Welcome to a world where dirt is a valued commodity.
Motorcross to me is like hockey to an Egyptian - I don't know a darn thing about it. You'll never see me tuning into the motorcross championships on ESPN2 at 3 a.m., but I'm perfectly willing to give the sport a try, especially if it comes in a handy video game package.
Excitebike on the NES represents my only experience with motorcross, and my general approach was to accelerate until my bike crashed or overheated - which ever came first. Then I would pound the controller into submission with my fist, stopping only when it became sore (my fist, not the controller).
Those were the days. Of course, motorcross games have come a long way since then. The newest and freshest in the racing, jumping dirtbike genre is MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael for Xbox. The Xbox game continues the storied (and recent) MX 2002 legacy that started with the Game Boy Advance as well as on Sony's next-gen console.
Anyone who has played MX 2002 on the PS2 knows that, against all odds, it was a quality racing game with intuitive arcade handling, decent visuals, and an extensive career mode with oodles of unlockable goodies. So far, the Xbox version is shaping up to be a slightly more handsome version of the same game, with some extra levels and gameplay modes thrown in for good measure. While the visuals here may not appear too great, the game still has some tweaking to go through before final mastering - and shipping to stores.
The key difference gamers will notice with MX 2002 for Xbox is the addition of two new levels: Washington D.C. and a Tacoma freestyle track. The game also permits a bit more customization than its PS2 counterpart. Now you can tune specific parts on your bike, including the exhaust pipe, the brakes, and the suspension. It's a little less customization than you see in a game like Gran Turismo, but simulation hounds will welcome the addition.
MX 2002 really excels when it comes to gameplay. As in the overnight snowboarding classic, SSX, the gameplay in MX 2002 mixes conventional racing with a heavy dose of outlandish freestyling. Through the course of a given race, players will have opportunities to nail some serious air, allowing them to pull off an array of belief-suspending tricks. The trick system seems to be patterned after the one used in Tony Hawk. If you're going to pay homage to a game, you can't do much better than that. The system is intuitive, but it also provides a rewarding challenge.
There appear to be three main gameplay modes in MX 2002. Exhibition and freestyle are your basic pick-up-and-play options. Players can choose from among 30 real-life racers and set rubber to dirt on 22 courses. These modes should fit the bill for those of you needing a quick fix.
If you want a more in-depth experience, there's the career-oriented calendar mode. Here, you create your own rider from scratch, complete with customizable riding gear. Players will engage in a set of four races over four weeks (one set for each engine class, starting with the smallest). You'll need to meet a certain benchmark in each race to unlock the next race, and you'll have to eclipse a specific rating for the entire set to open the next cc class.
The two-player game also sees the Xbox-only addition of a freestyle challenge that commands players to perform a series of tricks within a certain time limit. Whoever winds up with the most points, wins the game and preserves his or her dignity. The loser gets beaten with a wet noodle. Really, it's in the rulebook. Look it up.
Many of the game's 22 tracks were painstakingly modeled after their real-life counterparts using satellite imagery. The new D.C. track is rectangular in shape, with well-placed ramps and hills that allow players to sail past historical landmarks. The Tacoma course is a figure-eight track with steep banks that encourage high speeds and monstrous jumps.
Graphically, the game has evolved since its PS2 incarnation, but not by much. The textures are a little crisper and the framerate might be a little higher, but otherwise you're getting the same game (from a visual standpoint).
MX 2002 is slated for a release this fall, so it should find a place in your home before the end of the year.
Would watch motorcross on TV - if curling was the only other thing on