MotoCross Madness 2 (PC) Review
Presentation/Graphics : 92
Unfortunately, things turn a little sour when the question of system requirements arises. On my P3 450, 128 MB RAM, with a Diamond Viper V770, the highest resolution I could run the game with an acceptable frame-rate was 640x480: anything higher and the game would cough and stutter to un-playability.
All in all, MCM2's graphics are excellent. While the bike and rider models aren't as good as Superbike 2000, the game features some of the most breathtaking exterior landscapes seen in a racing game, it's just a shame that you'll need a top end system to really enjoy the game at higher resolutions.
Presentation/Audio : 60
Interface/Options : 95
Baja is checkpoint racing over open terrain where you can decide upon the exact path you wish to choose from one check point to the other. Enduro racing is very similar to Baja, except the environments are more active and feature numerous structures, such as trailer parks, houses and farms. The Enduro environments also feature the dynamic movement of traffic. Stunt Quarry competitions take place in smaller exterior environments where the goal is to perform a variety of stunts with points being awarded for the most spectacular. Nationals and Supercross races are more traditional circuit style races, with the main difference being that Supercross takes place indoors and is a lot more challenging. Pro Circuit mode is a career mode similar to that in Gran Turismo and Need For Speed: High Stakes. You begin your career with $50,000 and a generic modeled bike. You then receive cash for winning races and after a few wins you have the option of upgrading to a more powerful bike and new racing suits. The game features several manufacturers of bikes and gear such as Yamaha, Honda, Answer and Fox. However, not all your cash goes towards upgrades; you have to also pay entry fees, bike repair costs and medical fees! After a full season of Baja and Enduro racing, depending upon your position in the standings, you can attract sponsors and move up to Nationals. Do well enough in a season in the Nationals and you can make your way to the top: Supercross. Tag mode is an online game of tag with object being to stay 'it' the longest. It's also important to note just how many tracks MCM2 has: 15 Enduro races in 5 different locations, 15 Baja races in 5 different locations, 10 Stunt Quarry stages, 15 Nationals, and 16 different Supercross circuits!
MCM2 features 3 selectable levels of difficulty as well as options for turning on and off Vegetation Collision and recording the race for viewing later. The menus are all straightforward and easy to follow. Various detail settings are present, as are settings for controllers, and 3-D sound cards. There is also a 3-D track editor that will be available for free download. This will no doubt contribute to the variety and longevity of the game, as users create their own courses.
As mentioned before, the game is supported by Microsoft's Gaming Zone, featuring leagues, ladders, teams and tournaments. An online scoring system allows players to earn points which contribute to their overall ranking. The top 100 online riders each receive specially numbered bike plates corresponding to their ranking which are then visible during races!
Gameplay : 96
As mentioned before, one of the new racing modes is Enduro racing, which is basically checkpoint racing through dynamic, traffic-inhabited landscapes. Without a doubt these are the wildest, most exhilarating races ever. Rainbow Studios didn't just include the excellent exterior environments for aesthetic appeal alone--the forests, rolling hills and other landforms all contribute to the hectic action of the levels. Nothing compares to the thrill of weaving through traffic, jumping a broken bridge, cutting through a dense section of rainforest, and finally making a huge 150-yard jump over an airfield to make it to the next checkpoint! The traffic patterns aren't as realistic as Midtown Madness, but along with the terrain features, they serve their purpose of making you feel as if you're racing through a living, breathing environment.
Computer A.I. has been greatly improved over the original, and the computer-controlled riders are ruthless and aggressive. Even at the easiest difficulty setting the CPU opposition are a formidable opponents and at the higher difficulty settings they're almost too good. However, they're not completely infallible and you'll chuckle with glee when you see an opposing rider fail to land a big jump or go hurtling through the air after you've nudged him into the path of an oncoming bus!
