|Ive always been sort of a fan of the Microsofts
Monster Truck Madness series; especially in its second incarnation, it had great graphics,
rousing gameplay, decent multiplayer, and a nice sense of fun about it. But it was about trucks,
you know? And no matter how much you jack one of those suckers up, no matter how many
logos and doodads you slap on its side, no matter how much muscle you cram under the hood,
its still a truck. It may be a distant relative, but its still a relative of
the F150 out in the driveway, and it shares some of the same limitations. Like, for
instance, you cant jump a sand dune in it, throw your body out the window while
holding on to the wheel, click your heels, and then jump back in. Which you can do, by the
way, with the bikes in Microsofts new Motocross Madness, a game that just about
In Motocross Madness, you get to pilot some truly nasty dirt bikes through various types of tracks. And each track has its own distinctive style. If you choose to race the Bajas, youll find yourself striking out across various trackless wildernesses, trying to find your way from checkpoint to checkpoint. The Supercross tracks, on the other hand, are indoor venues that feature tight turns and many, smaller jumps, while the National tracks are outdoor loops with steep banks and big jumps. And then there are the stunt quarries, less tracks than monstrous arenas of hills optimally placed for stunt jumping. You can perform 16 different stunts, and let me tell you, theres nothing like coming off a steep hill, catching air for about ten seconds, and watching your rider stand up on his handlebars. Sometimes you even get lucky enough to land in one piece. Of course, if you get bored with the tracks included in the game, a track editor is included. And believe me, right now legions of fans are designing and posting new tracks on their websites. Theres plenty of variety here.
The wide variety of tracks is nice, as are the season options, which allow you to race through an increasingly difficult series of tracks in career mode, but all this variety goes for naught if the gameplay isnt there. And brother, is it there. Ive got to admit that the last time I ever did anything close to motocross was riding my Yamaha 125 around farmers fields a couple of decades ago, so Im no expert on the games realism, but it sure feels realistic. Theres a lot of white-knuckle braking and passing and weaving and jumping. Its been a while since Ive played a racing game this addictive; even though the game is easy to learn, its difficult to master, and I found myself playing races over and over and over. Yep, this is definitely one of those "just one more race, honey" games.
The interface and controls are easily configurable and intuitive, and the bikes are very responsive. For maximum enjoyment, I strongly recommend playing with a gamepad or with a joystick. If you have a force feedback joystick, so much the better; the feedback effects are excellent.
The games graphics also shine. Youll need a good 3D card and a P2 to get the maximum look out of the game, but even on my 200 MMX with a Voodoo 2 card I got high quality graphics and fast frame rates. Less than a 200 and a good 3D card, though, and Im afraid youll have to tweak the graphics options some. The sound, on the other hand, is a bit unevenengine noises are faithfully reproduced and can even get deafening at times (a good thing) and the music track is pretty decent though somewhat generic hard-driving rock, but other sound effectsespecially crashesare a bit on the weak side.
One of the games biggest strengths is its multiplayer component. While racing single-player is challenging (itll take you a while to get the hang of riding, and youll lose a lot initially) multiplayer is a riot. Its also pretty stable; much more stable than Monster Truck Madness. I spent a night on the Zone racing Nationals courses and jumping in the stunt quarry, and had very little problem with lag or crashes.
Problems? Well, the manuals pretty skimpy. As I said, it takes a while to get the hang of riding offroad and negotiating jumps, and you wont get much help from the manual, which also doesnt demonstrate how to perform the various stunts (though theres a nice page on the Motocross Madness website about this). Most problematically, you have the option of configuring your bike with different engines and shocks, but you arent given any rationale as to why one configuration would be more effective than any other in any given situation. You can glean this information from the online help, but cmon, a decent manual would have been a lot nicer. And, of course, the games listed system requirements are about as accurate as a Louisiana politician. Youre gonna need a burly machine to run this baby the way it should be run.
But this is nitpicking. Motocross Madness is a terrific game, one that looks great, plays well in both single and multiplayer modes, and has exceptional replay value. Itll also remind you why Brando drove a bike in The Wild One, and not a truck.