Questionable physics and a sloppy trick system still hinder the game from reaching its true potential.
Originally born on the PlayStation 2 a few months back, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 was the first BMX game to grace the system. Now, following the multiplatform development ethic adapted by many other publishers, Dave Mirra 2 appears on Microsoft's new hardware. While the Xbox version of Dave Mirra 2 includes two new levels and fixes many of the graphical flaws that plagued the PlayStation 2 version, questionable physics and a sloppy trick system still hinder the game from reaching its true potential.
Not straying from the script established in the original Dave Mirra, the focus lies in the career mode, in which you take one of 14 pro BMX riders through the game's 10 levels, completing a variety of level challenges along the way. The basic goals remain essentially unchanged, with the standard high-score, long-grind, and big-air challenges making a return. Each level is populated with other pro BMX riders, who will lay down the level's more difficult challenges, most of which consist of executing tricks on specific items in the level. This character interaction helps to further immerse you in the level. These challenges are actually from the last two iterations of Dave Mirra, and the other riders essentially serve as window dressing here. You'll also find a variety of motorized vehicles rolling around the levels, each of them a grinding opportunity. The two-player modes have been expanded on greatly, now offering 13 different game types, such as a high-score challenge, a Horse variant, and a wipeout mode in which players try to pull off the nastiest, most painful bail possible. The game also includes a hefty level editor, comparable to the one found in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. You're given a choice of several level themes, a large open space, and a boatload of objects with which to design your level. Using the Xbox controller to design levels can be a bit clunky, but that won't stop those determined to design their dream BMX track.
One of the game's biggest improvements upon the original Dave Mirra is larger level size. The Woodward Camp level, for example, essentially takes four levels from the original game and rolls them up into one. Other than the size of the levels, however, the level design is pretty much business as usual, with status quo courses set in old industrial train stations and busy urban centers, though the swamp and Arizona desert levels do provide a welcome change of pace.
Balanced control has always been a bit of a trial for Dave Mirra games of past, and unfortunately, it has remained that way. Dave Mirra 2 employs the beefed-up control scheme from Maximum Remix, which uses the A-button for jumps, the Y-button for grinds, the B-button for bike and body tricks, and the X-button for trick modifiers. The trick modifier is a suitable wild card, as it exponentially increases the game's trick catalog, but it also lets you perform physically impossible tricks, like the physics-defying 360 No-Handed Superman. The game still suffers from magnetic grind rails and easily landed tricks, and the collision detection and environment clipping are way off, making it possible to put yourself inside an otherwise inaccessible building or else right through metal rails with a well-placed bail. Suffice it to say, the physics in general lack polish, and considering it's the area that has been begging for improvement through the life of the series, it's disappointing to see the same flaws rear their ugly heads yet again.
The PlayStation 2 version of Dave Mirra 2 made significant graphical improvements upon its PlayStation and Dreamcast predecessors, and though it still had its fair share of problems, it never really seemed to push the abilities of the hardware. Most of the graphical flaws of the PlayStation 2 version have been cleaned up for the Xbox, and the graphics in general are more polished. The lagging camera has been fixed, and the occasional bouts of slowdown suffered by the PS2 version are all but gone. The bad aliasing that the PlayStation 2 is so infamous for is history as well. Aside from fixing what was broken in the PS2 version of Dave Mirra 2, developer Z-Axis has added a few minor touches, like true three-dimensional grass instead of just textured turf. Still, these improvements don't really amount to much and make you wonder where the power of the Xbox is going.
Any action-sports title worth its mettle includes a soundtrack built on licensed music, and Dave Mirra 2 is right up there. Current pop-punk darlings Sum 41 contribute a track, as do Methods of Mayhem, Rage Against the Machine, Sublime, A Tribe Called Quest, Fenix TX, and, strangely enough, The Cult. And if for some reason the soundtrack provided doesn't fit your fancy, you can use one of your own custom soundtracks, courtesy of the Xbox hard drive.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 does not suffer from any single huge, crippling flaw; rather, a handful of smaller problems plague the game and keep it from achieving BMX greatness. If you're looking for some BMX action, you could certainly do worse, but Acclaim and Z-Axis could certainly do better.