oven. They did a decent job porting it over to the Switch, but what may seem like insignificant details take away from what makes the sport of motocross exciting. Those who have a pre-existing love of the sport will no doubt find value here, as I certainly have throughout my 20+ hours, but some quality-of-life improvements are hopefully on the horizon to make this title more fun.

For example:

  • Why can’t I finish a race, and immediately jump into a different series or game mode, without having to sit through more loading screens to go back to the main freeride area, to then go back into a new series with a new loading screen?
  • Why can’t I change or tune my bike between races without exiting back to the main menu?
  • Why does the sound of crickets BLAST THROUGH MY SPEAKER when I ride next to a lake, only to immediately stop with no fade out as I ride away?
  • Why can I only race against 7 other riders? This makes single-player monumentally less exciting, it feels like a practice race. 20 riders sharing the same tight space is what makes supercross exciting.
  • Why can I turn my UTV in mid-air? I don’t think physics work this way.
  • During the loading screens that you spend a disproportionate amount of time staring at, it likes to start playing two audio tracks – simultaneously. It causes a huge cacophony of noise and it’s simply awful.
  • The music quality sucks, and you can barely hear it. It used to be front and center for the series, now it feels like more of an afterthought.

As it stands now, a healthy dosage of DLC and overall bugginess and lack of polish definitely does not help the rating, but it’s still a fun time. If you want to maximize the fun factor, I recommend the following:

  • Get one of the 2-stroke bikes, in particular the KTM 250. It’s an absolute beast and can pick up speed and corner like no other.
  • Go on YouTube for your chosen bike, and learn the ideal tunes. There is a massive difference in power delivery from screwing around with those little sliders, and most if not all of bikes have “sweet spots”.
  • Turn out of that default Automatic crap, switch your bike to Manual in the game settings. This makes the game actually fun to play. Important to note, you do not need to use the clutch when you shift! In fact, you don’t want to here.
  • The clutch lever is bound, by default, to the L button. Before the start of any race, rev up your bike while holding in the clutch and leaning forward with the right stick. On the green light or gate drop, let go of the clutch. Congratulations – you just did a proper motocross gate drop!
  • Play in first-person camera only. Press until you get into first-person mode and don’t take it off. The game feels 100x more exciting, since there’s no motion blur to give it the feeling of high-speed. You’ll also despise any other camera mode if you learn on this mode.

Those are the tips that have helped me get the most enjoyment out of the game. It’s a fun time that can get frustrating, so take them into consideration if you decide to check MX vs. ATV: All Out.

The verdict? If you’re into motocross and want a solid portable game that’s satisfying and quick to pick up, definitely check out this title.

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