Hands-onFreekstyle

We get a sneak peek at the next game in EA's Big line.

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We got to visit Page 44's studio in San Francisco recently and got a nice peek at Freekstyle in action. The next game in EA's Big line, Freekstyle seems to have all of its essential elements in place. It appears to be very much a member of the Big line, and you'll know it at first sight. All of the bells and whistles that you've come to associate with the line are present in Freekstyle, and the gameplay is based on SSX's smooth control scheme and trick system. It feels very accessible at this point, all in all, and we were quite impressed by how smoothly it ran

Freekstyle can be described as "SSX meets motocross." You take the role of a suitably edgy character (of which there are eight) and take to the track on a high-powered dirt bike, using the course's contours and geometry to fuel your tricks. The trick system is just like SSX Tricky's, which basically ensures the game will have an audience--many people are intimately familiar with the popular snowboarding game's mechanics, and they'll no doubt want to see how they translate into this different environment. The speed, madness, and attitude have also been carried over--the characters spew one-liners as they zoom through the tracks, and it all happens at 60fps.

The characters themselves take the form of many familiar freestyle motocross icons as well as some fantasy personas. Included in the mix are Mike Metzger, Brain Deegan (complete with his road-warrior getup), Stefy Bau, and Clifford "The Flying Hawaiian" Adoptante, among others. Leeann Tweeden, the supercross bunny of sorts and as of recently a TV host, will also grace the lineup, and she has provided some voice samples to legitimize the affair.

We got to see quite a few tracks during our visit, all of which seemed nicely complex and easy on the eyes. One took place in a mountainous setting, and it led us through a good number of underground passages replete with sharp light sources and twisty paths. Another was set in a sort of hedge maze, complete with statues and sculptures to hop over, as well as glass surfaces to ride on. Yet another was designed to look like Las Vegas, complete with flashing lights and neon and all kinds of spectacular obstacles. There are six stages in all, and within each you'll find heavy use of the props that make up a standard motocross course: namely, huge ramps.

The controls are just what you'd expect from an EA Big motocross game: You steer with the left stick and accelerate and brake with the X and square buttons, respectively. You can correct your landings while in the air to help you maintain speed after landing on an incline, and you get the expected speed boost after landing tricks successfully. Perform enough tricks, and you'll gain access to a Tricky-like bonus state, in which you can maintain your boost as long as you continue to perform tricks successfully. Performing the tricks themselves involves the shoulder buttons, with different one-, two-, three-, and four-button combinations yielding tricks of gradually increasing intensity. Also, you can modify simple tricks with the circle button.

Aesthetically, the tricks are pretty off the wall. Some have the characters riding their bikes while standing, as if they were surfboards; others have them doing handstands on the handlebars; and yet others have them levitating several feet over their seats, in a lotus position. Page 44 has obviously let loose on these, and they're definitely something to see. The four-button tricks are the most outlandish, but some of the simpler ones aren't anything to shake a stick at, either.

Freekstyle was looking quite good when we saw it, and given that the game isn't shipping until May, we think it's safe to say that it will turn out quite solid. We'll have more on it for you very soon, so keep your eyes here, and check out these screenshots in the meantime.

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