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by Activision

bmx02-01.jpg (4368 bytes)As a fan of all things "extreme", I was really looking forward to Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX. I love the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series to death and expected the same high level of quality from MHPB since it was built on the same engine. Sadly, these expectations were not met, and I came away from Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX very disappointed.

bmx08-01.jpg (4407 bytes)I think the best way to describe the experience of playing Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX is to say that I dearly hope you have a large vocabulary because you will run out of four letter words to scream at your computer rather quickly. If the landing isn’t absolutely perfect, you will find yourself face down on the pavement with your bike bouncing away from you--as if it is embarrassed that you’ve crashed. The unforgiving nature of landing leads to much frustration and use of the aforementioned four letter words. The hit detection on landing is a bit inconsistent as well. Once in a while you will get away with landing a bit screwy, but on the very next ramp you will wipe out on what you think is a perfect landing.

bmx06-01.jpg (4620 bytes)The controls in MHPB take some getting used to. They are basically the same as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater: a bunny hop button, one for grinds, one for big tricks, and one for smaller tricks. This control setup has been gold in the Tony Hawk games, but there is a weird delay between pressing the buttons and actually seeing the move being performed in MHPB. This delay will cause many double back flip attempts to end up as back flip faceplants because the game simply doesn’t react to the commands fast enough. Once you get used to this, however, it isn’t so bad, but it makes transitions from grinds to manuals, manuals to grinds, and grinds to other tricks an adventure. I played MHPB using both the keyboard and my trusty Logitech Wingman Rumblepad, and I would definitely recommend using a game pad for this game rather than using the keyboard. It is very difficult to use the keyboard in MHPB because it simply doesn’t offer the precision control necessary to do such things as tricks and landing, which both seem to be big parts in this type of game. It is possible to use the keyboard, but why torture yourself?

bmx05-01.jpg (4940 bytes)Just like the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, there are five goals for each level. Only in MHPB they are represented by magazine covers rather than videotapes. In addition to the two score goals, you must find the letters to spell "trick", complete one level specific goal--such as knocking over porta-potties or hot dog stands, and you must find a hidden cover. The levels consist of locations such as a construction yard, the Hoffman Bike Factory, La Habra, New York, plus two competition levels. The levels are all fairly well designed and finding some of the hidden covers proved to be quite a challenge. Nothing on par with the hidden tape on the Downhill Jam level of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but there are some difficult covers to collect in MHPB. Some of the high score goals are nearly impossible, but are easy to accomplish by settling down into a grind-manual-grind-manual-grind-manual routine rather than going for the glory with big tricks. Overall the level goals are not too hard to complete, and the hidden covers are easily attained by just looking around and seeing what you can grind on in order to reach them. It would be a much more enjoyable experience if the control was a bit better, however.

bmx09-01.jpg (5014 bytes)The graphics in Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX are acceptable at best. There aren’t as many instances of clipping as there were on the PSX version, and draw-in isn’t a problem. The only real problem with the graphics, other than the fact they are just kind of ugly, is that the levels are incredibly dark. I know that there aren’t always bright, happy, sunshine-filled days in the world of BMX, but come on! How am I supposed to win the competition if I can’t even see the ramps? The first competition level and the New York level are especially guilty of this flaw. Most of the levels aren’t too bad, and turning up the brightness on your monitor helps quite a bit. The riders, on the other hand, are very well done. For the most part, the animation is spot on and looks fairly realistic. The bikes look good, and you can actually see them bounce around and roll when you crash--rather than just disappearing like the skateboards did in THPS. Not in any way important, but just something I noticed. The graphics are not spectacular, and the dark levels detract from the gameplay a bit, but they aren’t too bad. They don’t look as good as the PC version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but the graphics in MHPB get the job done.

bmx01-01.jpg (5145 bytes)One thing that is almost a guarantee in an "extreme" sports game is a killer soundtrack, and MHPB has a song for everyone. Bands such as Pennywise, Outkast, the B-52’s, Bad Brains, and even Static-X fill the bill with excellent songs that actually add to the experience. The clang of grinding a rail and the grunt of taking a hard fall are reproduced faithfully and are quite good. Where the control and graphics may fail, the sound thrives, especially the music.

bmx07-01.jpg (5752 bytes)Overall, Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX is an average game. It is clear that it benefits from using the Tony Hawk engine when you compare it to other BMX games, but it is obvious that it doesn’t take full advantage of it. The level designs are fairly solid, and the level goals are neither too easy nor too difficult. If the controls were a bit tighter and the hit detection a little better, the game would be much more enjoyable. But as it is, the game is more frustrating than fun; missing the same jump twenty times in a row or screwing up the same trick line a few times will wear on you and sour you on the game fairly quickly. Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX isn’t great, but it’s not horrible. If you are a fan of BMX, check it out.

Eric Qualls   (12/06/2001)


Ups: Great soundtrack; BMX fans will enjoy.

Downs: Control not as perfect as we want; overall mediocrity.

Platform: PC