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Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 (PSX) Review

Background Info


Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 (JM2K) is Acclaim's latest stab at the Motocross genre. Programmed by Acclaim's Salt Lake City studios, and looking to impress, the game features eight officially licensed tracks and several fully licensed Supercross superstars. Unfortunately, just like their previous attempt, Jeremy McGrath Supercross '98, Acclaim's effort stalls at the starting line.

Graphics : 40
Agh! My eyes! JM2K sets a new standard for PlayStation sports game ugliness! This game is so darn ugly it should come with a brown paper bag you can put over your television.

First off, the framerate is horrendous. The phrases "herky-jerky" and "vomit-inducing" quickly come to mind. Framerates fluctuate greatly depending upon the number of bikes on screen. In time trial mode where there's only a single bike the frame rate is acceptable, and moves along at a nice pace. However, once you add another bike, or two, the framerate coughs and stutters considerably. Two player mode is completely unplayable; the framerate is so horrid that playing for more than 5 minutes will, in all seriousness, give you a headache.

JM2K's textures are also very gritty and grainy. Most of the tracks consist of the same six or seven textures repeated throughout, giving the courses a bland look and a graphical sameness that does the game no favors. Adding to the sameness of the courses is their design; almost all the courses are exactly alike. Even though there are eight different Indoor and Outdoor tracks, they're so alike that once you've taken a spin around one, you've taken a spin around all of them. You'll see the same two or three ad boards, the same 2D 'cardboard' crowds and the same bales of hay - it's enough to drive you insane! Only the Freestyle courses are slightly different, with ramps and jumps in urban and indoor (arena) settings, yet even these are unimaginative with little variation.

Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000's various weather and lighting effects are also poorly implemented. You can choose to have your outdoor races during midday, at dawn or at dusk. However, dawn and dusk merely consist of overcast sky that looks only slightly different from the sky during day races. You can also chose to race in the rain, with some of the worst rain effects seen in a PlayStation game in recent memory. One thing about the rain effects that initially struck me as impressive was that of lightning flashing as you race. Unfortunately, JM2K's programmers decided it mandatory that lightning flash across the sky every seven seconds during the race! If the framerate doesn't give you a headache, the lightning effects surely will. Indoor races feature no dynamic or specular lighting whatsoever, and the particulate effects consist of diminutive amounts of dirt kicked up by the tires. The bike models are uninspiring and simplistic, and although there is an edit mode, you can only change the colors of the bikes.

The icing on the cake however, are the post-race podium scenes. After each race you are whisked to a shot of the winners podium with the top three finishers. As the crowd (all zero of them) cheer on, the racers pump their fists in the air as some of the worst firework effects in the history of videogaming light up the sky. These effects have to be seen to be believed--they truly are pathetic and look like they were made using the Spray Tool in Windows Paint! In all honesty I've seen been better effects in twelve year old NES games. JM2K's programmers should be ashamed of themselves for even bothering to incorporate such pathetic 'special' effect.

Fortunately, it's not all a lost cause. The motion captured rider animations are quite good, however the crash animations could be more spectacular. The game also features some nice camera angles and there's a three-quarters top down angle that is excellent for seeing most of the track. Unfortunately, this angle also means you'll have a lot of riders onscreen and the framerate crawls. Finally, the draw distance is impressive with no pop-up whatsoever. However, these three small plus points can't save what has to be one of the worst games, graphically, that I have played in quite a while. The grainy textures and horrific framerate result in a hypnotic, nausea-inducing effect that will have you reaching for a vomit bag in a matter of minutes. In this, the final generation of PlayStation games, you'd think that all programmers would have mastered the system and that games would look a lot better than this.

