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by THQ

MX Superfly featuring Ricky Carmichael has wheelied its way onto the Xbox, and is making quite an impact on those who actually take the time to appreciate it. MX Superfly is an underrated marvel that is undeservingly being passed over. It arrives at what seems to be a prolonged peak of the motocross sports climax. I hear more commercials on the radio for these events than I do for literally anything else--and rightly so. There can’t be anyone alive who isn’t bewildered at a rider who dashes off the edge of a ramp at breakneck speeds and, while in the air, stands on his seat, sits on the handlebars, or does a "superman seat grab" before righting himself to land. It’s gravity defying stunts and spectacles like these that are awesome to watch, and now can be performed from the safety of your own comfy recliner. MX Superfly’s sheer amount of options and goodies alone make it worth the purchase--there’s way too much stuff here to accomplish in a mere five-day rental. Of course there are plenty of riders to choose from: how about twenty-seven of them, each and every one of them customizable. Add into the mix 11 mini-games, 22 motocross, supercross, and freestyle courses, boatloads of unlockables, the option to play your own soundtrack, downloadable content via Xbox Live, and an ingenious park editor, and you have one of the hottest extreme sports games to come around in a long time. Regrettably, it’s not without its fair share of flaws, but anyone looking for a good, solid, feature-packed motocross title should look no further than MX Superfly.

The first thing to notice in this game is the slick, easy-to-navigate interface and stylish techno-industrial riffs that accompany it. I’ve played a lot of games with this type of interface setup and music, but none have left the impression that this game has. Maybe it’s the fact that I just upgraded to a thirty-two inch super flat TV with an S-video cable that make it seem really cool; I don’t know. I’m impressed anyway.

That said, the graphics are tight for the most part, but won’t completely blow you out of the water. They don’t need to. Everything runs at a smooth 30 FPS without a single millisecond of slowdown, even with all of the riders on-screen at once. One of my biggest gripes, however, is the weak animation when a rider takes a spill. It seems stiff and choppy, and nothing like the real-life physics in the Tony Hawk or Dave Mirra series. On the other hand, if you practice enough you’ll mostly be staying on your bike anyway, so for most people it shouldn’t be a critical concern. Racetracks look great, making you want to race over and over again, and the arenas look like, well, dirt. That’s what motocross is all about. Dirt and ramps. I can’t honestly say that dirt-mapping or clod-bumping was used. I can say it’s the best looking dirt I’ve ever seen in a motocross game, fair enough?

Of course, what’s a dirt bike game without dirt bikes? There are plenty of them to choose from, everything from Yamaha and Kawasaki to Suzuki and KTM. Each of them controls a little bit differently, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Which leads me to my last main gripe of this game. The controls, like most games, take some getting used to, but seem a little overly sluggish and unresponsive here. I would like to see a tighter reaction when I try to turn without power sliding. Don’t get me wrong; power sliding is wonderful and quite necessary throughout the game, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried hitting a ramp coming out of a full circle around the arena only to sway way right or left because I didn’t power slide, thus losing momentum and missing my jump. If you’re like me, your frustration meter will probably skyrocket. Like I said though, it all just takes some good, old-fashioned getting used to, and you’ll be power sliding and hitting ramps like a real pro.

I really like the use of the suspension meter. This basically allows you some extra "kick" via pressing and holding the right trigger button just before shooting off the end of a ramp to really get air born to pull off huge combos and high scoring tricks. It’s also useful in the mini-games, especially "Step-up", where you have to clear a bar that raises a foot or two every turn.

MX Superfly works on a cash system, meaning you need to earn dough before your considered real competition. You can’t compete in any season unless you make the bucks, so it’s critical that you do. Besides, earning cash is basically segmented tutorials in all areas of the game including jumping off ramps, landing, trick combos, power sliding and so forth, so it’s a great way to get familiar with the ins and outs of the game. The better you do in these tutorials the more cash you accumulate. Of course you can compete in races and mini-games for cash as well, which is probably where you’ll earn the bulk of it. There are eleven mini-games to choose from, including, as was mentioned earlier, "Step-up", where you jump over a bar of increasing height, "Stranded", where you pick up gas cans and deliver them to your stranded buddies before time expires, "Moto-Golf", where you tear up a golf course by following the designated arrows all the way to each hole’s flag before time expires, and eight more such as "Balloon Toss", "Horse", "Wheelball", and "Moto-Slalom" that really add variety to an already feature-packed game and are a lot of fun to play.

Out of all of these things, though, I find the career mode to be the most fun. This is the meat of the game, and where you’ll probably spend most of your time. Only in MX Superfly do you get to race in real life arenas, such as Loretta Lynn’s, the Outdoor Nationals, the Free Ride Moto-X Championships, and the THQ US Open. Hit jump after jump, power slide around corners, and race the best riders in the sport, all the while flinging mud and filth everywhere just like the real thing. These races get intense, and I literally feel drained and exhausted of strength after finishing one.

The sound effects in the game are what is expected: screaming dirt bike engines, the roaring of the crowd, and a commentator who, surprisingly, isn’t that annoying, but spews just the right amount of banter to make things interesting without being overly annoying--which anyone who plays a lot of racing games can certainly appreciate. However, I find the in game soundtrack completely unworthy of such a great title as MX Superfly. As is typical with extreme sports games, it’s littered with the usual helping of punk and metal tunes, most of which are horrible at best. The option to use your own soundtrack saves the day. It gives me great pride to barrel off the ends of ramps and dirt hills with "They Might Be Giants" and "Ben Folds Five" blasting through the arena.

Honestly, I don’t find a lot of excitement in "build your own track" editors, mainly because it’s just too painstaking and tedious for me to really care. The fact that one is included here, and a pretty cool one at that, just serves to round out this especially attractive set of in game features, the likes I haven’t seen in a videogame in quite some time. There is a lot to offer those who do care, however, and I can see where you could really get lost creating your own stunt course.

MX Superfly has it where it counts, and in droves. You would be doing yourself a great injustice to dismiss this game as merely "another motocross title." This is the pinnacle of motocross gaming. It’s also a game that die-hard fans will appreciate and even the most casual of casual players can pick up and play and have a blast with, especially with a group of friends. I shorted this game one star because of the control and animation, which is a very important aspect of gameplay. However, for those looking for a great motocross game, or a great game period, should be able to excuse these faults and have one heck of a good time.

Eric Bodrero   (01/31/2003)


Ups: Tons of options, tracks, mini-games, and extras; lots of customizable riders to choose from; great variety of moves to execute and discover; nice track layout and variety.

Downs: Controls can be sluggish and unresponsive; animation is a bit stiff; poor in-game soundtrack.

Platform: Xbox