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Supercross 2000 (PSX) Review


Are you ready to handle a full season of supercross action? Well, EA Sports delivers 16 stadium tracks patterned after real courses as well as 24 current riders. Supercross 2000 also features a freestyle mode where you can rack up style points and impress the crowds. Unfortunately, even the large number of tracks and riders can not save this otherwise mundane game. The realistic motorcycle physics Supercross 2000 promises are simply too touchy to fully enjoy the game.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
The first thing I noticed about Supercross 2000 when it started up was the detail of the bikes and riders. Spokes, forks, and handlebars are all discernible both in replays and during a real-time race. However, the other thing I noticed was the bland rendering of the course. Jumps come across looking like the three-dimensional implementation of the two-dimensional jumps from the videogame classic Excitebike. The jumps look like rounded triangles and not like the real thing. During the race, ruts develop on some of the jumps. While the extra graphical touch adds some novelty value, it never seems to affect your bike's response.

While the course graphics aren't the most beautiful ones to grace the PSX, the game's action is fluid. Even with 10 riders in a race, the aging PSX keeps up with the action. The pack quickly thins out, which keeps slowdown issues completely away. The camera does a good job keeping pace with your rider, especially around turns. In some instances, the camera falls behind the signs around a turn but quickly adjusts to look through the sign. The adjustment is quick and gives you a clear view of the competition ahead.

Similarly quick is the rear view toggle. You can keep an eye on your competition by looking back, and the change from the view ahead to the view behind is fast. The default forward looking camera gives a clear view of the track and competition. While there is a first-person view, the game is most playable from a third-person perspective.

As you travel around the course, the quality of the rider animations shows through. Riders change positions depending on the angle of the bike, wheels turn, and dirt is kicked up. Crashes are similarly well executed. Riders separate from their bikes, although at times the bikes vanish into thin air, leaving only the rider on screen.

Presentation/Audio : 80
Supercross 2000 features game commentary from Art Eckman and David Bailey of ESPN, and for the most part, the commentary is decent. One thing I've never understood about videogame commentary is how the programmers never build better audio logic into the game. For example, you may find yourself in last place on the last lap. The other riders have finished, yet the commentators say something like, "Jeff Emig better handle those turns better if he expects to make podium." What? The top three already finished, guys. So while the commentary is there, it can be repetitive and not always relevant to the action. At other times, the commentary is original, offering insight to the track at hand. By default, the commentary is switched on during the race, and the music is muted.

The motorcycle sounds get annoying after a short amount of time. I haven't quite pinned down the specific sound, but at times the motorcycles produce a sound like a batch of pigeons in the park. Besides the birds, the engines rev at a higher pitch as you apply the gas. The crowds cheer most of the race with the same sound. The only exception is when you accidentally or intentionally hit another rider, at which point the crowd joins together in a chorus of boos.

Overall, the commentary and motorcycle sounds make for the best audio in this year's crop of cycling games. Despite the outdated and sometimes repetitive comments, the commentary adds to the supercross environment.

Interface/Options : 85
The controls in Supercross 2000 are conducive to action-packed driving. The basic controls are gas, brake, clutch, and direction. The gas and brake are manipulated with the X and circle buttons, respectively. The clutch, which becomes important as you develop your skills in the game, is activated with the L2 button. Lean and pitch are controlled with the digital pad or analog stick. For those wanting analog speed control, the right analog stick can be used to satisfy your whims.

In the freestyle mode, tricks are executed with the circle button and the digital pad or analog stick. The manual states that there are a total of 17 available tricks (only 6 are listed - it's up to you to find the rest).

The manual does a good job explaining the details of the game. When changing the game options, be aware that the X button must be pressed or your changes will be lost. Switching menus is slow. If you've got a quick trigger finger, you'll find the menus can't keep up. Likewise, the load times can't keep pace with you or the pace of racing. The load times are reminiscent of another EA product, Moto Racer 2. You could almost make a sandwich in the time it takes the track to load. Fortunately the pace quickens during the race. Once complete, you can save your victory (or defeat) off to the memory card, which requires a paltry one or two blocks.

Gameplay : 30
Both racing and freestyle events are represented in Supercross 2000. The main mode of play in the game is racing, of which you can engage in a single race or a season with 16 races. The difficulty settings for each race can be customized. The options include braking effectiveness, collision sensitivity, competition speed, your maximum speed, and an invisible wall switch. The invisible walls option will prove valuable later on. By turning the switch on, the computer assists you in staying on the track.

Since the racing events are similar, I'll concentrate on the season mode. This mode offers the most gameplay potential, and it entails a 16-race season with one of 24 available pro riders. Once you select a rider, you're off to the track. Before the race, you can customize your bike's performance. I played around with some of the settings, which encompass wheel traction, gearing, and shocks, but found little difference between them.

Once you start the race, you and nine other riders line up at the start line. At this time, you'll press on the gas button to rev the engine up. The engine revs a little slow, but if you press in the clutch, you'll quickly redline the engine. When the flag drops you can get a quick jump by releasing the clutch.

