Among the many games that went by the wayside as I struggled to keep up with the tsunami of major releases last fall was MX vs. ATV Reflex, the latest entry in THQ's series of off-road racing games. I finally had a chance to sit down and play it this week.
Its primary shtick has to do with control. Most off-road racing games simply require a player to steer by moving a single thumbstick, but Reflex provides players separate control of bike and rider. The left thumbstick controls the bike's handlebars while the right shifts the rider's weight. That means you can lean into turns to corner more quickly, pull back to wheelie through rough patches, and control your riders position to land jumps more cleanly.
At least in theory.
I found it to be a bit like trying to pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time. Consequently, my rider spent more time eating dirt than zooming across it.
But that's just me, a guy who's never ridden a motorbike in his life. If you take Jolene Van Vugt's word for it, it's a major step up in terms of realism.
And she should know.
She's a professional motocross rider born and bred in London, Ontario. She was the first woman to win the Canadian Women's National Series title, stars on the MTV show Nitro Circus, and holds several Guinness world records for the sport.
She's also a spokesperson for the game. I had a chance to ask her a few quick questions via email.
I'm the kind of guy who would rather play games about extreme sports than actually do them, but clearly you're the kind of girl who would rather engage in extreme sports than play games about them. How do games fit into your life?
Well, with my lifestyle large amounts of traveling happens regularly, so I carry a PSP with me everywhere and bust out playing whenever the mood strikes!
Can you explain your involvement in the game?
I was approached by THQ to be a part of the new game by appearing as a "pro" challenger, adding in a new element, a female rider. I'm also a spokesperson for Reflex, explaining how the new features work in online tutorials.
There have been plenty of games that focus on dirt bike racing and ATV racing. What is it about this game that has you excited?
The new features make it a next level Moto/ATV game. The rider reflex control and terrain deformation definitely caught my eye.
This game is much truer to form than any other game to date. It has a much more real-life riding feel to it. With the option of moving just your handlebars or your body at separate times, it's not just one stickman motion anymore.
And the way the dirt gets all dug up and rough with the terrain deformation feature makes it more challenging and exciting, just like in real life.
Your sport is one traditionally dominated by men, though you've done a great job carving out a foothold for yourself and other women. Will this game do anything to help women riders?
I hope that everything-all these crazy, unique and out-of-the-norm things I get to do and be a part of-help other women within the sport. It's a tough industry and if I can help set a bar or assist in paving a path, that's pretty cool. I hope it will help give more awareness that we are here and we work just as hard.
What was it like to be the first woman to backflip a full-sized dirt bike? Did you spill before succeeding, and, if so, did it hurt as much as I imagine?
Landing the backflip for the first time back in fall 2005 was definitely one of my most memorable, favourite, and stress-filled moments. It has had a great impact on my life and the path I am going down now.
Spills come with the territory with Moto, and learning the backflip was no different. Yes it can hurt, but once you land it the pain is nothing compared to the taste of success.