Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2
Another year means another entry in an Activision O2 series and this time, it’s Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2. While last year’s version was horrifically flawed (the trick variety was horrible and the control scheme sucked) this year’s game sets out to correct all the unserviceable aspects and in most respects, it does just that.
Activision contracted Rainbow Studios to handle this iteration and their expertise really shines though. All that hard work spent on perfecting the physics for Motocross Madness 1 & 2 have gone a long way in recreating the feel of BMX riding. While the physics and controls of the game are serviceable, it’s the basic foundation of the game that proves to be this game’s Achilles Heel.
In order to progress through the game, you’ll have to participate in a Road Trip mode, which is basically the game’s career mode. It’s told in a Documentary-style fashion that unfolds through a series of video clips for each of the game’s riders. Without a doubt, this is the best presentation that the Xtreme Sports genre has to offer. It really shows the camaraderie and respect that the riders have for each other and tells the story in a fun and entertaining fashion. Most of the time, the only reason to progress through the game’s horrifically flawed levels is to witness the next video clip.
Speaking of goal structure, Mat Hoffman 2 features perhaps, the worst implementation of this feature to date. It works in this manner, you’ll have to accomplish 12 goals on each of the game’s levels. Sounds fine right? Well there’s a problem, the 12 goals are broken up into groups of 4, 3 for each level of difficulty and in order to move up to the next level of difficulty, you must complete the current level that you’re on. This means that I’m forced to go back into the levels over and over again, even if I can complete the goals in one run. In doing so, the designers have created something I like to call ‘artificial replay value’ and it really becomes bothersome, especially when you realize that 120,000 point run will go to naught because you’re still stuck on the semi-pro level that features only a 50,000 point goal. This means that instead of being able to accomplish all the point total goals in one run (a la Tony Hawk) you’ll have to actually go back and garner the point total again. It’s very annoying and unrewarding, especially to those who have little to no patience.
Of course the absurdity of the goals doesn’t end there, there are tons of goals that are tossed at you with no explanation. Take the Chicago level for example, in lieu of St. Patty’s day, a goal asks you to dye the river green. All you’ll see is a barrel that is placed next to the river, the casual gamer will go, ‘Hey that’s easy enough, all I have to do is run into it and I’m finished.’ But when they go to do it, they’ll simply crash into it and fall down. The proper way of finishing the goal is by grinding along the nearby rail and jumping over the barrel (I guess that jumping over the barrels frightens them into jumping into the river or something) until it falls into the river. There are numerous goals that fall into this same category, I’m playing an Xtreme Sports game, not a freakin Adventure game here, I don’t need puzzles cluttering up my enjoyment.
At times though, it’s well worth suffering through all of the frustration, not in hopes of unlocking new levels, but rather, watching the next chapter unfold in my road trip. To be honest, the levels are serviceable at best, the game is mildly entertaining but all of that is just the sideshow, the main attraction here are the highly entertaining video clips. I can’t remember a game where I would actually want to unlock videos rather than the next area but oh well, there’s always a first time for everything.
The game controls fairly well and the physics are spot on. In case you’re not familiar with MHPB, the controls basically mimic those of their skateboarding cousin, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The only huge differences are the absence of the revert feature and the variations between the fakie stances, other than that, they’re practically identical. X jumps, Square and O perform tricks, double tapping up adds a multiplier to your trick. Even manuals and flatland tricks (a new addition) are performed in the same manner, the only difference is that you have to bunnyhop in MHPB2 in order to perform a manual.
Trick lines are prevalent throughout the majority of the levels and to be honest, they’re fairly well done. The levels are really well designed, featuring tons of obstacles and objects for you to trick off of. In addition, the areas are just huge, not quite up to par with Z-Axis’ excellent Aggressive Inline, but definitely larger than THPS3. Though not all of the levels are astounding (Chicago really comes to mind here) the majority of them are fun and enjoyable.
Visually, the game is a few notches above THPS3 but not by much. The riders are a little blocky and could have benefited from a couple more frames of animations. At times, the moves look awkward, almost as if they’re missing a couple of frames. Many of the moves in real life happen so quickly that it’s hard to see all of the action, I suppose this is the school of thought that the artists were following.
The riders themselves look excellent, their bikes in particular. You’ll see nice little details that really make the visual package stand out. Even the shadows are well done, you can see the spokes of the wheels being rendered in the silhouette of your player. The bikes feature small details like pegs, cranks and forks and best of all, each of the bikes look completely different from each other. The look and feel of each rider has been accurately captured in their distinct visual looks. Each of them feature clothing and bikes that accurately reflect their personas. This means that they each have their own unique identities and come off as being more than a bunch of texture swap clones.
The gameplay has its problems though, the frame rate is much lower than it should be, especially in comparison to Activision O2’s other premier titles. Though the frame rate is generally consistent, it’s far too slow and the end result makes the game feel sluggish and lethargic. This leads to a few issues with the control as at times it’s hard to slow down your actions in order to gauge the timing.
Every sound effect and noise that is associated with BMX-ing has been accurately recreated here. You’ll hear your rider’s pegs spin as he pedals harder, pegs clanking against metallic surfaces, and riders cringing as their bail from failed tricks. However, since this is commonplace in today’s marketplace, the game doesn’t really do anything aurally to differentiate itself from its competitors. Again, serviceable but nothing out of the ordinary.
Generally, Activision O2 has been great with their Xtreme soundtracks but they really dropped the ball on this one. Songs in this game range from pussy rockers screaming about nothing, to pussy rockers (you guessed it) screaming about nothing. Though there are some good tracks on the listing, they are of the 2nd rate coverband variety. Why not just feature the originals instead? This is perhaps the worst soundtrack to ever appear in a game of this type. None of it is worth listening to and if you’re like me, you’ll opt to turn off the music entirely.
This is a great pickup if you can tolerate a few poor design decisions and a soundtrack that can cause Roseanne’s ears to bleed. The gameplay mechanics have been reworked and the end result is a sequel that surpasses the original in nearly every aspect. If you enjoyed the original, this is a must but if you’re just a casual fan, you’re better off waiting for Tony Hawk 4 or Mirra XXX.
Activision O2 does an admirable job of representing the sport of BMX riding, but it still feels a little too much like Tony Hawk on 2 wheels.
Rating: 7.8 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile