MX vs ATV Untamed is a multi-vehicle racing experience developed by Rainbow Studios and Incinerator Studios published by THQ for the PS2, PS3, X360, DS, and Wii. It should be noted that from my research Rainbow Studios was the developer on the various other systems with Incinerator being the principle developer for the PS2 version. I haven't played any of the previous MX vs ATV games nor Untamed on any of the next generation systems; my experience with this series is strictly the PS2 and PSP versions. Both versions offer up many different modes and events but at the end of the day the PSP version is superior to the more technologically capable PS2 platform. With all the time and effort put into the next generation and portable versions could this be a sign that the PS2 is about to take its final bow?
There is very little grey area when it comes to racing games; they are either fun or repetitive and boring. The best games (Road Rash, Burnout, etc) give you a sense of speed as you move through the gaming environments, excite you with near misses or radical moves, and leave you wanting more. A boring racing game (Untamed for example) leaves you feeling uninterested with the repetitive racing tracks, unexcited at pulling of any mid-air trick, and bewildered at the ridiculous physics engine of the game.
The basics of Untamed are fairly standard: take part in various events that concentrate on racing or stunts to unlock newer and assorted vehicles, environments, or equipment to purchase at the store. Untamed can be played in single and multiplayer modes. The single player experience has a Quick Race (jump right into the action), X-Cross Tournament (career where you meet challenges for money), Championship (career mode based on racing), Gaps (open environment where you find and clear jumps over gaps), and Records (check your records) gaming modes. All of these modes are subsets of the events available to you which are: Nationals, Supercross, Supermoto, Opencross, Freestyle, Free Ride, Waypoint, Open Class, and Hill Climb. The Multiplayer gaming modes allow you to compete through quick events and custom events.
In terms of gameplay all the events tend to get really old, really fast. You're basically driving around in whichever vehicle following a magic floating arrow at the top of the screen or attempting to perform aerial tricks. The racing events are hard to navigate since the arrows will point you to your direct destination instead of the path that leads you there. I've spent more time trying to get passed a fenced area to get to my next checkpoint than I care to admit looking for a gap or a jump to continue on my way. When attempting to pull of jumps and land the odd trick you need to forget everything you thought you knew about gravity and physics to be successful. Bending over and accepting the simulated physical world that Rainbow Studios and Incinerator Studios have created is about as pleasant as it sounds. One of the more positive aspects of the game is the great short loading times. I was really surprised to find how transparent it was to switch vehicles, events, and environments.
As a general rule, when a PS2 game gets graphically spanked by the PSP it's a sad state of affairs for everybody involved. The motorcycle riders look like the illegitimate love children of Kate Moss and Master Chief of Halo lore, which is bad enough but made worse during crash sequences. During the crash sequences the abominable physics engine shows its worst as it makes what should be the random carnage of bodies and earth colliding an interpretative dance of the spaghetti arm people. Throwing bodies and adding a little blood would've saved the game from turning into the overpriced horizontal pirouette simulator that it is. The environments look quite disappointing with little to no detail and nothing looking amazingly rendered. Graphically it would appear that the developers walked through the motions in putting this title together; nothing more than average and nothing less of ordinary.
The controls are pretty standard with the X-button controlling gas, Square-button as brake, and the Circle and Triangle buttons as your trick buttons. Tricks are done by ripping off various streams of Circle, Triangle, R1, and left analog stick. The controls take a while to get used to when attempting to pull of air tricks. The problem with the PS2 version of the game is to get a feel for how much air time you have before returning back into position to land successfully. One of the stupidest things I have ever seen control wise appeared in this game. The camera tends to drift off to angles that make it hard to figure out exactly where you're going. To fix this the controls have the right analog stick set to control the camera. The only problem with this is that your thumb is needed to hit all the buttons, especially the gas! It's quite a precarious position to be winning a race and choose between continuing at your current speed without knowing where you're going or pointing the camera to the correct direction and lose the lead; obviously the developers of this game are part of some ultra race of humans that have two thumbs on their right hand. If I had the two right thumbs required to play this game
The Sound in Untamed is one of the few bright spots. The punk music helps add the sense of adrenaline that you'd normally expect from the graphics. The sound effects sound true to life although (and I don't fault the game for this because it sounds the same in real life too) the motor vehicles tend to sound like high fidelity fart machines.
Untamed is a perfect example of a franchise paying heed to a platform almost out of muscle memory more so than anything else. It would be in the best interest of all PS2 gamers if developers/publishers who were still passionate about developing great games for the PS2 stepped up. Games like Untamed for the PS2 merely accentuate the dated technology by not using it to its full potential; pushing the PS2 into retirement instead of letting it age into obsolescence gracefully.