As you enter the first turn, you will notice the game's first glaring problem. The manual suggests playing with the clutch for better cornering. I tried all sorts of cornering techniques to no avail. Unless you hit the turns perfectly, cornering is overly difficult. Many times you'll get stuck in the turn and frantically try to get out. When you're facing the barrier, your intuition tells you to lean as far as you can and hit the gas. The rear tire should grab the dirt and kick out. In Supercross 2000, no matter what traction setting is used, your wheels spin and you simply don't have the traction to get out. Your bike sits in one spot with the wheel spinning but no bike rotation. However, if you turn fully with the gas on and then let go of the control pad, you straighten out and go from 0 to 20 mph in the blink of an eye. Acceleration is non-existent when the bikes are tilted but spectacular when perfectly upright.

While trying different cornering techniques, I came across one that worked nearly every time. I noticed that if I gently entered a corner and stayed on outside part of the turn, I could use the signs to guide my turn. In fact, all you have to do is hold the gas button down and let go of the lean control in the turn. Once you exit the turn, you can adjust your direction with the pad. To put this method to test, I ran an entire race pressing only one button, the gas button. On a course with several turns, I finished sixth out of ten riders by doing nothing else but pressing the X button. Every time I went through a corner, I'd hit the turn's outside wall and the computer would shimmy me through the corner faster than I could do on my own. And while I finished sixth, I was in first place for over half of the race. A wipeout on one turn dropped my position; otherwise I probably would have placed first. So if you have small children in the house, this is the game for them. What is more simple than a racing game that requires only one button to compete? Heck, even when I got turned around and faced traffic, the computer would magically turn me around.

While the above scenario took place with the beginner settings and takes the method to the extreme, it points out a cornering technique that can be applied to all levels of play in the game. Rather than be frustrated by not making tight turns in a corner by hitting the gas and leaning, I found myself compensating for the game's lack of reality by letting the computer corner for me. It provides the fastest times through a turn and keeps you from throwing the controller at the television. And this cornering technique was useful on all levels of difficulty.

After playing Supercross Circuit from 989 Sports, I was expecting the same response to jumps. In Supercross 2000, jumps do little to affect the bike's momentum. The motorcycles take hills and jumps with no difficulty. As a test, on portions of a course where two large jumps lie together, I purposely take the first jump at a slow enough speed to land in the valley of the two hills. You would expect that the motorcycle would have a difficult time quickly making it up the second hill, but in Supercross 2000, the bike climbs the hill with ease and catches a good amount of air. In the end, you are left with obstructions that don't affect strategy one bit.

Recall one of the game options is the invisible wall switch. The manual describes this feature as an assist to staying on the course. The game is virtually unplayable without it. If you turn off the walls, it is very easy to get off course because of touchy controls. The computer gives you a couple of seconds to get back on course before it automatically places you back on. The quickest way to get back on is to try a tight turn and head right for the track. However, recall that tight turns and gas yield a stuck bike. If the motorcycles had realistic turning authority, this wouldn't be such a bad option, but in its current state, it adds to the frustration. Even with the invisible walls on I found myself going through the walls a couple of times.

Another flaw which may be a combination of quick acceleration, invisible walls, and lousy jumps is the ability to scale tall buildings in a single bound. At times, your bike almost jumps vertically with no forward progress. Once the cycle hits the ground, it quickly accelerates. Now I haven't been to too many supercross races, but I don't think these guys can jump straight up.

Once you've gotten past these major issues, you are left with completing the season. Points are accumulated over the course of the season and are awarded based on your finishing position. After the first couple of tracks, the track design becomes monotonous, in part because of the lack of strategy involved with the jumps. The tracks lack character, and you'll forget if you are racing in San Diego or Daytona.

So is there anything positive to say about the gameplay? Well, the AI is decent. The riders are aggressive, and crashes result in riders scrambling to get back on their bikes or slowing up to avoid the collision. The riders' strengths are unbalanced. Nearly every race features a rider who is almost one minute off the pace during a five lap race, which take five minutes or less.

I'm sure that if enough practice was put into the game, there may be a silver lining. With several hours invested in the game, my ability to get around the track has definitely improved, but any slight loss in technique means a crash, getting stuck in a corner, or going off-track. Games are supposed to be fun, and I simply wasn't having much fun.

Replay Value: 30
To give the game an honest review, I painstakingly went through an entire season in Supercross 2000 as well as single races with a variety of setups and difficulty settings. It was tough, but during the course of playing the game, I discovered some serious flaws, and even a flaw which lessens another flaw. The weaknesses far outweigh the strengths of the game to the point that it completely kills the replay potential of the game. There are simply more entertaining titles out there.

Overall : 51
After owning or playing many racing titles from EA Sports, I was simply astounded by the flaws in Supercross 2000. While the game promises realistic motorcycle physics, I feel we are mistreated to a mixture of realism and contrived mechanics. Strategy is dictated solely by your ability to take corners, and another essential parameter, jumps, never enters into the game. The bikes make it over jumps with so much ease that the programmers could have just as easily left them out of the game. And while there are numerous tracks, many of them have the same feel, and the game lacks variety.

By: James Smith 12/10/99

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