Dirt Bike racing games have been in existence ever since Excitebike for as long as I can remember. During the late ‘90s, early 2000s, along came Motocross Madness, which brought dirt bike racing to a whole new level, and would later evolve into MX Unleashed. ATV Offroad Fury was launched around the same time that had players zipping around on quads instead. It didn’t take long for the games to merge into a singular game, that would become the franchise MX vs ATV. The legacy of these games would continue on for decades. Now landing on the Nintendo Switch is Rainbow Studio’s latest iteration, entitled MX vs ATV All Out. How has the game evolved over 20 years and does it continue to lead the off-road racing genre?
MX vs ATV All Out is a semi-arcade off-road racing that has players racing, jumping, and performing stunts on dirt bikes, ATVs and tooling around in newer UTVs (Utility Terrain Vehicles). I used to spend countless hours when I was in my teens playing MX Unleashed and ATV Offroad Fury. I loved being able to catch huge air, perform aerial acrobatics and hope to stick my landings. They were games that just fit in well with the extreme sports category of titles that was sweeping the industry during that time. I will admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up one of the newer ones, and so when All Out was announced, I decided it was a great time to see how the franchise has advanced after all of these years. Diving into the game I was immediately met with nostalgia, but unfortunately not in the warm fuzzy good feeling sort of way.
Starting up the game, you’ll enter a tutorial period on a free roam property called The Ranch. This acts as a hub for event entrances along with other fun and random things to do. I was immediately hit by abysmal framerate in handheld mode; I’m talking like single digits making the game borderline unplayable. Still, I hobbled my way around the area and completed the tutorials on how to steer, jump, do tricks, etc. Afterwards I found myself a bit confused as to how to actually access gameplay from The Ranch, and instead utilized the Pause Menu to navigate into Championships. Thankfully the framerate is improved during a race by a fair bit, but still not locked at 30fps by any means.
I ran through a couple of championship events with both my MX bike and my default ATV that were available to me. To my surprise, All Out just doesn’t look or really play like a multi-decade evolved product. The rider animations are as stiff as I always remembered them, and the physics are quite floaty too, which one could argue may be a positive to allow for more arcade-like gameplay. The rider’s clothes waved with speed, which is a nice touch, but I personally had expectations of a more polished riding experience overall.
The environments, both with The Ranch and trackside, are devoid of life and as empty as I recall the first game being too. Textures are mid-resolution at best, but worse is that many of the cliffs have severely warped and stretched textures that are seen often times when a procedural terrain has been created poorly. Furthermore, the lighting feels very flat, and there’s a distinct lack of appropriate shadows, which I found left the vehicle feeling as though it was floating a bit above the ground. Much of this I’m willing to forgive just a bit given the platform specs, but after watching a few videos on other consoles, they don’t seem to fair much better. Visually this game just looks like it’s been stuck 15 years in the past.
Other than training, The Ranch is rather useless and a squandered opportunity to do something cool. Scattered about the region are 25 cogs that if you make the right jumps you can collect, but there’s no indication of why you are attempting to collect these or what they may unlock. Past that, there’s just nothing all that interesting here to do. It would have been a perfect opportunity to create some over the top landmarks to fool around in, but instead it’s a generic terrain with some nice hills and jumps, and a built in MX park, but it just doesn’t warrant spending a lot of time here in the end.
New to All Out is also the inclusion of UTV’s, like a Polaris RZR. These side-by-side utility vehicles sport high suspension and are a great fun to ride in real life. In the game though, you’ll find yourself with understeer problems and some super clunky physics should your UTV topple over in any way. Also, long gone are the days of monster trucks, buggies, and sand rails that used to be in these games that offered something out of the box to drive and play with.
This leads me to the next absolutely most egregious thing that I found in MX vs ATV All Out. You’ll be given two MX bikes, two ATVs, and two UTVs at the start of your game that are fictionally branded as either Rainbow or THQ. Here’s the massive kicker though…Every single real-world branded vehicle in the game is tied to a DLC transaction. Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Yamaha, you name it, every big-name manufacturer that makes off-road vehicles in these classes are all locked away with a $3 price tag per vehicle. A quick total of only the vehicle purchases would require players to shell out over $92. That’s not all, you’ll also find that several championships are tied to DLC transactions as well totaling another $17. While I would expect some premium content to be tied to in-game-purchases, having the entire inventory of branded vehicles, which is typically the driving factor of enthusiasts playing these games, be tied to DLC after a base game price of $40 feels like a smack across the head. It feels like a bit of a bait and switch and isn’t customer friendly in the least.
Nevertheless, for the vehicles you do plan to acquire, you’ll be able to spend your winnings of game currency on upgrades and some aesthetic changes. Just like in previous titles, you can definitely make your ride personalized. Rider customization thankfully requires no DLC, and you’ll be able to purchase all of the gear you want with your winnings from known brands like O’Neal, Fox, Alpinestars, and a plethora more, making your rider look quite rad as you hit the trails.
When you do have a preferred rider and vehicle, All Out does offer several game modes, including the Series Career, Arcade Mode (which acts as a local head-to-head), Time Trials, Single Events (for a quick play), Local Multiplayer, and Online Multiplayer (which I was unable to find any other players in any event type leaving me all alone).
Regrettably the Switch version is just riddled with performance issues at every turn. Apart from terrible framerate in The Ranch, the user Interface is slow to respond to inputs making for a clunky interaction within the menus nearly every time. There’re some serious sound problems that are easily encountered as well, where one such example was driving near a pond in The Ranch, the ambient birds and water sound effects would all of a sudden blast out of my tiny Switch speakers at like 200% volume. And finally, my game crashed several times in various places as well, once losing partial progress.
I wanted to love MX vs ATV All Out. Seriously, this was one of my favorite series back in my teenage years, and I recall spending countless hours enjoying them. Unfortunately, there’s just far too many letdowns that my nostalgia is better left as a memory. In truth, I could have maybe forgiven some of the performance problems and low quality graphics that do sometimes come with the territory of a Nintendo platform, but to have nearly all of the favored content locked away behind individual DLC just pushed me over the edge to disliking this title in totality.
MX vs ATV All Out Review
- Graphics - 4/104/10
- Sound - 4.5/104.5/10
- Gameplay - 4.5/104.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 4/104/10
Final Thoughts: BAD
MX vs ATV All Out is the continuation of a decades long franchise. Regrettably on the Nintendo Switch it falls flat visually, looking heavily dated, and there are some seriously crippling performance problems visually and audibly in multiple areas of the game. Worse off, all of the enthusiast branded vehicle content is tied to paid DLC. If you want to go “All In” with this game, you’d be shelling out nearly $150 in total. My suggestion, however, is to follow suit with the game’s title, and go All Out as far away from this one as you can.