A group of hard-riding extreme bikers are killed while performing an insane stunt, only to be offered a deal by the Devil himself. He'll resurrect them and offer them immortality in exchange for them offering their crazy motorcross skills to do the Dark Lord's work. Sounds like a perfectly decent idea for a video game, right? Unfortunately, that promising concept never comes to fruition in Crusty Demons, a lifeless and frustrating Xbox concoction which, beyond its otherworldly storyline, offers practically nothing new to fans of extreme riding games.
Crusty Demons' story mode puts you in the riding boots of one of the real-life freestyle motorcross riders who make up the Crusty Demons team--including Kenny Bartram, Ronnie Faisst, Seth Enslow, and Twitch Stenberg--as well as a number of fictional riders who are even less interesting than the real thing, which is saying something. Once you've picked a character and a bike to ride (both have different attributes and characteristics to keep in mind), it's time to head to the local trailer park for the game's training mode. Here, you'll be flagged down by a number of locals who put you through your paces as you learn the basics of the Crusty Demons approach to riding motorcycles--namely, pulling off crazy ground and air tricks, and crashing into everything in sight.
You see, when Satan offered the Demons immortality in return for their souls, there was a catch: They might live forever, but they can still get hurt. In the game, that means you can crash into practically anything solid and watch as your rider's body hurls through the air and painfully smashes into walls, moving cars, or anything else that gets into his way. You can even purposefully launch yourself off the bike, shooting through the air like a flailing, wailing bullet until you inevitably splat against something really solid. The slow-mo sound of the riders' cries for help and blood effects when they hit a wall are funny the first few times you see the crash animations in training mode. Unfortunately, these same animations will be the bane of your gaming existence for the rest of Crusty Demons' story mode, because it's simply much too easy to crash in the game, even at relatively low speeds, and it takes too long for these animations to play through in order to get back on the bike and try a particular stunt over.
The game's training mode is amusing not just for the novelty of seeing the crash animations for the first time, but also because of the third-rate voice acting. The voices and god-awful Southern accents of the screeching redneck harpies that populate the trailer park and dole out training exercises will haunt you long after you've discarded Crusty Demons onto your pile of ill-advised game purchases.
Once you're done with training mode, it's off to a number of cosmopolitan locales, such as New York City, Amsterdam, Rio, and...Arizona. In each of these open-ended levels, you'll have a number of challenges to complete in order to move on to the next level, but you can also just ride around and perform stunts, bail off your bike, and crash as you please in the limited space available. And we do mean limited. The New York City level, for example, is confined to a space no larger than a few city blocks, and even on the later levels, such as Tokyo, things don't open up that much. Even with the relatively small size of the courses, it's still easy to get lost. The Amsterdam level, for example, features one section of town that is seemingly only accessible by driving through the second floor of a certain building and crashing through a window. The game makes periodic use of a minimap feature, but it's so vague that it's practically useless, which makes things extremely frustrating when you're trying to track down objectives during timed challenges.
In terms of missions, they range all over the map. From standard checkpoint races to more specialized tests such as rolling gigantic beach balls into certain areas of the beach on the Cancun level, you'll be able to blow through most of them in no time. Each level features a three-part stunt contest, where you need to impress certain VIPs with your riding skills. It's here that you need to make the most of the game's combo system, which rewards you for stringing together big-air combo tricks with ground stunts such as wheelies. The longer you can keep a trick going, the more points you'll earn. While the air stunts are relatively simple affairs, some of the ground stunts require awkward button combinations that just feel strange; what's more, except for a few specialized challenges, you don't even need to perform ground tricks beyond a simple wheelie to keep a combo going. In the long run, you'll likely forget ground tricks are even there at all.
While the majority of the missions are relatively easy, the difficulty ramps up considerably during some of the specialized challenges, usually ones that require you to launch your rider into very specific targets. Each and every one of these missions is tedious and frustrating. One launch challenge in Amsterdam has you firing off your rider into hotel windows in order to put a scare into the local "working ladies." Another has you firing your ride into gigantic cow balloons in order to set them free from their moorings. Just like so much of this game--these are fun concepts that end up being incredibly frustrating thanks to strange controls, bad camera angles, and an unhelpful minimap. One Rio-based mission, which has you dragging a guy dressed as a gigantic bird behind your lawn mower, bashing into everything in sight in order to teach him a lesson, almost makes up for it. Almost.
Other modes in Crusty Demons include the devil's rush, which are short, timed challenges where you have to complete as many objectives as you can on specially designed courses; free ride, which gives you free reign in the game's many urban environments; and split-screen multiplayer for you and up to three of your friends to get in on the crustiness together. As you play through the story mode, you'll open up a number of unlockables, including new bikes, riders, as well as photos and videos of the real life Crusty Ones doing what they do best.
At best, Crusty Demons' graphics are serviceable. Despite some ugly camera bugs and clipping, there's very little in the way of slowdown in the game. The riders, bike models, and trick animations aren't too bad, and there's a good deal of architectural variety from one level to the next. The Rio level is decked out with streamers and piñatas for Carnival, for example, while "adult entertainment establishments" are on seamy display in Amsterdam. Beyond that, however, there's a lot of repetition in the environments, particularly noticeable in the pedestrians who populate the levels; if you've seen one Carnival girl in Rio or beachcomber in Cancun, you've more or less seen them all. From a sound standpoint, there's not a lot of variety here, though the bike engines and utterly generic hard-rocking soundtrack play second fiddle to the gruesome splats of the riders crashing into solid objects. The game isn't bug-free, either--at one point, our copy went completely black on us, forcing us to restart the game.
It's easy to appreciate the conceptual twist Crusty Demons puts on traditional extreme motorcross games; it's too bad that the game never really rises above its promising concept. With a little more imagination--and more of a cohesive narrative--this could have been a game that was both fun and (intentionally) funny. But due to frustrating controls, missions that are sometimes irritating and almost always aimless, and generally lackluster presentation, it's neither of those things. At least the Satan-influenced Crusty Demons have an excuse for their outrageous in-game behavior. Spending your money on tawdry bargain-bin filler like this... Well, even the Devil wouldn't make you do that.