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by 3DO

7-01.jpg (5322 bytes)Good grief. Yes, good grief. I am beginning to think that we, the video game fans and consumers, are way too forgiving. Or we are just gullible. How else can a company like 3DO stay in business while producing consistently horrible games?

earlyscreen_madtrix11-01.jpg (6475 bytes)I hate to generalize and slam an entire company like that (especially in writing), but it has come down to that, hasn’t it? I am looking at 3DO’s entire line of games for the PS2, and I don’t see one title that is anything more than mediocre. Portal Runner was mildly entertaining, but not at all in the league of other next-gen platformers. I can’t think of the last Army Men game that I enjoyed. And WarJetz? Come on! That’s just to name a few.

9-01.jpg (7123 bytes)I am not trying to be insulting, nor do I want to seem bitter. But I am starting lose friends here, damn it! I used to be the cool guy who reviewed video games, had all of the inside info and new stuff. I was the guy who had a playable demo of GT3 months before it was released. Now I’m the asshole who subjects his friends to level after torturous level of bad games in service of a review. People groan when I enter the room with a game in my hand. And if that game says 3DO on the case, I better have a pizza and a half rack under the other arm. I am not a rich man, people. The pizza and beer penance is starting to take its toll.

earlyscreen_madtrix1-01.jpg (7902 bytes)Look, I know the process of creating and producing a successful video game isn’t easy. The combination of knowledge, skill, patience, determination, luck, and timing required seems nearly insurmountable. And yet it happens, often. Some companies are even able to do it fairly reliably.

6-01.jpg (9143 bytes)The problem, I believe, is that 3DO has worn out one of their few original franchises (Army Men) and are looking in the wrong direction for the next big thing. Games like WarJetz and Portal Runner work on a level consistent with 1st or 2nd generation PSX games. Had they been released then, they might have done well, but they lend nothing new to the current market. Now they have given us Jonny Moseley Mad Trix, another "me too" game trying to capitalize on a popular gaming trend without offering anything to move the genre forward.

Okay, let me step off of my soapbox. Hopefully my time spent there will be seen as constructive, and not belligerent.

8-01.jpg (9180 bytes)So what’s wrong with Mad Trix? Well, aside from an easy to pick up control scheme and a few good tunes on the soundtrack, everything. My biggest issue is intensity. When I pick up an "extreme" sports game, be it arcade or sim, I expect a little "extreme" game play. Mad Trix is unbelievably, unbearably, ungodly slow. I am not just talking about when you are starting down the slope. It is slow when you are accelerating into a full lean, grinding, or jumping. It is slow even when you are falling. This game is so slow, even the announcer sounds anesthetized.

As far as options go, the usual is here: you can practice in Ski School, mosey around in Freeride, or go right to Competition. On each level of Competition you must complete the Slopestyle Venue, where you perform tricks and beat set scores to earn medals and move onto the Big Mountain. Once in Big Mountain, you are dropped from a helicopter onto a big mountain (what else?) where you try to pull off a spectacular downhill run so that you will be included in a fictional ski movie. This is okay, but it limits you to beating scores, rather than including the more inventive objectives seen in other trick games. There is no multiplayer.

5-01.jpg (9411 bytes)The control set-up is good, as it is nearly identical to that of Tony Hawk. But while the trick system contains all of the basics: jumps, spins, flips, and grabs, it manages to be no fun whatsoever. This is due partly to the game’s slow pace—it’s as if you are performing underwater. There is also a funky physics system that more or less cheats you through some tricks, robbing you of any satisfaction at having pulled them off. You can, for example, completely misjudge a jump and overshoot a rail, but instead of sailing past it, all you have to do is tap the grind button and you will be sucked down onto it, as if by some mysterious tractor beam. You can also grind for an infinite amount of time, as there is no balance control of any kind. The lack of fun is mostly due, however, to the incredibly shallow list of tricks there are to perform and a lack of trick modifiers and extenders. You get a tweak button. That’s it. Have fun.

As slow as this game moves, it sure has a lot of performance problems. I managed to glitch it out within the first few minutes simply by jumping into a sign. The graphics are wholly unimpressive and plagued by draw in. The game also has trouble with depth perception. For the sake of being "extreme," there are places where you jump off of ledges and free fall for incredible distances. This takes forever, and while you are falling (and falling, and falling…) your shadow never changes—it is exactly the same size (way too big) at the height of your jump as it is (way too small) just before touchdown. The sound offers little to get excited about. There are a few good songs, but just as many bad ones, and they take forever to load, so there are long moments of silence between cuts. Then there is that lackluster announcer whose dialogue splices are painfully obvious.

4-01.jpg (10464 bytes)If that isn’t enough, I have some minor issues with the presentation as well. First, the opening movies spend more time showing the ski pros hanging around in a lodge toasting each other than pulling off "mad trix" on the slopes. I suppose that should have been a clue about the quality of the game. To take it further, the game menus are set in the lodge where you scroll from a dart board, which represents Competition, to the jukebox representing Options, to the pool table, and so on. It may be petty, but what does a pool table have to do with any mode of game play in a skiing game? There is something to be said for intelligent menu design. There is also something to be said for not insulting the intelligence of your audience. In the game manual, under the heading "Freeski," they actually list the phonetic pronunciation of the word. Does anyone out there really need help pronouncing this?

All nit-picks aside, I simply cannot recommend this game to anyone for any reason, not even to fans of skiing and/or trick games. You could actually tape a couple of Popsicle sticks to your fingertips and invent a game that is more fun than this. When you see Jonny Moseley Mad Trix on the shelf at your local retail or rental store, do yourself a favor and just keep walking.

Jeremy Kauffman   (02/21/2002)


Ups: Good control system; some good tunes on the soundtrack.

Downs: Super slow; weird physics; not enough tricks; glitchy graphics; just not any fun.

Platform: PlayStation 2