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.
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
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.
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.