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Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 (N64) Review


What does the color red mean to you? For some, red typifies passion. For others, it denotes danger. Two polar opposites associated with the same color. I found myself wondering which of the two extremes Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 would fall into. You see, when I opened the box for this Nintendo 64 game, the cartridge was a rich red color.

But before I started the game, I took a look at the back of the game's box. Sixteen tracks, with both indoor supercross and outdoor motocross, definitely got me excited. And totally customizable bikes and weather conditions? And how about the list of riders in the game? My passion button was getting pressed at a rapid pace. But then I played the game. The red quickly went from a passion red to a danger red. You do know what color stop signs are, don't you? Well, Acclaim has forewarned us. Keep out!

Presentation/Graphics : 25
The box to McGrath lists among its supported peripherals the Nintendo Expansion Pak. Specifically it says "Expansion Pak Compatible." So I thought I'd be in for an excellent graphical experience. The game started and recognized my Expansion Pak and all was good; the menus looked detailed. But then the game started. Now mind you, I'd just come off playing several games on the Dreamcast and haven't touched the N64 in a few weeks. I was honestly taken aback by the graphics. They were that ... lousy! I couldn't believe my eyes.

The graphics in Jeremy McGrath 2000 are some of the worst I've ever seen on the N64. When the race started, I thought I was playing a Playstation game. I chalked it up to playing the Dreamcast, but then I threw in some other N64 racers and realized Acclaim just did an absolutely horrendous job with the graphics. The same developer who brought us graphical treats like the Turok series, the All-Star baseball series, and Quarterback Club pulled out none of the stops when developing this one.

In fact, Supercross Circuit on the Playstation looks better than this N64 title. The tracks have little trackside detail. In the stadium supercross tracks, crowds appear as bland textures with colored squares representing people. Supercross Circuit on the PSX had animated fans waving their arms. And the stadiums in McGrath are nondescript. Every indoor course has the same character. I could not recognize the Astrodome circuit with the detail presented. The outdoor motocross courses are not much better. Flat bleachers are sparsely distributed along the course, and for the most part, the only trackside detail are the signs.

Despite the fact that this looks like your run-of-the-mill Playstation title, I guess we need to applaud Acclaim for keeping the pace of the game steady. There is no slowdown or pop-up. But on the other hand, the camera views are somewhat suspect. There are three views available. The default view is from above and behind the rider. Unfortunately the view limits your field of vision. You'll find yourself in the barricades the first time on a new course because you simply can't see enough of the course down the track. A second, helicopter-style view helps the situation, but the bikes are the size of ants. A third view is a little closer to ground, but you still can't view the course well. Once you get familiar with a track, the default view is adequate.

Don't expect to view any replays. McGrath lacks them. I started to wonder exactly what I was getting with the memory expansion. So far I had the graphical equivalent to a current PSX game, good frame rate, and no replays. I took the extra memory out and replaced it with the original pack and found absolutely no difference. So the game is "compatible" with the Expansion Pak. I guess that means you can play with or without it, not that it actually uses it. What a disappointment. We know Acclaim can do better graphically, but for this title they chose not to. The graphics score has to be low just because we know what N64 racers are capable of.

Presentation/Audio : 50
Most motorcycle games have annoying audio. McGrath 2000 continues the fine tradition with motorcycles that sound like killer bees homing in on a helpless victim. McGrath 2000 uses a stadium public address announcer to call the action. He stays up with the action, and the commentary is few and far between. The crowd cheers and oohs and aahs, but the sound samples are bush league. Acclaim must have rounded up the office staff, thrown them in a metal-lined room and not let them leave until they cheered. At no time did I feel I was at a stadium capable of seating 40,000 fans or more. All you get is what sounds like a half-dozen folks making some racket.

What's this? A soundtrack? You bet, but before you get excited, that track is singular. The Offspring contributed a song to the game, so this N64 racer has exactly one song that plays during a race. At least it's better than the usual digital junk that accompanies N64 racers. Unfortunately with only one song, it becomes repetitive after the second or third race.