Presentation/Audio : 65
Unfortunately, JM2K's sound effects match its graphics. Engine sounds are horrible, and you can't really hear the difference between a 125cc and 250cc bike. Crash sounds are equally as bad, and I couldn't differentiate between the sounds of a two bike collision or a crash between a bike and a bale of hay. The race announcer has a several different phrases, and he announces the details of the race prior to the start. Since the game features licenses for eight Supercross stars the announcer says all of the riders' names and calls out the top three finishers as the race comes to an end. Unfortunately, after a few races the announcer becomes annoying, and there's no way to skip his customary babble at the beginning of a race. The only saving grace of the audio, and of the game for that matter, is the inclusion of musical tracks by The Offspring. I'm no huge Offspring fan, but the songs seem to fit the game, and I usually turned down the announcer and sound effects and played with just the music on.

Interface/Options : 50
In this aspect of the game Acclaim get an A for their ambition, but once again fail in their execution. There are four main game modes in JM2K; Single Race, Time Trial, Series and Freestyle modes. Single race allows you to participate in a 125cc or 250cc race in any one of the available Indoor and Outdoor tracks. Time Trial mode is a race against the clock in any circuit of your choice. Series Mode is a season mode where you amass points for victories which contribute to the overall racing standings. A victory in the 125cc Outdoor Series unlocks the 125cc Indoor Series, and winning that series unlocks the 125cc Combined Series. Along the way you can also unlock several Freestyle arenas for use in the Freestyle mode. Once you've won all the 125cc events you unlock access to the equivalent 250cc races. Freestyle mode is a stunt competition where you try to amass as many points as possible doing various stunts. The game also features a track editor that allows you to create your own courses and save them to memory card.

So on the surface, JM2K seems that it has its fair share of features. So why the poor grade? The problem is variety. The game features sixteen different tracks, but all of them are so similar that, as I've said before, once you've raced one you feel as if you've raced them all. What's more surprising is that the Outdoor tracks are apparently based on real life courses such as Glen Helen, Red Bud and Washougal. By comparison, Motocross Madness 2's 'fake' tracks are much more intricately designed and a lot more exciting. Even the Freestyle tracks are all very similar to each other and poorly designed with little imagination. By the same token, even though the track editor is intuitive and easy to use, the templates available only allow you to create courses similar to the pre-existing courses that come with the game.

On the bright side, the menu screens are done nicely and are easy to navigate, yet you can't escape the feeling that Acclaim went for quantity over quality in JM2K. If they had halved the number of courses, but spent more time on the design and fun factor they would have produced a much better game.

Gameplay : 15
I have to give JM2K's programmers one thing: at least they were consistent. The graphics are bad, the audio is (mostly) bad, and the gameplay is most definitely bad. It's quite difficult to pinpoint a single factor as the cause of JM2K's poor gameplay; instead it's a whole host of factors that weigh the game down dragging it into the quagmire. For starters, as mentioned previously, the framerate is horrid. Never mind opposition AI or track design, or even the drab color palette, the first thing that hits you is the coughing and stuttering framerate. I'm not sure how you're supposed to enjoy a game that starts to give you a headache after 20 minutes of play.

Once you've taken your Tylenol and Dramamine to overcome the framerate, the sloppy controls strike. JM2K features the standard racing game control fare; X to accelerate, Square to brake, Circle to change camera angle etc. Steering and rider position can then be controlled by either the D-Pad or the left analog stick. Unfortunately, both are useless! If you choose the D-Pad, for some reason you can't turn as far as you could if you used the analog control. As a result, you have to take corners really wide because your turning arc is decreased. The analog stick is just as bad, perhaps even worse. Instead of being crisp and precise, the analog control is incredibly loose and you go swerving around the track like drunk driver.