Level design is also an area where Rainbow Studios have really earned their keep. All the exterior levels are excellently designed, not just from an aesthetic standpoint, but from a functional one too. Every Baja and Enduro race has been designed with an almost infinite number of ways to get from one checkpoint to another; which route you chose depends upon how daring you feel. You can take the longer, but safer, route of following pathways and roads to get to your destination, or you can choose a more direct and risky route that usually involves numerous death-defying stunts such as huge jumps or weaving through dense vegetation. At first you'll find yourself taking the longer routes, but as you become more accustomed to landing the bigger jumps and navigating obstacles you'll see that the bigger the risk involved, the bigger the potential payoff. This not only makes the races more varied and fun, it really helps with the learning curve, allowing the player to tailor the route to fit his/her skill level. The dynamic traffic also means that many times you'll have to improvise and find newer routes. Several times you'll find your intended route cut off by a bus, train, or even aircraft and improvisation becomes necessary. The Nationals stages are also superbly designed with spectacular jumps, twists and turns. The Supercross stages are very well done and really test your racing skill as you'll have to follow the racing line and have good control of the throttle to avoid accidents. Even the Stunt Quarry stages are well laid out with lots of opportunities to get big air and really pile on the stunts and multipliers.
The physics engine is improved over the original, and you really have to match your throttle control to the particular racing surface and the class of bike you have. Sometimes the control can be a little too unforgiving; my first race on snowy terrain was spent skidding out of control, and racing a 600cc bike over snow and ice can be an exercise in futility. The collision physics are spectacular but totally exaggerated; you hit a train and you go flying for more than 150 yards! However, this isn't really a bad thing as most of the racing in Motocross Madness is unrealistic (some of the jumps are so high you're in the air for almost 10 seconds!) and the exaggerated collisions just add to the character and fun of the game.
Game control is tight and you can chose to use the keyboard, joystick or racing wheel. The game even supports dual analog control pads such as the Guillemot Dual Analog Controller. The controls are completely customizable, and you can also use a combination of keyboard and joystick. By default, the joystick directions are used for steering the bike and for making the rider lean back and forward. Two joystick buttons are used for the gas and brake respectively, while another two are used for implementing stunts. There are a total of 16 stunts that are easily pulled off by pressing one of the corresponding buttons in conjunction with a joystick direction. Most of the stunts are completely outrageous, from the daring “Double Can-Can,” where the rider throws both his legs out to one side, to the suicidal “Cliff Hanger,” where you get up and actually STAND on the handlebars! In fact, if you press the Shift key while in mid-air the view switches to a “Thrill Cam” panoramic view so you can see the frightening extent of your lunacy! Performing multiple tricks in mid-air leads to score multipliers, and while performing the tricks is quite simple, landing them is a different story all together! Expect to spend several hours trying to land some of these crazy moves, but when you do finally get control of landing under your belt you'll be in gaming heaven.
Online racing is a blast with Microsoft's Gaming Zone making it incredibly easy to find or host an online race. As always, the problem of lag is a great concern with online games, but for the most part I found races to be smooth and mostly lag free. The only problems arise when those with slower systems choose to host an 8 player race, but most of the time you can determine from the Zone's interface which racers have the lowest ping compared to yourself and chose your race accordingly.
Rainbow Studios have also spent a lot of time including little extras or Easter Eggs into the game such as pink lawn flamingoes, gas masks on the port-o-potties, and my favorite: a flying saucer that occasionally visits the Stunt Quarry stage in Roswell, New Mexico. These little touches add to the character of the game, and really show the passion that Rainbow Studios have put into the game.
All in all, MCM2 is one of the most addictive games I have ever played. It's not really a racing simulation, it's just pure arcade racing fun. There is an option to adjust gear ratios, but most racers will chose to keep the default settings anyway. Like Tony Hawk Pro Skater, MCM2 is a game that appeals to everyone; you don't have to be a racing fan to enjoy the game, and it's so playable that almost anyone that picks it up and has a play will be addicted within seconds. The moment you land that huge jump over a ski lodge you'll be grinning like a Cheshire cat and begging for more.
Replay Value: 96
Overall : 95