Motorcross racing... where the competition's tough, but the grass is tougher.
If you've been waiting for a good supercross simulation to come out, keep on looking because VMX Racing, by Playmates Interactive Entertainment (PIE), is far from being good, and even further from being a simulation. First I should admit that I'm not a big fan of motorcross racing, so some of my assumptions about how motorcross racing should be may be incorrect. (Now all you motorcross fanatics can tear apart the rest of this review and send me e-mail mocking my ignorance.) So here we go...
VMX Racing is your typical arcade-style racing game. You can play alone or against someone else. In the two-player mode, you can choose from a vertical or horizontal split screen. But it's only in the one-player mode that you actually compete in simulated motorcross events (against several other racers). This is just the beginning of the list of woes that kills the game.
For some reason, I had this strange belief that in real life, motorcycles could ride on grass. Well, VMX Racing has shown me the light! Now I know that whenever motorcycles start riding on grass, they'll immediately crash as if they had hit a brick wall, vaulting the driver into the air. This is the very first thing I noticed about the game, and this is what left the worst taste in my mouth as I played the rest.
Here's a quote from the instruction manual: "...we decided to put everything into this simulation that you'd expect to see or hear at a world-class off-road motorcycle event [Minus the harsh language.]" That's all fine and good, but I think that most game players expect some realism from motorcycle events. For god's sake, you don't even skid out in this game! That means you can take a turn going 65 miles per hour and make it just as well as you would have going at 3 miles per hour. What the hell were they thinking? I'm positive that harsh language would've made this game better.
Okay, now that I've vented my frustrations, let's move on. The graphics in this game are pretty bad. All the motorcycles are big, stiff sprites that have been done in the same way for years. The six different tracks are pretty large and true to their real-life counterparts, I assume, but offer nothing spectacular. Each track is a windy maze filled with jumps and other motorcross-like obstacles to keep you on your toes. On some of the levels it's impossible to see where you're going because all the colors are bland and everything looks the same. Maybe that's why they decided to throw out the realism, because you'd never find the finish line on some of those levels. On other tracks I felt that the roads were too thin, but that may be the way real motorcross tracks are. There are some decent full-motion-videos, but that sure as hell doesn't make a good game.
The sounds and music are okay; nothing that stands out in my mind. There's the hum of the motors, the constantly repetitive announcer, and heavy-metal music. The combination of these three things gets the job done and keeps the tempo of the game up.
What makes or breaks all games is their gameplay; and this is where VMX Racing snapped in two. The controls are easy to get used to and responsive, but the aforementioned reality flaws make the game extremely difficult to enjoy. You can perform a few tricks (four, I believe), such as table-tops and no-hands jumps, but they're nothing to write home about. Once you figure out how to drive in a world with no physics, the game gets easier to play and trying to perform crazy maneuvers gets more fun, but you're really limited by the small number of tricks and the fact that you instantly crash if you get near the edge of the track.
I think the game would have been a lot more fun if you could compete against several other competitors in the two-player mode, but I guess that would deteriorate the frame rate. As a single player, you can compete in four different circuits: Enduro, National, Supercross, and Full. Each differ by the locations of the tracks. You can also choose from four different drivers with varying abilities to change things up a bit.
If you didn't fall asleep reading this review, you can pretty much figure out where this game's grade is going. It's unfortunate that a lot of programmers' time and consumer's money went to waste because of a few stupid flaws. Fans of motorcross dying to have a motorcross game on the PlayStation shouldm't even waste their money on a rental. And you other folks out there should just look past this one as you peruse the game aisle.