Perhaps recognizing the sloppy controls, JM2K's programmers then decided to compensate by playing around with the game's physics. In most racing games if you go at top speed, head first, into some sort of trackside obstacle you either damage your vehicle, or at the very least, your momentum slows down. Not in JM2K! This game is the rare racing game that randomly incorporates perfectly elastic collisions, and better yet, all the collisions automatically propel you in the right direction around the track! So why do you have to slow down for corners when most of the time you just bounce off the barriers in the direction you're supposed to be going in anyway? The answer: You don't! Of course, I'd grant JM2K some mercy if it was at least consistent in this regard, but, as you've probably guessed by now, it's not. While the majority of ad boards, barriers, and trackside obstacles can be bounced off, there is the occasional object that DOES obey the laws of momentum and elasticity. The placement of these objects is completely random, so just when you're used to bouncing off ad boards, you bump into a 'special' one and go flying. Furthermore, all of the tracks are surrounded by an 'invisible force field' that prevents you from going off the track, and just as before, collisions with this invisible barrier always result in your being oriented the correct way and with little loss in speed.

As a result of the warped game physics, racing in JM2K merely consists of holding down the accelerator and following the course. You usually take the lead in the first turn, and from there on you can bounce off the walls till you finish first. In my first attempt I was able to complete the Outdoor, Indoor and Combined 125cc Series' (that's more than 24 races) without losing once! I think the biggest challenge was resisting the urge to vomit rather than trying to complete the game. The 250cc mode is a little more challenging - you have to occasionally use the brake. However, I couldn't force myself to go through the ordeal of completing just as many races in the 250cc mode; the game is too darn boring. None of the tracks feature huge or exciting jumps, the computer AI is useless, and because of the poor framerate you never really have any sense of speed. There's just no urgency or excitement in the races, it's hold down the accelerator, turn, turn, turn, and you've done a lap. You hardly ever crash, and when you win, big deal, all you've done is unlock some more boring courses that you're never likely to play.

There are lots of other not so little quirks that slipped past the programmers. For example, if you're on your final lap you don't have to actually cross the finish line to complete the race. Instead, if you just smash into the solid metal supports holding up the Start/Finish sign the game considers that as good as crossing the line!

Playing the two player 'versus' mode is the definition of masochism. Not only is the framerate excruciatingly slow, but the guys at Acclaim also decided to split the screen vertically. Now this might work in other games, but in a course-based racing game vertical is not the way to go. Why? Because if you're on the right side of the screen it makes every left turn a blind one and vice versa. As a result my friend and I played versus mode for a full 90 seconds before he begged me to stop the torture and pop in Tony Hawk instead.

The Freestyle mode is even more boring than the races. It's almost impossible to crash your bike, and there are only six or seven different tricks with no multipliers! Perhaps the only good thing about Freestyle is that there's only one bike on-screen so the framerate borders on acceptable.

I know no programming team sets out to make a poor game, but somewhere along the line there must have been the realization that what they were making wasn't very good. I refuse to believe there wasn't a point during development where the play testers turned to the programming team and said, "Hey guys, sorry to break this to you but....this game sucks!" Perhaps if the programmers had realized the monstrosity they were creating, then I wouldn't have had to spend the past week taking Tylenol and Dramamine, and fighting back the strong urge to use the CD as a coaster.

Replay Value : 10
Replay value? Bah! Unless you're a complete masochist you won't want to ever play this game after the first couple of races. The only redeeming thing is the music, but if you're an Offspring fan you probably already own some of their CDs and they were most probably a lot cheaper than this game.

Overall : 20
I've been really lucky to review some truly great racing games at SGN, so when something this poor comes along it stands out. There are so many things wrong with JM2K that even fixing a few of them still won't save the game. Even if Acclaim were to fix the framerate the game would still be incredibly boring. Simply put, this game just isn't any fun. If you're looking for a good PlayStation Supercross game wait for Championship Motocross 2 or try the original if you haven't already. In many respects JM2K resembles a first generation PlayStation game, yet even then it's a poor one by those standards. I recently pulled out my four year old copy of Ridge Racer for a comparison, and in terms of both gameplay, control and graphics Namco's racer kicks JM2K's butt. When you first load up JM2K, the Acclaim Sports logo comes up with the slogan "FEEL IT!" Unfortunately, I most definitely "felt it," and it was excruciatingly painful.

By: Lavan Chandran 9/8/00

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