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Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Z-Axis
Publisher:  Acclaim
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Extreme Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  1-16-02

The mark of any great and innovative new game is that it invariably breeds numerous clones that attempt to mimic its success. Thatís the way the Mirra series started out Ė as a BMX game that closely mimicked the Tony Hawk series. And while it still does mimic it to a great degree, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 shows that the series is finally starting to mature and establish a place for itself in itís own right.

The most obvious difference between this and Tony Hawk is the fact that this is a BMX game. Much like Tony Hawk, Mirra features different real-life BMXers (turned cult heroes courtesy of ESPN2) such as Dave Mirra, Ryan Nyquist, Troy McMurray, Kenan Harkin, and several others. Each has his own distinct characteristics, resulting in varied performance from each in jumping, speed, tricks, etc. All of this is standard for the extreme sports genre.

And again, much like Tony Hawk, the primary game mode is the career mode (called Proquest here). In the Proquest mode, youíll be given a variety of different objectives to complete, all of which are aimed at earning respect points. These objectives include things as mundane as jumping over Gaps (borrowed from THPS) to things as weird as knocking over ladders hidden throughout a level. As you earn more and more respect points, youíll be able to upgrade to better bikes, earn sponsors, etc. Each of these is earned at intervals of 5,000 respect points, with the ultimate goal being 50,000 total points.

The Proquest mode is very deep and lengthy, but unfortunately itís plagued by a couple key problems. First, objectives are often very vaguely defined. If you arenít a biker, youíll often find yourself scratching your head as to what youíre supposed to do next. Youíll know when youíre in the general area of where an objective needs to be pulled off (via blinking textures and on-screen text), but actually pulling off the needed trick/action can be tricky if you arenít down with the lingo. Obviously this game is aimed at bikers (and Iím not biker), but there needs to be more of an effort to hold the hands (at least early in the game) of idiots such as myself.

The other major problem with Mirra is tied into one of the gameís best features: the levels. There are a total of 10 levels found here (2 of which arenít found in the PS2 version), and all of them are well-designed and full of things to do. Each of Mirraís levels absolutely dwarfs the levels found in Tony Hawkís Pro Skater 3, or any other "extreme sports" game for that matter. And of course, the game also includes an excellent Park Editor that lets you create virtually any kind of custom skate park you wish. The sheer size of each level can also be a detriment, as a number of levels require you to find things strewn throughout a level without the aid of a radar or pointer. This results in a lot of frustration as you blindly search for the things you need to complete each objective.

Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2ís biggest selling point however is the S.I.K. Trick System. Through the use of trick modifiers, it incorporates over 1,500 unique tricks, all of which can be pulled off fairly easily once you get the basics down. Unfortunately, the hard part is getting the basics down, as itíll take quite a while to master controlling your biker through various situations. As Christopher said in our PS2 review (link) of the game, itís definitely one for the hardcore. Once you do master the basics however, it becomes pretty easy to pull of some insane combinations of tricks. Since itís based on the current orientation of your bike (grinding, stalling, wall-rides, etc.) and acts realistically depending on the situation, itís a pretty intuitive system that doesnít require a lot of memorization. If youíre used to Tonyís simpler trick system it will be quite a chore to adjust to this, but all in all itís a wonderful trick system thatís even deeper and more rewarding than Tony Hawkís is.

Despite all these great points to the gameplay, there are a couple minor problems to be found. First, the physics arenít really sound. Occasionally your bike will act in a manner totally different from what it normally would in that situation and as you can imagine itís very frustrating when that happens. How your rider reacts to objects in the environment is also inconsistent, as sometimes just clipping an object will send you crashing while hitting other objects head-on will not. Also, the camera system needs tweaking. Whenever you crash or come to a stop, itíll often reposition itself in front of you forcing you to reverse the controls. Itís something you get used to, but it still presents problem. The camera will also often get stuck behind objects in the environment, obscuring the playerís view of the rider for a couple of crucial seconds. These arenít major problems, but they happen often enough that theyíre nagging.

The graphics are a mixed bag. As I mentioned before, the levels are huge and very detailed. Unfortunately, that results in some rather average texturing and polygon models. Despite this, there are still problems with pop-up, as objects fairly close will often just appear out of thin air. Additionally, horizons will often draw themselves in front of your eyes, which is distracting to say the least.

Aurally, Mirra is excellent all around. The soundtrack is great, featuring bands like The Cult, A Tribe Called Quest, Sum 41 (this yearís Band of Choiceô for extreme sports games), and Godsmack. As odd of a collection as this is, it really does work great in the context of this game. The sound effects are also great, as everything sounds realistic and crisp. The various bike sounds are good, if a little lacking in variety. Environmental effects are wonderful however, with plenty of sounds that react properly to distance and orientation.

Highs:

  • S.I.K. Trick System is, well, sick in a very good way.
  • Deep and involving career mode.
  • Excellent sound effects package.
  • Levels are huge.
  • Great soundtrack.

Lows:

  • Objectives are often vague and/or elusive.
  • Average graphics for a GameCube game.
  • Minor problems with the camera system and physics annoy at times.

Final Verdict:

Despite a general lack of polish, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 is an excellent extreme sports game and a great alternative to Tony Hawk. Be forewarned however that itís definitely only for those who donít mind some frustration along the way, or those who are hardcore (and I mean hardcore) BMX fans.

Overall Score: 8.3

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