Somewhere out there is a man with an iron pelvis.
A pelvis which may dent, but never break. A pelvis surgically inserted, which by its sheer tensile strength and armored genitalia tuck-away compartment has made this man impervious to the humiliations of a life of failed Motocross racing. For the rest of us, the repeated impacts with dirt, concrete, and vehicles, the repeated loss of balance, and the repeated donation of testicular hood ornaments would drive our soft, malleable hides to tears.
Computer gaming, once again, has saved us from ourselves (and our testicles) with Motocross Madness 2. Why break your balls in real-life when you can do it safely on your computer?
Those of you who played the original Motocross Madness most likely recall a game that successfully balanced arcade fun with a satisfying quotient of realism and a dash of variety. It was, at the time, probably the best motorcycle game around. It had great terrain, graphics, gameplay, physics, and some of the most painful crashes in automotive electronic entertainment. Rainbow Studios, the creator, went to work on a sequel which, as it turns out, improves upon the original in every way, adds in some brilliant, satisfying new twists, and emerges at the top of its field.
Visually, MCM2 is a standout, featuring possibly the smoothest, most detailed terrain engine ever. It renders beautiful landscapes, complete with thousands of interactive 3D foliage. Texture detail and polygon counts are high, and modeling is first class. It's just a gorgeous game.
An improved version of the physics engine from MCM is back in MCM2. Bike and rider are modeled separately, so if your bike's front wheel gets snagged on a tree, your body will sail forward as the cycle spins uncontrollably and crashes into the dirt at the foot of the offending plant.
The physics also impart a great feeling of depth in control. This is no simulation, yet you have to pay attention to momentum and friction factors closely if you want to have any chance of winning. And as before, you have the ability to perform stunts such as the Big Kahuna while in mid-air that add both style, hilarity, and some extra challenge.
When you get down to the individual gameplay modes, things just get better. All the modes from MCM make a return here. Stunt Quarry has you and several opponents performing stunts to collect points; the one who accumulates the most, wins. Baja is off-road rally/checkpoint racing on motorcycles. Supercross is stadium racing, the sort you see advertised sometimes on daytime television. Coming this sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY!
New to MCM 2 are Enduro, Nationals, and Pro-Circuit. Nationals are essentially elaborate, outdoor Supercross tracks. Pro-Circuit is a career mode in which you gain money for races, money that (in a nice touch) goes not only to repairing vehicles, but also towards medical bills.
The star, though, is Enduro. If Baja is like a rally race, then Enduro is the outdoor equivalent to the vehicular lunacy of Midtown Madness. Enduro has you racing through checkpoints that follow routes through populated areas such as trailer parks, farms, diamond mines, South American airstrips, and ski resorts. You might find yourself going neck and neck with the competition, when suddenly the bike next to you gains the lead. You cross a highway, and as your opponent gets orbited by a passing station wagon, you swerve to avoid a big rig. Then you go over a small hill, sail through the air, and land...lining up perfectly with the next checkpoint as a biplane buzzes the water tower next to you. It's great. In fact, Enduro is one of the best racing styles ever. I haven't played such a well realized, deep, madcap racing type since the venerable Stunts came out in the early nineties.
The rest of the modes, while not as immediately engaging as Enduro, have their own considerable charms. The strategy and maneuvering skill required by the Supercross and Nationals events make them obsession material. Baja provides off road practice that's good preparation for the tougher Enduro races. Stunt quarry provides some of the most entertaining, funniest times you're likely to have until the next Monkey Island game, and Pro-Circuit ties them all together nicely to give you a real feel of an up-from-nothing career from redneck Enduro racer to world-renowned Supercross champion.
Motocross Madness 2 takes Motocross Madness from pretty to gorgeous, gives it some newer, smother moves, and throws some new hobbies at it, even a track editor. Like Freespace 2 and Age of Empires 2, it's really just a perfected version of what was already very good. Still, it's the best time you're likely to have in this genre. You owe it to yourself to try Motocross Madness 2. Besides, your testicles will thank you.