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MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael
Review By:  Joe Rolfe
Developer:   Pacific Coast Power & Light
Publisher:   THQ
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Racing
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   8-28-01

During the 32-bit console generationís last few years, an explosion of motocross games surged onto the scene with each annual turn. Electronic Arts, Acclaim and THQ each vied for the action sport racing crown with their new releases, all trying to get to the sacred spot that Nintendoís classic NES title Excitebike (and itís future N64 sequel) held. And even though competition usually breeds quality results, the motocross crowd never really got a winner on par with the Big Nís efforts. THQís early PSone versions of Ricky Carmichael, despite decent critical support, never really took off with the public. However, that hasnít stopped them from trying once again with the new PS2 hardware. Now, after years of experience on the dusty PSne, THQ and developer Pacific Coast Power & Light set out to create a new motocross champ on PlayStation 2, and itís results have come through quite well though in MX 2002 featuring Ricky Carmichael.

Be forewarned: if anyone is expecting a new motocross revolution in gaming, then youíll be surely disappointed with MX 2002. There is quite a lack of modes in the game, featuring a plain Exhibition mode, a shallow Career option (read: shallow customization) and the Freestyle mode. The game just has a dearth of discrepancy and variety, so donít be awaiting a wide selection of modes and a myriad of bells Ďn whistles.

That said, MX 2002 is quite a fun game. The game has a nice selection of indoor and outdoor tracks, featuring diverse environments ranging from snowy ice covered hills to a construction site complete with heavy machinery. Controlling MX takes little time, utilizing nearly all the buttons on the controlling. Gamers must learn how to punch the clutch accordingly to get the quickest time scores (and outrun the opponents) and angle the bikes correctly for landing in hopes not to put too much weight on the front or back wheels.

Those used to Tony Hawk-style gameplay may find the trick scheme uncomfortable at first, but it can become second nature with practice. Instead of button-tapping succession combos as seen in the Birdmanís skating games, MX2002 is a tad bit more complicated. To gain the biggest air, gamers have to work the springs right by putting on a bit of downforce while approaching jumps, and then using button-holding combos in the air to get trick points. Itís not quite as ergonomically friendly as THPS, but MX2002 can easily be mastered with just a little time spent. Overall, the physics and controls are done quite nicely.

On the visual front, MX2002 will please the eye, although itís not anywhere near taxing the systemís power. The bikers are modeled with an average amount of detail and have little to no individual actions. Thankfully, the gameís tracks and outdoor environments make up for the bland riders with their highly detailed and designed look. Great, realistic looking textures give them an authentic feel and little objects like trees and (once again) heavy machinery give the game a bit of character and charm. Most importantly, it all runs at a slick frame rate for smooth driving, so thereís hardly any pop up or slowdown in sight.

Audibly, the game suffers the worse. While the engine revs and muffles are standard stuff, the gameís selection of music is poor at best. MX2002 has bands such as bland rock group Saliva and annoying pop-"punk" bands like American Hi-Fi and Sum-41. Of course, itís all a matter of taste, but the music just doesnít energize me as much as THPS2 did with its wide arrangement of indy punk and classic hip hop sounds. Not to mention that the game only gives you 7 total songs to pick from and itís just best to turn the whole music part off in the game.

For the most part, Ricky Carmichael MX2002 is a nice first entry into the next-generation motocross scene. While it does have some problems in each aspect of the game, thereís nothing too immense to detract from the fun racing physics and great tracks. Iím sure that the coming motocross games will eclipse this one in most categories, but for now MX2002 ainít a bad start at all.

HIGHS:

  • Substantial graphics.
  • Great bike physics.
  • Interesting and diverse tracks.

LOWS:

  • Pretty weak on extra options and modes.
  • Career mode could use a heavy injection of depth.
  • You call this music?

FINAL VERDICT:

A solid first effort from the boys at THQ. It obviously could use some polish and a bit of work in each part of the game, but MX 2002 shows a lot of promise for the future. Rent it if youíre just a casual racing fan, but definitely take a strong look into it for those motocross freaks out there. You wonít be displeased.

Overall Score: 7.9

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