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Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2
Review By:  Christopher Coey
Developer:   Z-Axis
Publisher:   Acclaim
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Extreme Sports
ESRB:   Teen
Date Posted:   11-13-01

Are you hardcore? That's a question that comes up every now and then between gamers. It can refer to a number of things. In strictly gaming terms it usually refers to how immersed you get into games. As in: how much do you LOVE the games you play? Enough to find each and every short cut, learn every move, clear the game with every character? Sometimes it refers to the 'type' of games you play, or on which systems. Like: did you play ALL of the Resident Evil games? If so, do you still play Silent Hill, JUST because you love games that much? Back in the day, real hardcore players would never actually READ manuals. They just turned on the game, and figured things out for themselves.

Am I hardcore? I'd say yes. And I could back that up with ample evidence, but I won't. No need to bore readers with a list of my video game accomplishments, or my years of experience. But playing this game, I felt like a rank amateur.

First off, I have never played a "freestyle BMX" game before. To the best of my knowledge there are not many around, and only this one for PS2. I certainly didn't play the first Dave Mirra. It's not that I don't like extreme sports games, I just don't get a big kick out of games that are solely tricked based. SSX is one of the best games I have ever played, I loved it. But at its heart, it was a racing game. Dave Mirra 2 is simply a trick game.

So what we have now is a player (me) playing a game about a sport that I know very little about, and have little experience with. I know what a 'nosepick' is, I even know what a 'manual' is. But I have no idea what a 'fastplant', or 'disaster' or 'lipslide' is. Problem is, I NEED to know what all these things are in order to progress in the game. So, even though I thought I was all "hardcore" I am forced to turn to that manual. That's when I became even MORE confused. This game is not accessible to the average gamer.

The manual (the book, not the trick) is like a computer science textbook. It's full of charts and lists, and tons and tons of words. Now, apart from being a hardcore gamer, I also like to think of myself as being of above average intelligence. It's not that the manual is indecipherable. It's just overly complicated. I believe that a game should be designed to be intuitive and playable. It shouldn't require a player to read a manual. BUT, if there are some, more complicated, things that need explaining, the manual should be clear, concise, and visual. This one is anything but. I was able to squeeze some information out of the mountain of moves and trick references. But over all, going through the manual was a frustrating experience.

My point is this: this game has been designed by, and for, hardcore BMX fans. [Read: as opposed to hardcore 'gamers'] The manual seems to have been written on the assumption that the reader had already played the first Dave Mirra, and already knew what each move and trick was called. The gameplay assumes that the player is familiar with the ridiculously complicated control system. There also seems to be a lot of self 'back patting' by the game designers, and I'll include Dave Mirra himself in that list. With that comment, I'll lead into my review of the games graphics:

Graphically, the game is great. Only a year after the release of the PS2, we are already starting to see a VAST improvement in the graphics of the newer titles. I don't know if I would call them 'second generation' titles just yet, but a definite step up from launch titles. A lot less 'jaggies' than SSX for example. Much deeper, and more richly detailed environments than, say, TimeSplitters. BUT, with all that work on small environmental details, the self congratulating designers decided to again feed their egos by putting photo-skins of themselves and all their friends onto the characters. Personally, I find this an unwanted distraction. I'd rather see detailed, more natural looking, polygonal faces like (I know I keep bringing this up) SSX. I don't know who 90% of these characters are, and I don't really care. I don't think it adds much, if anything, by having the 'real' face skins in the game.

The gameplay is good; not great. Once again, I think you would need to be a hardcore BMX fan to appreciate it. YES, there are actually a billion moves. But who cares. I'd be happy with only having a million moves, or a hundred thousand moves. Heck, I'll settle for a few hundred moves as long as they look good, and are fun to play. In order to pull off some of the moves and combos in this game, you have to perform an Olympic level gymnastic routine with your fingers. Not fun, just a lot of work. And it takes so much concentration in order to pull off a specific move, that it's not really that satisfying when you finally do. The 'hit detection' system falls apart at times as well. Occasionally you can drive through things that you should bounce off of. At other times you might bounce off of an object at a completely awkward angle. I prefer 'extreme sports' games that let me look at the environment and say, "I wonder if I can do this?" Then the game actually lets me, easily, and intuitively. In Dave Mirra, it's more like: I wonder how many buttons I can push and still not do a faceplant when I land. Yippee!

Now, I know I'm being rather negative about this game. I'll admit, it's not my thing. It does have a lot going for it: great graphics, great music (serious soundtrack on this one), huge environments (actually too huge, part of the game involves finding randomly dispersed items/characters in massive levels), and an encyclopedia of moves. I would have to guess that anyone who likes freestyle BMX, BMX games, or extreme 'trick' games in general will LOVE this game. Those people are hardcore fans, and this game is for them. And it's for them that I score this game so highly, not for myself.

Another reason the score is a little inflated is the inclusion of a park editor. Seems like THIS part of the game was designed by a whole other team, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it was. The park editor is fairly straight forward, easy to use, and an amazing addition to any game. There are things that I would have liked to see included in the park editor that were not there, but what is there is a whole lot of parts and objects to play around with. The editor is reasonably accessible; the actual game is very much not accessible.

HIGHS:

  • Hardcore.
  • Tons and tons of moves/tricks
  • Cool park editor
  • Whet your appetite for THPS3

LOWS:

  • Too hardcore.
  • Difficult controls.
  • Awkward character skins.
  • Not accessible to all gamers.

FINAL VERDICT:

If you are hardcore, buy this game. But only if you are hardcore about BMX tricks. This game is NOT SSX; it is NOT Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. It is a game designed by and designed for people who like to see crazy people doing really crazy things with two wheels and some metal between their legs. The soundtrack is one of the best ever. Very well suited to the game. There are loads of things to unlock, tons of objectives to complete, and a good selection of character. But be warned, this game is for the initiated, not for the general masses.

Overall Score: 8.0

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