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Critical Reception: Rainbow Studios/THQ's MX vs. ATV Untamed

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to MX vs. ATV Untamed, Rainbow Studios' recently released offroad racing sequel that critics say is "a solid package, stuffed with content."
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to MX vs. ATV Untamed, Rainbow Studios' recently released offroad racing sequel that critics say is "a solid package, stuffed with content." Developer Rainbow Studios earned acclaim in the offroad racing genre with the initial entries in the Sony-published ATV Offroad Fury series, which are regarded by some critics as being among the best racers ever released on the PlayStation 2. Rainbow has since followed up on its success in the genre with MX Unleashed and the vehicle crossover title MX vs. ATV Unleashed, both of which met with similar praise. The developer's latest sequel in the franchise, MX vs. ATV Untamed, was released across several platforms just before Christmas. The Xbox 360 version currently earns an averaged rating of 73 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Matthew Kato at Game Informer rates Untamed at 8 out of 10. "In a year filled with good (and some great) racers, MX vs. ATV Untamed holds its own," he asserts. "What it may lack in revolutionary features it makes up for on the tracks where speed, skill, and surprises are not in short supply." Kato feels that Rainbow's expertise in the genre has resulted in a quality product that outclasses many of its rivals. "Developer Rainbow Studios has already perfected its brand of racing, incorporating split-second timing and controlled racing at high speeds," he writes. "Combine this with how fast this game can feel and the good-looking graphics, and you have a title that has better off-road racing than Dirt (excluding that game’s rally portion)." "I just wish Rainbow hadn’t stopped with good enough," Kato laments. "The game’s tracks are very well done, but I was disappointed that there were times where Untamed’s expansive environments weren’t better utilized." Kato also expresses disappointment with Untamed's repeating courses and circular waypoint races. However: "With such a strong racing foundation at its core, I expect the next Rainbow MX vs. ATV title to even further utilize what it already has in front of it," he says. "Untamed is good racing, but it needs to dig deeper within itself to deliver up to its potential." GameTap's Jonathan Miller shares similar feelings in his review, scored at 7 out of 10. "Offroad fans will surely get their fill and enjoy this solid title," he writes, "but traditional racing fans will find Untamed to be somewhere in the middle of the pack of the racing genre." "But hey, who doesn't love flipping over your handlebars at 50 mph?" Miller asks. "If anything, it's these human train wrecks that help separate Untamed from other racers out there. The only game that comes close in terms of pure racing mayhem is probably Flatout: Ultimate Carnage." Miller explains that spectacular wipeouts help to make Untamed stand out in the crowded racing genre, but this also presents a problem in terms of gameplay because of an overabundance of crashes. "Rainbow would tell you that this is all part of it's 'rhythm racing' system," he writes. However: "For whatever reason, it's almost impossible to pull this off with any lasting success, especially in MX Supercross events. When you do somehow ride that perfect line at the perfect speed, breezing over jump after jump, it feels wonderful. But too often it's a guessing game." "In the end, Untamed is a solid package, stuffed with content," Miller concludes. "Offroad fans will be pleased, but it's time for Rainbow Studios to rethink the direction of its franchise and infuse it with some much-needed personality." Joe Rybicki at 1UP.com rates Untamed at 6 out of 10, noting that Sony's MotorStorm has raised expectations for the genre since the release of Rainbow's last racing title. "Yes, of course, MX vs. ATV: Untamed is a very different game, focusing on both realistic indoor competition tracks and wide-open outdoor spaces," he admits. "And yes, of course, MotorStorm has some pretty serious issues. But you look at MotorStorm's gorgeous visuals, mud and dirt effects, and damage modeling, and you see what can be done with an off-road racer. You look at Untamed and you mainly see what could have been." Rybicki feels that Untamed's biggest issue is that its newfound attempts at realism mesh poorly with the series' trademark arcade-style racing. "With Rainbow's earlier, arcade-style racers, you'd hit these ridiculous jumps at ridiculous speeds, you'd get ridiculous air, and you'd land and look forward to the next jump," he explains. "With Untamed, you hit ridiculous jumps, you get ridiculous air...and then you crash miserably." "This schizophrenic approach to realism is really too bad, because Untamed includes much of the same brilliant course design that made Rainbow's previous racers such a blast," Rybicki continues. "I'm also impressed by the number of riders Untamed manages to cram into a course. Pulling out of the starting gate with 15 opponents all jostling for position creates a frantic, free-for-all feeling, especially when combined with the danger of contact with your opponents." "Untamed is definitely not a total loss," Rybicki emphasizes. "It certainly has its moments, with some excellent course design and a ridiculous amount of different events crammed into the disc. But ultimately, the game's not realistic enough to satisfy sim fans...and it's too realistic to be as fun as Rainbow's previous games." While Untamed features much of the same over-the-top action seen in Rainbow Studios' previous offroad racers, its newly added realism may be a potential turnoff for series fans. Critics maintain that Untamed otherwise remains a quality experience, however, and it could still be worth a look despite its occasional missteps.

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