You may surprised to hear that out of all of THQ's venerable franchises, MX vs. ATV is the publisher's most successful franchise. At 100 million units sold, MX vs. ATV is responsible for more sales than the WWE Smackdown Series, UFC Undisputed, Red Faction, and games within the Warhammer franchise.

Therefore, its with little surprise that another installment in the franchise is coming, this time by the name of MX vs. ATV Alive.

The game has a few new features that should be exciting for existing fans of the franchise while also bringing in a few new ones. One of the key features for the game is the physics engine, in particular how bikes and opponents correspond to one another. In what the developers were touting as "Bar to Bar," the physics of how riders collide with one another is far more realistic than ever before. Knock a racer down on a tight curve, pass cleanly, and your rider will taunt the other. If you stick to the outside and take a high speed racer to the side, you'll have to quickly shift your weight in the opposite direction to stay on your wheels. The "Bar to Bar" addition was certainly welcome and felt more fair than the question collisions in some of the previous titles.

The gameplay is still all focused on the physics and weight transfer involved in dirt bike racing. To become an expert player, you'll have to not only master the tracks proper, but the proper weight shift. By shifting weight back and forth with the right analog stick, you'll be able to overtake the competition. Jumps become even more in depth by tasking players to transfer weight and jump on their seat accordingly. Time it right, and you'll get more distance and air from your jump. Popping the clutch at the right moment in a curve or landing on a jump can also give you a quick speed burst. In simple terms, there's a lot to remember while you're playing, but mastering the physics are very satisfying.

The game will also include a progession experience system in order to unlock goodies like fully licenced bikes, helmets, tracks, and the like. The XP system is shared across both multiplayer and single player, meaning that what you unlock in one mode will transfer over to the other.

Tricks are handled almost like a fighting game. When flying off a jump, you must hold the modifier button (the right bumper on the Xbox 360 controller we were using), and then input any three directions on the analog stick. Ample air time are required to properly land the tricks, making them feel realistic and satisfying.

To help newbies, there are a few driver assists to assist you. Most of them I found were subtle enough to feel like my hand wasn't being held. One of the most obvious assists was the length of time allowed to regain balance when landing a jump or colliding with another racer. The need for brakes varies depending on the difficulty level as well.

For the hardcore Supercross fans out there, you'll be able to put the new physics through their paces in James Stewart's personal compound. The Supercross champion's entire personal training compound has been digitally recreated for the game.

THQ is actually taking an interesting approach to the game's pricing structure, releasing the game at only $39.99 USD. That's a breath of fresh air over the $69.99 games we regularly encounter here in Canada. At the same time, the game will support a wide breadth of downloadable content, some of which will be made available to those who buy the game new. It's nice to know that if these sorts of stores must permeate video games these days, at least we'll be paying a lower admission rate. I'm all in favour.

With some solid multiplayer that kept us glued to the screens at THQ's preview event in San Francisco coupled with a very convincing physics engine, MX vs. ATV Alive looks to continue THQ's solid track record of melding dirt bikes and video games. You won't have to wait long to know for sure, as MX vs. ATV Alive hits shelves on May 10, 2011 on Xbox 360 and PS3.