Every time a trendsetting game is released to critical and commercial acclaim, a bevy of also-rans and clones are bound to follow. This isn't anything new. More often than not, the clones are uninspired rehashes of existing concepts, yet at least they usually manage to be competently done. Midway's latest sports game, Gravity Games: Street Vert Dirt, bucks this trend by being an absolutely unplayable piece of trash that looks, sounds, and plays like it was shipped about six months too early. If you avoid only one awful game this year, Gravity Games is the one to miss.
Like Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX or Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, Gravity Games puts you in the role of a BMX biker and gives you a handful of levels to ride around in. Most of the levels have goals that must be accomplished to unlock later levels. Goals in this game include the obligatory score-based tasks, as well as collecting items--in this case, each level has letters throughout it that, when collected, eventually spell the word "gravity." There are also level-specific goals, such as breaking 10 lights by grinding on them or freeing a "chick" who has been tied to a set of train tracks. Other levels are competition-based, and you simply must score highly with the judges to earn a medal and proceed. You are allowed to replay each level as many times as you like, but you can only play in three-minute chunks.
On paper, it sounds like just another clone of the other alternative sports games. But the execution is where Gravity Games loses all of its points. The control scheme is a bit like that in the Dave Mirra games, in principle. One button is used for doing tricks, while another can be used to modify those tricks, turning supermans into one-handed supermans and so on. But the control in this game is so insanely stiff that it's difficult to jump at the right time, let alone effectively do tricks. The timing on the trick modifiers is seemingly split-second--you'll have to bust out the modifier move almost instantaneously after performing the base trick. Grinds and stalls are stupidly easy to balance, and the game's trick system actually rewards you for doing one trick over and over again, meaning the easiest way to score points is to merely stall the bike on a lip and continually jump up and down, landing a lip trick each time. By the time you've done this seven or eight times, the points will be counting up at a ridiculous speed, and the balancing act is so easy to maintain that you could easily just rack up points for the entire three minutes of your run, achieving both score goals and the overly ambiguous "land a sick trick" goal all at once. The game has manuals, which, if done properly, will let you string tricks together and extend combos, but the timing on the manuals is also a complete mess. The game's one not-so-weak point is that it has pretty large levels. Unfortunately, the level designers forgot to include items to ride and trick off of, giving most levels a cavernous, empty feel.
Further hampering the gameplay is a long list of bugs that, if Midway had cared more about finishing the game than it did shipping the game on time, should have been fixed. After a wreck, the game respawns your bike close to where you crashed rather than relying on set respawn points or some other safe mechanism. The result is that it's very easy to respawn inside a piece of the level geometry with no hope of escape. Sometimes you'll even crash through walls and locked gates only to appear on the other side without having to actually open the gate via conventional means. It's also extremely easy to get hung up in corners and have no way to turn the bike around, because the front tire will just continually bump up against the walls. Getting hung up on the lips of ramps and other awkward areas is also a constant hassle.
Graphical glitches also pop up throughout the game. For example, a lot of times you'll notice that you aren't so much riding on the ground as you are in the ground--the bike actually rides lower than the floor plane in some segments of the levels. Shadows break up from time to time, and the rider animation is very jerky. Aside from that, the game has a few decent textures (and a lot of product placement), but for the most part the game has a drab, dull look to it that seems more like something you'd expect to find on the PSOne. The game's sound is almost entirely nonexistent. Most of the levels are eerily silent, except for some occasional pedal noise and the sound of you crashing or landing. The soundtrack features a lot of music, but most of it consists of generic uninspired tracks, including a handful of rap tracks recorded specifically for the game by people who are credited as "special guest rappers" in the manual. Licensed songs include tracks from Sugar Ray, 311, and Disturbed.
Not even a set of multiplayer options ripped out of every other alternative sports game on the market can make up for the broken nature of Gravity Games' gameplay. In short, the game plays like an unfinished product rushed out the door and has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. One would hope that Sony's third-party approval process would catch junk like this before it makes it out onto store shelves, but unfortunately, that was not the case this time. As such, do not, under any circumstances, buy, rent, or look at this game.