Motocross Madness 2

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GED takes a look at the latest racing game from Microsoft. And who better to review MM2 than our own in-house (real life) Motocross Racer, Keith! Keith chews up and spits out the good the bad and the ugly about MM2 to give you a taste of what it’s all about. Now if only I could find somebody that has real life experience with rocket launchers and rail guns maybe I could get that Quake3Arena review done.

For those of you that played the first Motocross Madness from Microsoft, let me start by saying this. This game is much harder than the first version in respect to some of the physics of the game. The computer AI is also better, and it seems the only difference the skill level settings make is that the AI will crash more often, usually trying to pull off some insane jump! With that said, let’s delve a bit more into the actual graphics and gameplay.

Graphics

My personal test rig is a PIII 500E overclocked to 685mhz, along with a Creative Labs Annihilator2 video card and 256mb of ram running on Windows 2000 Pro. Win2k?

Yes, that’s what I said. It is stable, the Nvidia drivers are fast, and this card oozes raw power. With that in mind I installed the game and immediately set the game resolution to 1024×768 with the graphics quality slider at its default position. With this setting the game runs like a dream, even with multiple riders on the screen. I did not take frame rate scores since this is not a video card review, but suffice to say it appears to be in the 50+ range and I had VERY smooth gameplay. Dust and small bits of roost, which is dirt and gravel from the spinning rear tire, are kicked up from the rear tire under power, and bumps and jumps actually move each suspension component individually!

The bikes and riders are also very detailed, with a choice of brands, colors and riding gear available. Honda, Yamaha, and KTM got in on the act and the bikes look authentic, even down to the shocks and tires having knobbies. You can even pick a 4-stroke or 2-stroke engine type, something that was missing from the original. The last thing and one of the biggest changes from MM1 is the terrain! No more perfectly smooth and featureless outdoor terrain.

There are tracks and outdoor riding areas that are littered with trees, bushes, cacti, and even objects such as small buildings, tractors, powerlines, and yes, you can hit them all, sometimes with hilarious results! There are also snowy areas, although the game doesn’t provide much of a different feel on it, you would assume snow and ice would be slippery. But this does not detract from the quality of gameplay.

 

Practice Makes Perfect!

This game lends itself to a hardcore playing style as well, there are enough advanced techniques to master that will make you incredibly faster than a “rookie” rider. Things such as moving the front of the bike up and down in midair to match the angle of the terrain you will be landing on, and using the brakes in midair to accomplish the same thing. You can also “whip” the bike sideways in midair to gain that extra bit of distance needed to clear a difficult jump or move sideways a bit to adjust your landing point.

Real motocross racers will adapt a bit more easily to these skills as they are really as close to the real thing as can be without making the game TOO difficult for the average player. I raced motocross for 13 years so you can trust me on that one.

To be truly proficient, you will need to learn the tracks, there is a lot of room for error, and a practiced rider will easily beat you by a large margin. Then again, what good game doesn’t require some skill?

 

Types of Racing

There are enough choices in this game to keep everybody from the high flying type to the pure speed freak type of racer happy. Supercross racing has the feel of the real thing, if you have ever ridden a motocross bike, you will know exactly what I mean. Jumps are abrupt, timing is critical, and simply holding the throttle on and praying will get you nowhere, you will be crashing yourself silly every time you land on top of a jump, called “casing” by real racers because your transmission cases actually impact the ground. Which can result in a rather nice crash. Not that that’s bad in this game, because the wrecks are often amazingly funny, with the rider and bike doing multiple cartwheels, flips and spins before grinding to a halt.

The National tracks offer a wide variety of styles as well. From flat out top speed tracks to technical tracks littered with all manners of jumps, bumps, and holes to attack, you are sure to find ones that suit your style, whether it be the hard charging aggressive player or the type that likes to finesse a section by making perfectly times leaps and corners. Often a track can be ridden either way.

 

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Enduro racing and Baja racing take place outdoors, with higher speeds and a large variety of objects to get in the way, like the aforementioned buildings and equipment. There are even buses, trucks and tourist cars to get in your way, and believe me, you will lose in any head on encounter with one of these obstacles.

The last two types are Stunt riding and Tag events. In the Stunt mode, you earn points for pulling off tricks in mid air, although you MUST land without crashing to get scored. Multiple tricks will result in a score being multiplied by a factor of 1.5 and up. The Tag mode is simple in that one rider is “it” and the other riders must “hit” him to become “it.” The rider that spends the most time being it wins the timed event. There is also an option to mix Tag and Stunt riding into one, and you can score points by doing tricks only while you are it.

One of the more entertaining options is “Tag Ball” mode, in which a large beach ball is up for grabs. Run over it and it becomes attached to your tail end, and other riders must grab it from you by hitting you to steal it away, or by stealing it after you crash. As a dedicated gamer and LAN player, I can tell you these modes are often the most fun. Imagine 10-15 riders racing around, cutting each other off, crashing every imaginable way, and the rush of adrenalin you get from being IT.

 

Summary

The gameplay is simply awesome. The high speed and smooth graphics, even on a Voodoo2-233mhz machine (keep the resolution down) ensure this game will not break the bank with hardware to run it acceptably.

Multiplayer with live opponents is the high point of this game. LAN play is perfect, and a decent internet connection (up to about 250 ping) will provide smooth gameplay as well, although cable and dsl users will really benefit from increased smoothness. Never fear though, I have seen some killer riders with 200 ping eat my lunch on the MSN Gaming Zone.

Computer AI is a bit tough, pulling off seemingly impossible feats, although if you are a decent rider and can avoid too many crashes, you will beat them on that merit alone as they seem to have no wits, and will banzai themselves into a crumpled ball on some of the bigger jumps.

The sounds effects are pretty good, with the booming 4-stroke engines dominating a race, especially if you have a good subwoofer. Makes you feel like a man when you nail the gas on a 600cc engine and power up a steep hill. The 2-strokes sounds, well, like a 2-stroke, kind of tinny with a rough rasp to them. If you are running a 4-channel sound system, you can turn on the EAX extensions (if your sound card supports it) for excellent positional sounds. You can easily hear a rider as he approaches from behind and tell from what side he is coming from. The only shortcoming is when you have the throttle off, there is very little background noise such as chains slapping and rocks crunching. This is a minor quibble though.

For the true Motocross fan, the tracks are true to life in that many of them, especially supercross, are modeled after real tracks and events.

For those wishing to try it, a Track Editor called Armadillo is available to create your own tracks, although the learning curve is steep. Making a smooth surface is a feat in itself! Just keep at it and you will get the hang of it. You can even import custom models in from some 3D modeling programs.

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Ranking

I give this game a 95% ranking, the only thing that bothers me is the tough AI and lack of a few sounds. It is well worth the money spent, and if you ever raced or rode dirt bikes, this game is a MUST HAVE.

Before I got a Creative Anihaltor Pro I had a 3Dfx Vodoo3 3000 and it run very poorly on that card. I does run very well on the nvidia card though