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MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael

Pacific Coast Power and Light



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It made a good impression on the PS2, how does it fare on Microsoft's console? Let's find out together.

The sport of motocross (or MX) has become more popular as of late, part in thanks to the increased acceptance of other "extreme" sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding. For as long as there have been motorcycles, there has always been competition surrounding them. Widespread popularity of the sport has remained elusive, including videogame form. Name three good games involving the motorcycles, we dare you.

Enter THQ's licensing deal with Ricky Carmichael, one of the sports more prominent figures of today. Where previous games in the dirtbike genre have been good, the realism strived for in MX2002 has been largely absent. This is very evident in the Career Mode's calendar. Rather that racing through a track to unlock the next one, MX2002 has players actually playing (in career mode) a series of events in the same way that you would in real life.

Naturally, there is practice and free race, but it's the career that you want to play. Before you get to take on the big boys, you need to beat other amateurs. This is done in what could be considered a mandatory practice mode, or a precursor to the career mode. Either way you look at it, getting a handle on the racing AI as well has how to maneuver around the track is a good idea.

Tricks are present in the game, and anytime you get a decent amount of air, you are tempted to bust out some crazy moves. You'll find yourself in last place quickly though if you keep it up. During races (this is all part of the realism folks) if you spend time doing stunts, you will find yourself getting further behind the pack. Unlike other racers, no adrenaline boost is to be found by performing a death-defying kick-off in mid-air. The pros don't get one in real-life, so why should you?

Executing these tricks can take a little getting used to, but once you get the sequencing down, it's easy to become a master at executing the "Kiss of Death" or "Rodeo Air". Of course when you fail to even land a Tail Whip correctly, you will wind up kissing the dirt, which is why you shouldn't get distracted during the races (but you will be tempted).

These stunts that can be performed will look very impressive when executed properly, and there is a proper setting for these as well. Throughout the circuit, you will occasionally find yourself in an arena specifically designed for stunt work. The number (and difficulty) of tricks you perform in a specific amount of time will determine your standings.

While the stunts are fun, that isn't the meat of the gameplay, getting across the finish line is. The courses are varied enough and the AI is decent enough to give you a run for your money. While the computerized opponents can take turns quicker (while upright) than you would be able to, catching up to them won't be much of a problem if you manage to stay on your bike.

The racers presented in MX 2002 are a fine bunch, each with their own specialties, but most players will want to take them on with the "Create-A-Rider" feature. While not at deep as other games, this feature is almost becoming standard in games of this sort, and the exclusion of it would have been very amiss.

The game appears ported to the Xbox with little if any graphical upgrades. The character models, bikes, and environments all look like they did on the PS2. There isn't a heck of a lot one can do with dirt, but there is a lot one can do with the Xbox. Every once in a while, some dirt will get kicked up, but there isn't much in the way of visuals that stick out as an accomplishment. If a little more time was spent, I'm sure that some spit and polish could have been applied and some of the jagginess could have been eliminated, as well as helping the game look a lot more like an Xbox game rather than a Playstation game.

The physics are also pretty good - not great. There are some spots that definitely need some improvement, such as how the AI riders can take turns so quick and sharp, but player controlled riders are unable to do so. Overall, the game handles well with minimal gameplay distractions.

Naturally, multiplayer modes are present, and MX 2002 doesn't disappoint here (except for the fact that only 2 players can compete - come on, the Xbox has 4 ports). The option to have either the screen divided vertically or horizontally is a nice touch. Both racing and freestyle have tracks that will need to be unlocked before you can get your MX on with a live opponent, but again, the variety of courses while not huge, is plentiful. Unlocking tracks is done in career mode, but anything that isn't locked can be played in single or multiplayer Freestyle or Exhibition (the single race option).

Career mode brings you to a calendar of events, with each event taking place in a certain week. You can practice riding the course, enter into a tutorial about various aspects of the course, or enter into a freestyle competition on the course, as well as actually race the event. Not all options are available at each course, but when available, the freestyle races are some of the most fun that can be had with the game.

Points are awarded for placement in each race, and after placing in the top three in the 125cc circuit, the 250cc season becomes available. This provides a different class of competition, and is naturally harder to get through.

There are a number of challenges that can be accessed and attempted as well, though it is set up in an odd place: the options menu. Accomplishing these goals will not only help with your overall game (providing another form of tutorial) but unlock several cinemas of actual motocross action will be available for viewing.

The bikes don't really sound that great, but they don't sound too bad either. There isn't a heck of a lot setting the game apart aurally. The music in MX 2002 is appropriate for the game, but not varied enough. Hearing the same few songs over again can be very grating. Since the game is virtually identical to the PS2 version, the exact same set list is present, nothing added. This is disheartening, as is the fact that you can't use your own soundtrack from the harddrive. After a while, I turned the sound off and listened to my stereo while playing.

Overall, the game is fun to play, if lacking in certain technical areas, but who needs technical prowess when you're working on your "Bar Hop" or "No Hander"? Load times are pretty good, and the game feels like a rather decent representation of the sport.

Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
If I hear "Click Click Boom" one more time...

MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael: The Scores













The Final Word:  The extras that are on the Xbox version of the game aren't enough to make up for the fact that the hardware was not taken advantage of in the graphics and audio categories. It's still fun to play, but it definitely isn't a showcase title.

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