MX 2002 featuring Ricky Carmichael

THQ brings the Xbox some motorcross love.

MX 2002 featuring Ricky Carmichael was a solid motocross game for the PlayStation 2, and we've taken a look at the changes that have been made to the game for its upcoming debut on the soon-to-be-released Microsoft Xbox. Though most of the changes are subtle at best, a few add significantly to what makes MX 2002 enjoyable and may bring those who enjoyed the PS2 version back for a second serving, while also appealing to those new to the series.

At first glance, MX 2002 is pretty much identical to the PS2 version, albeit with an increased polygon count adding to the level of detail in the environments. The rider animations are still smooth, and the tricks look just as impressive. Splashing through mud and puddles looks good, and subtle effects, like the way your bike kicks up dirt while regaining its grip on incline surfaces or after jumps, add to the solid visuals. Returning to the track are MX 2002 veterans like Carey Hart (back with his Hart Attack), amateur sensation James "Bubba" Stewart, and of course, four-time AMA National Champion Ricky Carmichael.

Getting tricky.

Much like the PS2 game it has been converted from, MX 2002 for the Xbox features an easy-to-learn control scheme, which lets players pull off impressive trick combinations, as well as backflips and rotations. Getting enough air to generate the hang time needed for these tricks is dependent, in turn, on generating decent speed on the approach to ramps and jumps, where proper manipulation of the clutch and suspension becomes key. But as is expected from a predominantly racing-oriented game, landing tricks isn't as important as maneuvering properly and getting first place in each of the successively challenging races. Becoming used to MX 2002's floaty physics and predisposition toward crashing will make attaining your goals much easier.

Mastering the control will let you take out the competition in the different modes of play, which have been added to significantly for the Xbox. In addition to the exhibition, freestyle, career, and challenge modes, the Xbox version of MX 2002 includes a new "horse" multiplayer game and a schedule mode. Horse isn't exactly what you may be used to from the basketball courts or Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. In this rendition of the classic game of "call the shots and I'll show you up," you're assigned specific tricks and given the appropriate commands required to execute them, which you are expected to pull off within a set time limit. The more tricks you complete, the higher your score. To make the game more competitive, the tricks landed by your opponent are denoted on your screen, acting as both a guideline for keeping up and as a nagging reminder, courtesy of your taunting foe.

The second new mode, the calendar mode, is entered by a created racer, which you customize using a number of licensed pieces, such as your apparel and bike. Gear from Thor, Fox, AXO, and O'Neal complement bikes by manufacturers like Kawasaki. After you slap the desired number on your rider's back, which can be composed of up to three digits, he can go on and hit the weekly races. You're required to place at a certain ranking after each four-week period, so steady success in each race is the order of the day. Winning races will let you compete in the next week's competition, and winning a month's worth of races in the 150cc division will let you compete in the faster and more competitive 250cc circuits.

I sure hope I land this.

To let you further customize your experience, MX 2002 has added the ability to customize your bike's performance through the changing of three separate parts: your exhaust pipe, brakes, and suspension system. Pipes come in fatty, standard, and competition types and affect your ability to accelerate quickly at high or low rpm's. Brakes come in powerful, standard, and bite varieties, so you can choose a sharper braking style or a smoother, stronger brake. Your choice of suspension--stiff, standard, or soft--determines your ability to get big air or to deal with rough conditions. Though these tuning options are not exactly on par with the extreme tuning available in a game like Gran Turismo, you can definitely feel the difference in your riding experience after making these changes.

As if the new play modes and tuning options weren't quite enough already, the Xbox version of MX 2002 will also include two new levels: Tacoma and Washington. Tacoma is an outdoor rally-type event on rough terrain with several ramps, vehicles, and buildings to leap over. The Washington level is a stunt track set against a backdrop of familiar monuments, where you can speed around in a courtyard filled with jumps and ramps. While you can't actually enter any of the buildings themselves, there is quite a bit of room to explore. These two levels are of course in addition to the 14 selectable tracks from the PS2 version, which include the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Championship track and the Anaheim Supercross course. Classic events like the progressively difficult Bus Jump are also still available.

So far, MX 2002 is looking like much more than a straight port of the PS2 version . The control is still tight and responsive, the frame rates are steady, and the additions make for what should be a much better overall package. MX 2002 appears to be on track for release this November, alongside the Xbox launch.

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