MX vs ATV is an off-road racing series that's flown somewhat under the radar in recent years. We can attest to that — this reviewer hasn't played one since the original Xbox release — but we were looking forward to jumping into MX vs ATV Legends to see how things have evolved since way back when. Legends is a more focused affair with a fairly linear career mode that spans all three vehicle types - MX, ATV, and UTV. There's one clear emphasis though, and that's on MX, the two-wheel vehicle class.
Let us explain. On loading Legends up, you'll be tasked with a run of tutorials before you can tackle the game's core career mode. These mini missions teach you the basics on jumping, landing, performing stunts, and all the rest of it, and they're fairly straight forward if a little laborious. They also teach you how to handle the bikes' physics by leaning into corners and utilising the rider's weight to throw vehicles around and shave precious extra seconds off lap times.
However, most of these tutorials only really make a difference to bike riding. Using any four-wheel vehicle is a much simpler affair, and the game's more detailed physics are clearly built around two-wheel racing. That's fine, all available classes are still fun to drive, but we just wanted to say right out of the gate that your mileage may vary with Legends if quads and buggies would typically be your go-to vehicle type.
All vehicle classes are heavily featured throughout the campaign though. In fact, they all have their own list of events to tackle in a season-like format. Most of said events focus on standard races against a pack of AI bots, which feel fairly balanced as the campaign begins. However, as things progress and the tracks become more complex, the AI can stumble, and all too often we found ourselves out ahead of the pack after an AI pile-up ensued pretty early on. We wouldn't say this completely ruined those events, but that feeling of wheel-to-wheel racing did fade a little later in the game.
Thankfully, the driving is still good fun even without 15 other racers nibbling at your heels. That enjoyment does depend on the track's general variety when you're cruising out front on your own, but more often than not, there are enough jumps, kinks, and stunt opportunities to make the races a blast to play through. MX, ATV, and UTV vehicle types all have a solid physics model, even if more complex aspects regarding rider weight and momentum apply more to the MX class. We would like a more 'weighty' feeling to the vehicles and more impact on landing and crashing, but overall, it's a solid effort.
The tracks themselves are pretty varied in layout, but environments do remain similar throughout with forests, deserts, and mountains making up most of Legends' landscapes. Thankfully, the environments really pop thanks to fantastic lighting effects which elevate the visuals quite substantially. There's a lack of polish elsewhere, particularly the rider models and the menu & UI design, but boy, this game can look gorgeous as you scream your way down a mountainside at full pelt, oblivious as to what's going on with the AI pile-up that happened three miles back.
Sadly, there are quite a few other bugs and glitches present, although we must stress we have been playing this on pre-release code. Characters within the game's hub world can be hard to interact with at times; you basically have to crash into folk for the chat prompt to appear. Audio generally is quite buggy too, with frequent engine noise dropouts present, along with music that wildly varies in volume depending on the track. Also, you'll sometimes find yourself clipping into trackside objects, forcing the need to reset your vehicle. The easily-accessible reset button meant getting stuck was never game-breaking, but it felt frustrating at times nonetheless.
As we've been tackling this one before a wider public release, we've not dipped into online multiplayer at all just yet. However, like our recent experience with futuristic racer Redout 2, we can't image Legends having a huge online community even around launch, although hopefully quick matches will be possible to some extent. Thankfully, the game does support split-screen play, so if local multiplayer is on your wishlist, Legends has that box ticked.
The other two main modes, Career and Exhibition, should keep you going for quite a while though. The seasonal structure to the career mode means it'll take some time before you truly run out of events to play, and progressing grants you the usual bonuses like new vehicles, parts, rider suits, sponsorship deals, etc. It's all underlined by a broad in-game currency system too, letting you pick and choose upgrades alongside progression-related rewards. As far as we can tell, there's no option to buy this currency with real money.
With a little more time in the oven and attention to detail, MX vs ATV Legends could have been a fantastic off-road racer. As it is at present, it's just an okay one, with a general lack of both polish and event variety letting things down somewhat. The bugs and glitches currently present in the game have knocked our score down a tad as well, although hopefully, they'll be sorted soon after release. The game's cut-price $40 entry point makes this one that bit more appealing, but we can only really recommend it once the bugs have been fully ironed out. 'Legends'? Not just yet.