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MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael (PS2) Review

Background

Screens(6)
When it comes to motorcycle games, fans of the genre have had some fairly slim pickings. On the PSX, I thoroughly enjoyed Moto Racer 2 and Supercross Circuit (a great supercross game). The N64 has Excitebike 64. The quality moto titles pretty much skipped over the Dreamcast and went straight to the PS2, where Moto GP is perhaps the best moto game to date. Now comes THQ with their Championship Motocross series on the PS2.

Renamed MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael, the game touts 30 pro riders, 15 motocross and supercross tracks, a career mode, freestyle venues, and plenty of aerial tricks. This rendition is a long ways off the inaugural version of the game on the PSX, which means it's quite a bit better. The racing is more realistic, but unfortunately there's not enough of it.

Presentation/Graphics : 85
At first I viewed MX 2002 as a game that could have been easily done on the Sega Dreamcast. The graphics are actually very Dreamcast-like. More than any other title, this game's textures and edges are smooth to the point where I never noticed any of the jaggedness that befuddles many PS2 titles. Along with the nice textures, color schemes are visually soothing and create a natural look. The earth tones contrast realistically with the colorful bikes and riders.

The bikes have a fair amount of detail. Spokes, forks, and the like are easily discernible, and the riders themselves are decked out in intricate gear. While some of the turning animations are a bit jerky, in the air the rider and bike move naturally. Bike rotations are not overly quick, and riders perform moves like flips, 360s, and Supermans with a perfect pace. The best animations are reserved for wipeouts, where riders tumble and limbs flail about.

Likewise, venues have a nice look to them. Indoor stadium supercross tracks have a static and bland crowd looking on. But the terrain is modeled well. The foam blocks lining the course have clear sponsorship ads on them, and the course boundaries are clearly marked by them or flags. When it comes to jumps the variance in terrain is very good. You can tell the slight differences in the heights of the mounds in the whoops section easily. Portions of some courses have slight ruts which not only affect the visuals but your stability on the bike.

Outdoors the altitude changes are more severe. Courses are bordered with vehicles, trees, and rocks. While they lack the photorealistic quality of a game like GT3, they are passable in the game. The elevation changes are much more drastic. You'll find yourself staring at the slope of a huge hill and will be pleasantly surprised on the other side when you can see a large portion of the course. If ahead of the competition you might even spot the other riders kicking up dirt.

If there is a fault graphically, it's that there is a single camera angle. The third-person view is perfectly acceptable, but I'm sure there are plenty of racers out there who would like a different distance on the third-person view or even a first-person view. Overall, the graphics are solid but are not breathtaking.

Presentation/Audio : 80
When it comes to moto games, you're guaranteed to hear the chainsaws. MX 2002 is no exception. As you rev the engine you'll hear the buzz sound of your 125cc or 250cc engine. On jumps you can hear the engine whine as the revolutions jump due to the lack of wheel resistance. Upon landing you'll hear the engine pitch down and gradually increase as you accelerate. Aside from that there's not much in terms of vehicle sounds.

The only other sound in the game is from the soundtrack, which consists of bands like American Hi-Fi, Sum 41, and Saliva. The soundtrack is your basic alternative hard rock/X-games/Tony Hawk style mix. Personally I found the style boring and quickly turned the music off.

Interface/Options : 65
One area where MX 2002 suffers is the number of options available. The main menu lists the exhibition and freestyle modes of play as well as a short career mode. For two players, there is a two-player option. The main menu also has a listing for options. The freestyle (stunt tracks) and exhibition (racing) modes can be customized to a small extent. Here you can set things like the length of the race, the difficulty, and the class of bike.

The career mode is disappointingly short. Upon selecting it you'll quickly discover the entire career mode is comprised of 19 races and no ability to customize or tune your motorcycle. For a career mode I was hoping for prize money and upgrade options to keep the game interesting. What's more, the races are short.

