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Armored Core 2
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GamesFirst! Magazine

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by Acclaim

dc01.jpg (7881 bytes)Just like THPS only different: and not as good. That’s the short version. The long version is that Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX is a decent game hoping to score a little piece of the Tony Hawk pie. Instead of a skateboard you have a BMX, and instead of spending most of your time in warehouses and urban jungles, you spend your time on dirt trails and backyard bike parks. This is all well and good; after all, THPS has a formula and a style that have been proven winners. I can see the temptation to follow in the footsteps of Pro Skater, but the danger is that by doing so developers risk stumbling or even falling on their face when their stride proves too weak to follow the dancing footsteps of the masters. This is what happened to Dave Mirra as it attempted to follow the unrivaled Tony Hawk franchise. It’s pretty decent in its own right, but it just doesn’t compare.

dc02.jpg (4946 bytes)The biggest weakness in Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX is the physics system, which is problematic in three primary ways. First, making a tight turn at a low speed is difficult, especially in confined spaces. While your character is rolling ineptly around, bouncing off of walls, and trying to peddle in right damn direction, his real world counter part is simply planting his leg and whipping the bike a hundred and eighty degrees then proceeding on his merry little way. Second, it’s way too easy to grind. I enjoy grinding, don’t get me wrong, but it’s possible to get caught in momentum loops where you bounce back and forth between objects and, among other things, can land huge multi-part tricks almost in spite of yourself and by complete accident. Third, and this is the big one, basic fundamental actions like jumping are unacceptably inconsistent. As with any such game, you eventually gain a sense for the how big a jump is and how fast you’re moving, but sometimes this simply doesn’t apply in Dave Mirra. There are points that have to be hit or reached off of a jump. They look so high you’re not sure you’ll be able to hit them. And you’re right. Except, all of a sudden when you’ve reached the pinnacle of your jump, you’re mysteriously sucked straight up to your target by some sort of strange vacuum effect. This is sloppy, impossible to judge, and takes the fun out of some of the challenges.

dc03.jpg (7109 bytes)The graphics are about average for the Dreamcast. There are a few clipping problems, but fortunately you don’t have to spend a lot of time near the edges of the levels, so this is easily overlooked. Neither the riders, bikes, or levels will do anything to astound you, but they’re solid with decent textures and a wide variety of terrain and obstacles.

dc04.jpg (7062 bytes)The soundtrack is excellent and features an impressive band list including Sublime, Social Distortion, Cypress Hill, Pennywise, Rancid, and others. Bikers and extreme sports fans alike will undoubtedly find some enjoyable tunes to ride to. And when playing two player games that stop and start a lot, it’s nice to hear that the music continues, pausing for menu screens and player switches, but not endlessly looping so you only hear the first thirty seconds of a song about four hundred times.

dc05.jpg (6304 bytes)Game play in Dave Mirra is pretty solid, barring the aforementioned physics problems. Each stage initially has amateur challenges to complete. When these are finished, you can take on the pro challanges, and finally the hardcore challenges. Beating the challenges unlocks more levels, new bikes, new sponsors, and new outfits. Eventually you'll qualify for the pro tour and the medal competitions. Instead of challenges, these levels are scored by judges. They’re looking for style, not just high score, so you’ll be rewarded for big air, rad tricks, and for not wiping out.

dc07.jpg (7225 bytes)The trick system is relatively simple to learn, and can produce some pretty spectacular moves. Once in the air, tricks are preformed using a single button and joystick movement combined with a spin. These tricks can then be modified by a second button to produce more spectacular tricks. It’s relatively simple once you get the hang of it, and in almost no time your can bust out with back flips, tail whips, and the extremely cool superman. There are also ample grind tricks. Between all the wheels, bars, and pegs, a BMX bike can produce some pretty cool grind combinations.

dc08.jpg (5911 bytes)Each level keeps track of several different stats including highest air, longest grind, biggest single trick, and biggest trick combo, among others. This is pretty cool because it allows several different people to hold records on the same track. This helps generate competition when several people are making use of the same game because the fruits of an excellent run are preserved, thereby guaranteeing your right to talk smack.

dc09.jpg (7622 bytes)Dave Mirra also features several different multi-player games. There’s the standard games, like horse, and quite a few where two players try for the highest wall tap, biggest air, longest jump, etc. The most original game is where two players square off to see who can get into the biggest crash. There’s actually a lot of strategy in this, as you plan a route to get enough speed to get huge air and try to line it up so you can bounce your head off a few ledges and try to land on the back of your neck. Unfortunately, all the multi-player games utilize alternating turns rather than a split screen. There’s a lot of cool games you can play by taking turns, but the split screen would have been nice.

dc11.jpg (4695 bytes)Ultimately, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX is a pretty fun, although imperfect, game. If you’ve played Tony Hawk till your eyes bled and just can’t take another game, then Dave Mirra will put some spice back in your freestyle longings--especially if you happen to be a big BMX fan. It’s no Pro Skater, but it’s more than capable of entertaining and amusing.

Jeff Luther


Ups: Easy to master trick system; lots of courses; great soundtrack; lots of multiplayer options; good records keeping.

Downs: Tricky physics and sometimes control; no split screen multiplayer; too easy to grind.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast


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