MX vs ATV Untamed is a multi-vehicle racing experience developed by Rainbow Studios published by THQ for the PSP, PS2, PS3, X360, DS, and Wii. 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. This is the first game I've seen where the PSP version is of a higher standard than the PS2.
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: you 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 is called the X-Cross Tour where you take on Events including Race, Waypoint Race, Time Attack, Stunt Challenge, Flag Challenge, Stunt Attack, Machine Challenge, and Machine Race. As you win races and complete challenges more and more vehicles and environments become available to you. The multiplayer experience is a nice addition that allows you to compete in various events with your friends but only over Ad Hoc mode.
In terms of gameplay, all the events tend to get really old really fast. In differing from the PS2 version, the single player experience throws you directly into an open area environment where you find columns of light that initiate each event. If you choose, you can also go through the Pause Menu to choose the event you'd like. 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.
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.
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 and Triangle button maneuvers. The controls take a while to get used to when attempting to pull of air tricks. Be prepared to take some time to get a feel for how much air time you have when doing tricks. It took more than a couple of face-plants until I successfully got back into position and landed successfully.
Despite the PSP's glorious widescreen capability, Untamed feels squished and skinny. The motorcycle riders look like the illegitimate love children of Kate Moss and Halo's Master Chief, 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 don't look terribly bad but fail to really give a sense of depth. I felt as though I was riding through an environment made of cardboard cut-outs.
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 isn't a game worthy of adding to your collection unless you are a die-hard MX or ATV fan. It's possible to pass the time with a game like this but the repetitive nature of the game will leave PSP fans wanting more.