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by Acclaim

set201-01.jpg (4852 bytes)The Miracle Man is virtually back, and this time Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 is bigger and better than before. It still shares the crown of great BMX game with Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX. Neither of these titles are perfect, and I look forward to improvements in the genre of BMX games, but each has something to offer and making a decision between them can be tough. Fortunately, Mirra is the only game in town for the Xbox, and while that is sure to change in the future, right now Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 is the game to get if you love BMX and you need to play it on your Xbox.

set211-01.jpg (5434 bytes)Fans of the original installment in the series will recognize pretty much everything. Little has been changed, and that means that little has been improved, so you can expect to find many of the same joys and frustrations you found on the first Dave Mirra title. The graphics are still really nice, and even nicer on the Xbox. The game still features a passel of pros, including Ryan Nyquist, Mike Laird, Joey Garcia, and Colin Mackay. All these pros where licensed clothing and ride licensed bikes, so there’s plenty of reality here to get the average BMX fan into the game.

set202-01.jpg (5987 bytes)You’ll roll through ten levels: Woodward Camp, Trainyards, Swampy Trails, Commercial District, Greenville, Galloon Water Park, HWY 47 Cloverleaf, Devil’s Peak, Airport Parking Garage, and Venice. These levels are much bigger than in the last installment of Mirra. In fact, they are so large that it’s sometimes tough to find what you need to find, which can cause some frustrating moments. However, it’s impossible to get down on the game for this – the size of these levels provides an insane number of opportunities for big tricks and a lot of fun. This works especially well in the multiplayer mode, where it is never tough to get somewhere roomy to pull your best tricks.

set205-01.jpg (6403 bytes)Controls are pretty much the same as they ever were. This is unfortunate. It is still too tricky to get the timing of tricks correct, and the problem if rolling backwards on your bike persists. Of course we want to be able to roll backwards on our bike, but there must be some simpler way to get the rider to flip the bike around. On skateboarding games there is always a button to change from switch to regular stance, why can’t we have the same in a BMX title? In a minor improvement over the last game (where you could spend days just rolling around backwards trying to get your rider to change direction), Mirra 2 introduces a function by which you can pull back on the joystick to stop your rider. Then, you can pivot your rider to point the direction in which you want to travel, then press forward to resume movement. This is a clunky solution and still needs work.

set208-01.jpg (6664 bytes)Another persistant frustration found in Mirra 2 is the way by which you unlock new levels. To unlock the next level you must "clear" the current level. To "clear" the level, you must complete all of the amateur and pro challenges. Then you can progress to the next level, but you still haven’t beaten the current level. To truly beat the game you must also beat the hardcore and insane challenges on each level. What it all boils down to is that you spend way too much time on each level to open the next. Completing some 10 or more challenges to make it to the next level slows you down a whole lot. While I welcome the potential for a lot of challenges on each level, that potential needs to be balanced with the ability to open up and enjoy the game as a whole. In Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2, this balance is way off-kilter.

set212-01.jpg (6841 bytes)One interesting improvement to Mirra 2 comes from adding challenges given to you by other riders. You must impress them by completing a challenge they only tell you after you’ve found them and asked them. Unfortunately, this sounds like a lot more fun than it is. The riders themselves have nothing to do with the challenge – you don’t have to follow them or mimic their tricks. So this change ultimately becomes just a more tedious way of listing challenges. Rather than seeing all of the challenges you must complete to progress in the game, you must seek out these other riders on the course just to unlock a line of directions. If these rider-specific challenges had more to do with the riders and your interaction with them they’d be a lot more fun.

set210-01.jpg (6986 bytes)The major Xbox enhancement is the two additional levels not found in the PS2 version. This is a great improvement, and I always welcome expanded or additional levels, especially in a platform port. The graphics are improved over the PS2, but not as much as I’d like to see. While Mirra 2 is pretty, the graphics don’t come anywhere near matching a game like THPS2x. There is something about this game that looks very "Dreamcast", and that’s not such a good thing. Other titles, such as the Sega sports games, also suffer from the "Dreamcast" vibe, which was beautiful on the DC, but at this stage in the game just looks dated. This sense of temporal lag is heightened by the partially recycled soundtrack, and where the soundtrack isn’t recycled (such as Sublime’s "What I Got"), it just sucks. Maybe I’m out of touch with the BMX crowd, but the metal has got to go. I’d like to see Mirra 3 take advantage of the Xbox’s soundtrack features and let me provide my own tunes.

set209-01.jpg (7442 bytes)Overall, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 is better than the first game, but still in need of serious improvement. The positive side of this for the Mirra team is that every other BMX title out there also needs serious improvement, so while it hurts our gameplay experience as gamers, it doesn’t hurt the ranking of the game in the genre. Mirra is still a viable franchise, and I look forward to seeing the next installment, which could be a lot more fun.

Sarah Wichlacz   (02/21/2002)


Ups: Huge levels; real riders; lots of stats.

Downs: Tricky controls; lame system of opening levels and gear.

Platform: Xbox