Even though this site is dedicated to “hardcore” racing sims, we still find time for everything in between.
MX vs. ATV Reflex is a game I could not wrap my head around when it first came out. My buddy was huge into dirtbiking and I would routinely get destroyed by him when we’d play this in his basement before a night of partying. I could never figure out how to run quick laps – the concept of rhythm racing never registered with me. Fast forward almost five years later and the game’s available on Steam for the reasonable price of $30, although that price is subject to change due to the game’s age.
I picked it up the other day because I’m a huge fan of YellowS2K’s YouTube videos and wanted to give the game another shot with the things I’d learned from his commentary – primarily how to combo different sets of jumps and not suck. With a few mods, MX vs. ATV Reflex is one of the best games readers of PretendRaceCars aren’t playing. It doesn’t have licensed tracks, and there are only a handful of real-world riders mixed in with the plethora of fictional AI in the game, but Reflex is the perfect example of how you do simcade motocross racing right.
Now that I finally posses the skill necessary to run competitive laps and actually beat the AI, what Reflex does best is the actual riding. While it’s definitely not MX Simulator in terms of physics, the game requires a fair bit of practice to work both analog sticks and get the most out of your bike & rider. Also adding in to the challenge is the game’s phenomenal terrain degradation. All of the ruts you see in the screenshots littered throughout these posts – those aren’t just for show. Ruts, puddles, and soft spots are just as dynamic, if not moreso than rFactor 2’s Real Road technology. 15 lap Supercross races become genuinely infuriating as the entire track becomes a mess of deep ruts and lines that constantly evolve and change with each lap. 20 minute races are in most cases more fun than three lap sprints, simply because dealing with the wildly changing track surface presents a challenge you won’t get anywhere else.
Beyond the racing itself, Reflex is a console game, and that means you’ll get a fully-featured career mode, along with an enormous amount of other content to explore. Reflex not only has a host of 250cc and 450cc bikes, but also comes with a full selection of Quads, Trophy Trucks, Off-Road Buggies, and UTV’s. I can’t say I’m a fan of the Trophy Truck physics, nor have I even tried the ATV’s, but the fact that it’s there and you can do it speaks volumes for what you’re getting with Reflex.
Being on PC, Reflex also has a few “must-have” mods that’ll enhance what you’re getting out of it. And I’ll list these below because they greatly increased how much fun I had with the game out of the box.
These are pretty self explanatory with what they do, and will mostly appeal to the “sim” crowd who don’t enjoy playing through lengthy career modes. One mod adds every track in the game to the “testing” mode (known as “Free Ride”), others open up all content for purchase to fully customize your bike/rider from the beginning, and finally there’s some DLC that was previously only found on the console versions of the game.
The mod that made the biggest improvement to the game is the First Person FOV adjustment mod. Like most racing sims, FOV and view positioning is everything, and Reflex is strangely no exception. The modified first person view allows you to play Reflex like a true motocross sim, to the point where there’s a noticeable drop in my skill level which I switch out to a traditional chase camera view. With the game’s stellar graphics, I’ve found myself distracted by the attention to detail Rainbow Studios put into the game’s environments. A few of the Supercross tracks have Vegas-style excursions outside of the arena, and the claustrophobic feeling you get ripping through the halls of the arenas is eerily accurate – reminds me of being in a karting complex and being able to make out the faces of the spectators standing trackside.
MX Simulator may have the better set of physics, but Reflex is basically the simcade motocross game you never knew you needed in your life.