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by Acclaim

davemirra_gcn_ss07-01.jpg (4995 bytes)I have to admit this review was starting to get the best of me. Sitting here, staring at the words "Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2," a flashing cursor, and all the empty space that followed, I was feeling frustrated, even impotent. (Creatively impotent, that is. Make no mistake—I am all man, baby. Except for my feminine side, I am in touch with that…and my inner child. But in every other way, all man. Why, what have you heard?) The last thing I wanted to do was spend two pages comparing yet another game to Tony Hawk. I wanted to be cool and original. Then it hit me: there is nothing cool or original about Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2. If the people responsible for the game weren’t willing to go the extra mile, why should I?

davemirra_gcn_ss06-01.jpg (5996 bytes)So, how does Mirra’s second outing compare to the Birdman part 3? After all, these are the versions that are available on the Gamecube. Let Xbox owners compare Mirra 2 to Hawk 2. Well, Mirra’s in the ballpark, albeit somewhere way out in left field. Hey, at least he’s on the playing field—Jonny Moseley can’t even get past security (boy, did that game stink). Now that I have beat that metaphor to death, let me just say that Mirra 2 really doesn’t have any huge, glaring problems. It is more a matter of a bunch of small flaws and frustrations, most of which are carried over from the first title, dragging it down.

Mirra 2 has all the usual game play elements that we have come to expect from our trick titles. There are plenty of real pros to choose from, including the Miracleman himself. The bikes, gear, and sponsors are all true to life for the BMX aficionados out there. Slim Jim has even included their "eat me" mascot guy as an unlockable character. I was disappointed to see that there was no character creator, however. The pros are all great, but there is nothing better than pulling off insane tricks with a character that you have customized to look just like you, and nothing more painful than watching him or her shatter every bone in his or her body on a nasty bail.

davemirra_gcn_ss03-01.jpg (6960 bytes)You can play in Proquest (10 levels, including 2 exclusive to the GC and Xbox), Single Session (a timed run on any level), and Free Ride (go nuts with no time limit). Mirra 2 tries to set its Proquest apart from other games by adding respect points into the mix. Basically, the cooler you play, the more respect you earn from your BMX compatriots. When you have earned enough respect points you will unlock new bikes and gear, and eventually you will be invited to the award competitions. This is kind of cool in that it takes that "impress x number of skaters" challenge and spreads it over the entire game. My biggest complaint about Proquest is the way it presents its challenges. They are tiered by difficulty: Rookie, Amateur, Pro, Hardcore, and Insane. Each tier has up to four challenges, and you must complete all of them through Pro to move to the next level. The problem is that you are not given all of the challenges up front. Instead, you are given a short list of challenges that must be completed before you are given new ones. And there are others that must be sought out from other riders. Now obviously there are some challenges you will prefer over others, and it would be nice if you could choose the ones you want from the start rather than having to repeat ones you dislike over and over before you get to a good one. This is especially true when you have to complete ten or more challenges to move to the next level. And some of them really are lame. One challenge in the first level has you running all over the place trying to knock over ladders. The ladders lead nowhere, there are no people on them to torment, and you can’t even trick off of them. You just bump into them and they fall over. Yippee.

davemirra_gcn_ss04-01.jpg (7165 bytes)For added replay value there are some 2-player games and a park editor. The 2-player games revolve around completing stunts, getting the highest score, or best of all, wipe out mode, where you try to achieve the biggest bail. There is also a BMX game of HORSE. Unfortunately, the challenges are all turn based, so there is no head-to-head action. The park editor is, of course, invaluable.

The trick system is deep enough, with trick modifiers and manuals. The instruction booklet claims 1500 possible trick variations. I can’t say that I tried them all. Many, I am sure, differ so slightly as to be unnoticeable, but there are plenty of real world and comically impossible tricks to choose from. The physics system that is incorporated into these tricks is less than perfect, however. First of all, there is a lot of mysterious guiding going on. The magnetic rails are back from the first title, as are the tricks that seem to land themselves, and there are times when the game limits what you can even try. For instance, no matter how much momentum I had, no matter how high I got, the game simply would not let me attempt to do a double back flip. After one full rotation your character just stops.

davemirra_gcn_ss08-01.jpg (7268 bytes)In most cases, the control set up works very well on the GC controller. Pulling off a bunny hop, grind, flip, or wheelie is fairly intuitive. What is not intuitive, however, and I can’t imagine why, is stopping, turning in place, or getting out of those damned infuriating back pedals. If you miss your target and want to stop, turn, and line yourself up for another run, it takes forever. And every time my character went into yet another unstoppable back pedal, I just about went into a frothing gamer’s frenzy. This was a problem in the last title, why is it still here?

This game’s biggest bragging point is its huge levels. Indeed, the levels are enormous—at least three or four times bigger than your average trick title, I would guess. This is great when you are playing Free Ride as it offers you a sprawling landscape to explore, and a variety of places and things to ride and trick on. It is, however, a pain in the butt when it comes to completing your challenges in Proquest. The game almost warrants a radar system, as often times you are reduced to playing hide and seek over and over again just to find the next rider or ladder or whatever (sorry, I can’t get over those stupid ladders). And, to be honest, a lot of what you find is just more of the same. Sure, you can go from this barn near the pool to that barn way over there, but they both just contain some variation of the same ramp and jump park.

davemirra_gcn_ss02-01.jpg (7659 bytes)The best word to describe the graphics is bland. The lack of texture and detail does nothing to make the characters or those big landscapes at all appealing. There are clipping problems everywhere. My character even managed to fall through a ramp a couple of times. And some of the environment rendering is downright laughable. There is a pool in the first level that looks great from a distance, but as you approach it you begin to see something is amiss. The kiddie slide and beach balls are not shrinking. Finally, you pull up right next to the slide and it is towering at least twenty feet over your head! The first step on the ladder is even with your shoulder. And the beach balls are taller than you. Who were these toys made for ("fee, fie, foe, fum….")? Or better yet, what were the people making this game thinking?

In terms of sound, the game doesn’t make much of an attempt at ambient noise, though it would probably just be covered by the soundtrack anyway. As far as that goes, it is decent. Some old stuff, some new, mostly butt rock.

When it comes right down to it, I really can’t say that Mirra 2 is a terrible game, or that you won’t like it. I can say with complete confidence, however, that it pales in comparison to your two other choices for trickin’ on the ‘Cube: Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 and SSX Tricky. The little problems, and the overall blandness of this game reduce it to rental fare only. 

Jeremy Kauffman   (03/07/2002)


Ups: Big levels; park editor; wipeout mode in two-player.

Downs: Bland graphics; quirky physics; some legacy control issues.

Platform: Gamecube