I like to ride my bicycle...
Now that the Xtreme sports genre is officially here to stay, just about every game company on the planet has cranked out a title. Some have been decent, while others would make good carpet lining for your new puppy. When a particular theme becomes popular (i.e. the survival horror mess that Resident Evil made), fans hope that something new will be brought to the table.
Though it doesn't really change the core gameplay, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 for the Xbox delivers where its PS2 counterpart failed and is a solid addition to the growing Xbox library of ports.
The most noticeable improvement in the Xbox version lies in the graphics. Compared to the PS2, it's simply a night and day difference. Where the PS2 predecessor suffered from anti-aliasing problems and pop-up, the Xbox version is smooth and crisp. Dropped frames are hard to come by and the overall look is much more polished. I mean, it's no Halo, but it's no slouch.
Dave Mirra 2 features 14 playable characters and spans 10 enormous levels, two more than the PS2 version. Each player begins with a low-end bike, best suited for beginners. As challenges are completed, better bikes are unlocked. Once you've chosen your bike, it's time to hit the tracks.
Like just about every other extreme sports game on the planet, you perform various tricks to score points. There's a long list of moves at your disposal; actually, the game boasts over 1,500. However, the trick system takes some getting used to, as the Xbox controller is ill suited for this style of game. You have to first hold down the A button to charge, release to jump, tap a combination on the digital pad, and finally press X to actually do the trick, all the while holding L or R to rotate your character. Doing this within a few seconds takes some practice and will certainly prove frustrating for some gamers.
Things are made easier by somewhat floaty physics, though this is an area that could use a little work.
In order to open other levels, you must gain 'respect' points from the other bikers, which basically amounts to fulfilling level objectives just like in any other game. You ride through the area, find a particular biker, and he/she presents you with a challenge. Once completed, you gain respect points from that biker. If only it were that easy in real life...
The challenges are broken up into different difficulty levels. Once you complete the amateur challenges, you still have to do the pro challenges to earn enough respect points to unlock the next stage.
Unfortunately, the challenges are somewhat uneven. The first level asks that you obtain at least 25ft of air in a jump, perform a transfer from one jump to another, knock down at least four ladders...what the hell? Knock down four ladders? Do I have to pick 'em up again?
Games in this genre tend to have small levels, giving you the opportunity to quickly memorize awesome jumps and combo spots. Dave Mirra 2, however, features enormous levels. You'll often wander around trying to find a specific cool jump. It can be a little tiring, but the size of the levels allows for a good variety of tricks since there is so much to do in each stage. The game certainly has a decent shelf life.
If you're not up to completing all of the aforementioned challenges presented in the Proquest mode, Dave Mirra 2 features other game types. Session mode allows you to test your skills against other riders, while Free Ride is basically practice. The robust Multiplayer provides 13 different turn-based contests, such as H-O-R-S-E, High Score, and even an interesting Wipeout mode that rates you based on the quality of your crashing.
The game also comes packed with a level editor, which lets you build your own park to test your skills in creativity as well as on the bike. It's fine and should work well for the die-hard designer.
There's a wide variety of music ranging from rock to hip-hop, but thanks to the Xbox, you can always load music from your hard drive. So go ahead and nab your dad's Best of Polka CD, rip it to your hard drive, and enjoy it while playing the game.
Dave Mirra 2 is very deep for an Xtreme game. The level sizes, moves list, and challenges are extremely expansive. If you decide to give this one a try, be prepared to spend a lot of time with it. It's a pretty fun ride.