To extend the life of the game somewhat, a challenge mode is included where over 40 challenges await you. Challenges include placing first or pulling off a certain trick. The prize is a short video. The odd thing is that the challenge menu is tucked in the options menu, which also houses minor tweaks for graphics, sound, and controller configuration. Speaking of the controller, the game performs well with the Dual Shock 2. The control is very good and the button configuration (which is customizable) works great. My only beef with the controller is the weak support of the vibration capabilities.

Gameplay : 70
I can handle a short career mode if the racing is intense and has the ability to be customized. A game like Moto GP only has five courses, but the racing model is pretty good and you can set things like arcade or sim handling and race length. In MX 2002 the career mode lacks any of this. There's no bike customization, and most races last either 3 (for motocross) or 5 (for supercross) laps. This yields races that last about 6 minutes. When you do race you immediately question some of the AI. If you get too far behind it's next to impossible to catch up. But there seems to be a general inability to effectively pull away from the pack. The pack, by the way, is a paltry 6 AI riders. With only 6 AI riders, there is plenty of room on the spacious tracks to navigate. When you do encounter the AI riders, they generally follow their own lines and won't barge into you.

The motocross tracks have been recreated well. They offer a variety of wide- open racing, big hills, tight turns, and multiple jumps. The indoor supercross tracks are fewer but retain the same quality. While the supercross racing isn't as good as Supercross Circuit, MX 2002 carries its own. The downside to both classes of racing is the small field. The game would have been something special with 15 or 20 (or more) AI riders in the field like a real race.

The handling is exceptional in the game. Besides the gas and brake buttons, a clutch and powerslide are present. Powerslides are pretty much useless as you end up drifting way out on turns. More effective is to slow down and catch the correct line through a turn. The clutch is implemented well. On jumps you can engage the clutch and release it just as you land. Doing so keeps your speed up or lets you power out of a turn. In the air you have unbelievable control. You can twist and turn your bike to line up for an exit or tilt forward or backwards to line up the next hill. While it may seem unrealistic at times, the control is really more lifelike than most moto games. There's an emphasis on timing and planning your jump sequences as landing on the fronts of hills drops your speed. The only complaint I have with the handling is that it seems one-sided against you. If you land on an AI rider you wipe out. If you are landed on by an AI rider you wipe out. But very rarely does an AI rider wipe out in the same circumstances.

You can also perform a variety of tricks in the air. Over two dozen tricks can be performed and tied together with spins and rolls. On the race circuits your tricks are scored and your total is saved. However, the main trick mode is the freestyle competition. Freestyle courses have the usual jumps and ramps and let you get maximum air. There are even a few special freestyle courses along the way such as the big jump arena, where you pull off unrealistic 60-foot high bounds, and the bus jump arena, where you can be a virtual Evel Knievel.

Once you've completed the career mode, which is made the easier by the fact that you can restart races ad infinitum, you can race the career mode again or hang out at the track for single races and freestyle events. Sadly, I found the AI to be somewhat easy to beat at the most difficult level in both types of events. Once you get the hang of the trick system scoring is not a problem. All that's left is the challenge mode which only unlocks videos and not more tracks or other goodies. There's a good foundation, but just not enough stuff.

Replay Value: 60
Honestly I don't see this game carrying a significant replay value. I love racing, but the AI isn't very challenging at even the highest level. And once you figure out the trick system you can beat the top AI scores with ease as well. The only incentive is to increase your own score. Frankly that type of thing doesn't interest me.

The career mode could have made this game much deeper than it is. However, the lack of a pay or points system means you race the same bike for an entire series. There's no tuning such as tire choice, suspension settings, or gearbox alterations. All those would have made the game more challenging and endearing. And while MX 2002 features some of the best motocross action to date, its lack of depth kills it. A couple of nights is all it takes to finish this game off.

Overall : 70
MX 2002 is a decent game that makes you crave more. More AI riders, more options, more depth. If it had these things it would be a must-buy title. The handling is wonderful and the tracks are challenging. The freestyle mode has a nice trick system that rivals Dave Mirra and Tony Hawk in terms of control. The clean graphics accent the potential this title has. As it stands, however, you'll have to bank on that potential and hope for a deeper sequel.

By: James Smith 8/9/01



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