THQ’s MX games have always had a history of being arcade style racing games with tight controls and rich on content, the content part of that equation is still true. With this new generation of systems comes new expectations out of many games, and sadly it seems that MX falls behind in many areas. What Untamed still has going for it is a vast allotment of locations and vehicles that can be raced while listening to a licensed soundtrack.
The first thing that is noticeable when Untamed is thrown into the PS3 for the first time is that the graphics look almost exactly like an Xbox game that was up-converted to 1080p through some kind of current gen. trickery. This sort of shenanigans is almost expected at the launch of a console but here we are over a year after the launch of the PS3 with graphics that could have very easily run on an Xbox or PS2.
While no one will be won over by the attempt at the smoke screen of improvement that the graphics are some might be impressed with the assortment of selectable vehicles and modes of racing in the game. The core of the gameplay revolves around the races between the ATVs and the Dirt bikes. For the most part the controls on both of those are responsive in a way that could only be expected from the most arcade style of games. The bikes cut hair-pin turns exactly when told, as if physics played no part in this request; they float for an insane amount of time allowing even the smallest of bumps in path to be used to pull tricks, all wonderful things to have in an arcade style game.
Sadly when the monster trucks are introduced into this world the floatiness of the entire venture starts to become a major downfall. Instead of having the cars/trucks handle differently they all end up feeling like they are giant versions of bikes and ATVs. Every time a sharp corner is turned they cut it exactly and when a bump is hit a monster truck will go flying like its tires have been inflated with helium instead of air. When five other cars are added to this mess a race stops feeling interesting and starts to feel like a Benny Hill chase scene.
Regardless of how poorly you race in the monster trucks the game makes sure that it is always possible to place in a race at least on a bunch of the lower difficulties. This is because Untamed boasts one of the worst cases of rubber band AI I have ever seen. If the player continually wipes out and goes off track a sizeable amount of racers continue to crash as well; making it so placing 3 in any given race always feels completely doable. This isn’t true with the racer in first, as they never seem to wipe out, only to make subtle cornering mistakes with a slower vehicle than the gamer has available.
What makes catching the racer in first difficult, at least on the ATVs and bikes, is the track design itself. Many jumps in a good portion of experience expect knowledge of the landing area that simply cannot be known ahead of time. This causes many unneeded crashes as on some of the longer courses it almost feels as though the only people who know the proper landing angle are those that designed the game in the first place.
Crashes end up being a normal experience during the first several hours of the game. From landing incorrectly, not pulling out of a trick in time, or because another racer makes contact all of them are reasons that the first several plays on any track end up taking about twice as long as they should. The crashes themselves might not be prevalent if not for the games rubber band AI that seems to keep all of the racers within a 10 foot radius of each other. This causes most jumps to have 10 riders coming down in roughly the same area as the gamer’s skull, causing a crash, or 10 people taking a corner at the same time and bouncing off of each other, causing yet another crash.
While there may be darkness to all of this the entire experience can be taken online. The game even has a rather unique system where the person who won the last match is able to choose all of the settings for the next race. This is all well and good except for the fact that the PS3 has no form of communication between players as optional headset support was not included and there is no way to type messages back and forth to each other meaning that this cause players to drop mid-match constantly.
Tying everything together in a nice little bow is a fully licensed soundtrack that consists of a giant scatter shot of musical tastes that range from being entirely odd to be included in a game about ATVs, to the most popular alternative songs of last year. The songs seem rather well mixed together and never really turn forcing the sound to be turned off from the game.
While Untamed may be the first step into the next generation territory for this franchise it feels like it showed up about a year too late to be acceptable. While the game can be completely enjoyable with several friends over all enjoying adult beverages, the single player experience does not hold any of the same enjoyment. With dated graphics and not wonderful gameplay this is probably best passed over until the next sequel hits.