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1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine

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by THQ

scrn01-01.jpg (3233 bytes)In an age when being "unique" means having the same cool body piercing that everyone else has, MTV’s latest offering fits right in. T.J. Lavin’s Ultimate BMX attempts to bring another alternative sporting experience to the console world, but if you’re looking for the next greatest thing, I’m afraid you’ll just have to look somewhere else.

scrn02-01.jpg (3686 bytes)BMX is basically set up like Tony Hawk, so if you’ve played the "master-skater" you know what this game is like with one small difference. It just doesn’t go the mileage. The game is set up with a pro-circuit, practice session, two player mode and about 16 courses (eight each in pro and two player with some overlap) of "dirt," "vert," and "street" to choose from. You are given different objectives to achieve in each level, as well as the usual nabbing of MTV icons (gratuitous publisher promotion) and collecting points by performing tricks. As you progress through the pro-circuit, you earn sprockets and unlock the courses for practice and two player modes. You are also able to unlock an extra MTV level if you "get the gold" in previous events. There are ten different riders with varying skill levels for each type of course (Matt Beringer, Fuzzy Hall, Dave Friemuth, Chris Doyle, James Bestwick, Brian Foster, Chris Duncan, Mike Ardelean, Colin Winkleman, and, of course, T.J. Lavin) and each is supposed to have an advantage in specific courses because of those stats.

scrn04-01.jpg (3423 bytes)The first and most obvious problem with the game is the graphics. The environments are extremely pixilated and really aren’t that large or detailed. The riders lack detail as well and look like they all came down with the polygon plague. When I’d pummeled my rider to black and blue, his face looked more like a squished pepsi can than a human face. However, I might have overlooked these issues if the gameplay had been something new and interesting. Alas…

scrn05-01.jpg (2468 bytes)The levels in the pro-circuit aren’t very large nor are they terribly imaginative. And all the objectives are variations on a theme I had seen before (set off car alarms, pick up icons, do tricks for points, etc.) The two player mode was the one place I really thought the game attempted to pump itself up. There were ten different options including everything from turf war and a modified king-of-the-hill to hot potato with a bomb. The problem that these otherwise fun games run into is a problem with frame rate in the two player mode, which causes disorientation, loss of control during tricks, and some serious problems telling where the heck you are in your environment. As you might have guessed, that gets really old, really fast.

As far as control in the rest of the game went, this title actually didn’t do too badly. The tricks are easy to master and I feel like the control is pretty responsive. Bike, body, and surface tricks are simple combinations of the action and directional buttons that are easy to pick up and don’t require a separate manual to list all the possibilities (you know the type of game I’m talking about here). There isn’t a lot of difference between the riders; the most obvious is the ability to get air and the "lightness" of the bike. If there is a difference as far as dirt/vert/street, it is pretty minor. On the plus side, the camera does a great job of keeping up on the stunts and the game features a full replay of your ride at the end.

scrn06-01.jpg (3867 bytes)Probably the strongest parts of this game are the sound effects and musical score. The crunch of a bad wreck really is a beautiful thing! And the score continues in the Hawk tradition by featuring a great mix of alternative and heavy metal music that is a great backdrop for the game. Although most of the artists aren’t groups I am familiar with, MTV really did what it does best in picking out new talent. I would categorize the groups as ranging from Green Day to Pantera wannabes, but the songs are good. The only downer here is that some of the music was edited for language. I guess what that does is give younger kids a sense that they’re being transgressive and wild while not getting the game in trouble with their parents.

I think that the most fun in this game is just opening up levels to ride around in the practice mode. The options in the pro circuit just aren’t very exciting (nothing new, just a range of objectives for the juvenile delinquent to the moderately imaginative trick rider) and didn’t have the kind of range that other titles out there have. Granted, I’ve played worse titles of this kind than Ultimate BMX, but I’ve also been lucky enough to play better. No matter how good the game might have been on its own merit, the bar has been set, and you can never forget the feeling of playing something really cool and innovative. I think unless you’re just totally enamored of the BMX thing, you’d be better served with a little something of the skate-punk variety (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

Monica Hafer

Snapshot

Ups: Decent soundtrack; good camera; pro riders.

Downs: Bland level design; grainy graphics; just uninspired.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation

 

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