Fly like a freebird.
Some games leave a bad taste in you mouth, like a case of food poisoning contracted from eating a burger bought at Jack-in-the-Box (last Tuesday, August 5th, in Hercules, California, from which I am still recovering). Other games are more like the burger itself, a bit rough around the edges, but tasty nonetheless.
Freestyle Metal X from Midway for the PS2 is one such burger of a game. Some nice graphics, an interesting take on an old control scheme, nifty level ideas, a rockin' soundtrack and generally decent production values keep it ahead of the curve. However, every one of these features is offset by significant flaws. Some of the graphics suck, the interesting take on the old control scheme can be frustrating, the nifty level ideas were in THPS 4 first and the rockin' soundtrack is beset by mediocre sound effects.
The main Career mode isn't bad, allowing you to unlock levels and bikes and earn cash to upgrade things. You can take on challenges at your leisure, ranging from transfer hops and specific tricking to timed challenges. Eventually you'll open up races against other guys. I especially like the challenges that let you ride around talking to bimbos who promise to service you, er, your bike later if you bust the trick they want.
Even though you don't ever get your gears ground by a polygonal hussy, you do get to bust a TON of tricks. The list is really long and you can do things like wheelies, stoppies, doughnuts and burnouts. Interestingly, if you land in a wheelie after busting a trick and hold the wheelie as you keep riding, you'll constantly accumulate points and your "Go Crazy" meter (a rip-off of Freekstyle's "Freekout" meter) will never diminish. This leads to an endless supply of points and the ability to always bust out your uber trick, which can only be executed when the crazy meter is at its max. So, points aren't much of an issue, even though they're the prime goal in a third of the levels.
Unfortunately, the trick system is pretty rough on the fingers, as the most important trick buttons are the Triangle and Circle buttons. The shoulder buttons are far superior trick handling devices, as shown by Freekstyle and the SSX games.
Spicing up the control scheme up a bit are the pre-load and clutch buttons. Pre-load is what you hold down to get extra-boost from your jumps, while clutch is a more complicated turbo button. Hold either down too long and you'll lose boost/turbo, making timing an important factor for both.
Fortunately, you get to spend some time in Cindy's School to bone-up on your clutching and thrusting skills before metaling your way into Career mode. Cindy's school is a decent tutorial where you learn the basics of the game heavily steeped in innuendo. Too bad you never get to see her, though; it would have been great if she was a 400 pound fat lady sitting in a lawn chair eating a can of frosting.
Freestyle Metal X isn't a great multiplayer game, but it does allow you to play with friends. Party Play involves picking an event and then seeing if any of your 7 buddies can beat your score. Since you own the game and they don't, I bet they can't. Also, the lack of any head-to-head option really slows down the pace and the group interest level.
The Level Editor is alright. It isn't amazing and definitely isn't original, but not every game includes one. The Human Dartboard is pretty fun in a Monkey Ball sorta way, letting you launch your rider off the bike at a big target. Nice.
The delivery of Freestyle Metal X is as mediocre as it gets. Some of the environments look pretty good, but people, textures, water and fire look awful. Especially the water, wow. On the other hand, it features the only soundtrack for a Xtreme sports game I actually like, with songs from Motorhead and Megadeth to really bring the metal to the moto. The sound effects are lame, however, with cheesy guitar riffing and a buzzing engine.
Overall, Freestyle Metal X is an average game built on a lot of great, borrowed ideas. The playability is good and there are plenty of tricks to be tried, but folks with more active imaginations and sensitive fingers might want to stay away from this C-class jump-fest.