With the exception of maybe Paperboy and Courier Crisis, the gaming world hasn't seen a lot of bicycling action. Maybe it's because it's hard to imagine bicycling being exciting next to the spaceships, horrible enemies, big guns, and fast cars that other games deliver. No Fear and Codemasters are out to prove that way of thinking wrong by showing just how extreme downhill biking can be. While No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking isn't a revolutionary racing game, it's true to the spirit of downhill biking and is a fun, though short-lived, racing experience. As you would expect from the title, No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking is all about flying down a mostly downhill track on a mountain bike. At the beginning you'll select one of the six initial racers, each with its own individual stats, and then select the track you want to ride on. If you've unlocked the bike upgrades available after performing well in the championship mode, you can customize your bike with different wheels, frames, suspension, and the like. Once the gates open, you'll find that the racing system is true to actual bicycling. You have an energy meter that dictates how long and fast you can pedal, front and rear brakes, and a physics system that realistically distributes your weight on the bike. Leaning back on the bike will tuck your rider, making you more aerodynamic and therefore faster. Leaning forward will cause your biker to lift up, which will slow you down while racing downhill but will help when pedaling up a hill. A careful combination of pedaling, tucking, and braking will let you conquer even the most difficult of tracks, and you'll be surprised at the speeds a bicycle can achieve in this game.
The racing itself is divided into five different modes: a one-player championship mode that is a tournament-style race on each one of the tracks in your class, a time-trial mode, the single-race mode, and the interesting multiplayer duel and tournament modes. The duel mode is just like the single-race mode, except that you play against a friend, and the tournament mode is a single-elimination-style tournament for up to four players on the track of your choice. To unlock different classes and bike upgrades you must complete the championship mode. Unfortunately, this mode gets rather tedious, as it forces you to beat four different opponents in four different races on the same track. All that racing without any change in atmosphere gets old rather quickly and makes the championship mode an unnecessarily tiring process.The graphics are something of a contradiction. The player models and biking animations all look pretty good, but the backgrounds simply look horrible. The animations are extremely surprising - when pedaling, your biker will move up and down and weave the bike back and forth in an incredibly realistic manner. The tracks you actually race on all have their own graphical feel to them - from Telegraph Hill's distinctive streets to Sunshine Forest's dense feel. While Downhill Mountain Biking features a nicer-looking replay mode, you can't actually control the camera, so most of the mode forces you to look straight back at your racer, making the mode pretty useless for reliving the action.
The sound in this game is almost a joke. There is no music at all - not even on any of the menus or loading screens. In fact, the only time I found music was during the celebration ceremony sequence, where the game plays the same cheesy drum loop over and over again. The sound effects are pretty generic - you'll get a whizzing chain sound when you're coasting at high speeds, an only semirealistic pedaling sound when you're pedaling hard, and a series of panting noises when you're running low on energy. There's also another sound effect, but I couldn't tell whether it was supposed to be your tires skidding or the crowd cheering.
While No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking supports analog control, the digital control is almost better. The analog control is extremely loose and sluggish - you'll find yourself unable to properly lean back on the bike without losing control, and getting a sharp turn out of the analog control is asking a lot. But even with the digital control, you'll wish the control was just a little bit tighter. Even at low speeds, turns are difficult, and keeping the bike on a winding track takes a lot of practice.
No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking tiptoes the line of being a good racing game. While not completely terrible, the poor control and tedious championship mode are enough to turn away racing fans looking for a new experience. Still, the racing is original enough and at least captures the essence of mountain biking, making this a title worthy of a rental for anyone looking for a serious mountain-biking experience.