So after the second or third race, I turned the soundtrack off and focused on just the game sounds. When I realized that the game sounds added nothing to the experience, I caught up on a couple of my own CDs. Now there was some good sound.

Interface/Options : 85
The manual to Jeremy McGrath 2000 is pretty good. It tells you how to play the game! The game controls are such that the digital pad or the analog stick can be used to control the rider. The throttle is invoked with the A button. Independent front and rear wheel braking exists, and each has a different button on the controller. McGrath 2000 supports manual transmissions for those fans.

The game features a series mode. The winner of each race earns 25 points, and the rest of the field earns fewer points based on position. Through the season points are accumulated to determine the overall series champion. The game accurately adds the point totals after each race. After each race you also get the finishing times of the riders. But you don't get a lap-by-lap breakdown of your times, which would have been nice. So the statistical package is limited.

The menus in McGrath 2000 are easy to step through. The one annoying aspect is the menu after a race, especially in the series mode. You have the option of moving to the next race, saving your progress, viewing the point's standings, or exiting. Every time you access the standings the game takes a second or two to access the memory card.

Gameplay : 30
We all know that games from Acclaim are hit or miss. The Turok series is an excellent example of a quality N64 game. Of course on the other hand, you have the QB Club series, which annually gets lambasted for its lousy gameplay despite excellent graphics. So if we have an Acclaim sports title with lousy graphics do we get excellent play? Let's see.

The heart of McGrath 2000 is the season Series mode. Sure there are single races, time trials, a stunt section, and a track builder, but most of the time you'll expect to be in the season mode. This mode lets you race an 8 race indoor supercross season, an 8 race outdoor motocross season, a 16 race combo season, or a custom season.

You can race as any one of the available riders. Each bike is customizable as well, and the options cover three types of tires, a handful or suspension and power settings, the bike class (125cc, 250cc, or 400cc), and transmission. You can change the settings before each race of the season to tune your bike to the course.

I quickly went through a season in the beginner and amateur levels. The racing was easy. The AI opponents offered little challenge, but it was a good time to get accustomed to the driving model in the game. The physics are completely arcade based. Acceleration is quick, as after one second you are already at 45 mph from a complete stop. It takes a lot to actually crash in the game. For the most part you have to come off a jump and wedge yourself in one of the barricades to spill out.

I raced time trials playing with the bike settings to see how they affected the control. Honestly I found little difference in lap times by adjusting the power characteristics or the tires. In fact, I used Hard Pack tires on a rainy day to see if my control was worsened. I found the control with dry tires and wet tires indistinguishable.

I took these problems in stride knowing I still had to race at the Pro level. I convinced myself that having virtually identical performance characteristics was fine if the Pro level gave me some adrenaline pumping action. Remember how I said the sound in McGrath 2000 added nothing to the game and that I listened to a few CDs instead? Well, it took me just a couple of discs to finish the game at the pro level, going through all three series.

While I didn't finish first in every single race, I was in the top three for just about every race. At its most difficult setting, McGrath 2000 is a very easy play. Even when I didn't win a race, I could count on the AI to spread the wealth. If rider A wins race 1, you can bet he won't finish near the top in the next race. As long as you stay near the top, you are almost guaranteed a season championship. There is not a single strong rider in the field. And all drivers drive alike. In a single race mode at the pro level, I raced as McGrath and won. I noted who came in last, chose him, and repeated the course. I won again.

As long as you don't hit the sides of the course and scrub your speed away, you should come in first. There was no strategy involved in the races. I could lay on the gas for entire races without touching the brakes once. I was just going through the motions just to finish the race. There was none of the suspense like Star Wars Episode 1 on the N64. It was like kissing my sister, no fun.

Replay Value: 10
Beating a game at its highest difficulty level in under two hours doesn't lend itself to much replay. There is a track editor McGrath 2000, so if you are an architect in the making, design away. Even after you complete the track, you'll find the racing is boring. The stunt mode, which was not spoken of, is equally boring. Trust me on that. If you need blood pressure medication, play this game. It's more relaxing than sleep.

Overall : 32
Easy opponents, PSX quality graphics, forgettable sound, boring racing, bad game.

By: James Smith 4/13/00

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