Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX Hands-On

Much like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX drops you directly into an extreme sport where your abilities are directly related to your own creativity and skill.

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Since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater hit the scene, the extreme sports genre has exploded. Many have tried to match the gameplay genius of Activision's skateboarding game, and most have failed. But Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX is one game that just might come close. If you ask any extreme athlete what draws them to his or her respective sport, most will tell you that it's the freedom to do what they want without a flat-topped drill sergeant of a coach spitting in their face. Dave Mirra embodies this ideology with ease thanks to its free-flowing levels that may be attacked from any chosen angle.

The heart of Dave Mirra is its proquest mode. You begin by choosing from one of ten real BMX riders like Ryan Nyquist, Mike Laird, or the game's namesake, Dave Mirra. You then choose your bike and your gear and get ready to hit the dirt. Each level features three difficulty settings with four objectives each. Knocking over lawn chairs, performing 180-foot grinds down power lines, clearing gaps, and performing specific tricks are just a few of the many requirements. As you master each new difficulty setting, new levels are opened up and companies offer you their sponsorship. As your skills improve, companies roll out better bikes and clothes.

Each of the 12 courses is designed in such a way that you may formulate lines to take advantage of every nook. There are whoop sections, massive launch ramps, empty swimming pools, and full-on half-pipes speckled throughout each course, all of which provide ample opportunities to get aggro. The trick system in Dave Mirra follows closely in the footsteps of Pro Skater while making its own minor adjustments. While performing simple tricks requires just a push of the analog stick and the press of a button, going for combos takes a bit more skill. You may mix up your tricks so that you perform several in one hit while rotating for combo points or adding a modifier to really rack up the high scores. Can-cans, table tops, grinds, nosepicks, superman airs, and countless other mind-numbing stunts are all motion-captured with the utmost detail. Extra points are awarded for transferring from one transition to another or for performing sick maneuvers over harrowing gaps. Linking tricks from one obstacle to another is a cinch, as any trick your mind can conjure is a distinct possibility.

No extreme sports title would be complete without a freeride option, and Dave Mirra comes equipped. There is also a session mode that allows you to attempt to one-up your best scores on each course. The most surprising feature is the unexpectedly deep multiplayer mode. Two players may go head-to-head in ten different events including best run, longest grind, B-M-X (the biking equivalent of HORSE), and big air. It's nice to see such extensive multiplayer options in an extreme sports game, as it can often be hard to sit and wait your turn while watching a friend tear up the course.

For a game that was essentially ported over from the PlayStation, Dave Mirra is looking good. There is a nice texture variety, and the trick animations go off without a hitch. Even while linking tricks together, the seams between each are nonexistent. There are several real-world locations included in the game for those BMXers out there who like things authentic, and each one is easily recognizable by appearance alone. The musical selection draws heavily from the pop-punk genre, so you can expect a healthy dose of screaming and roaring bar chords.

There is significant slowdown in the 85-percent complete build we received. It usually occurs whenever the game engine is required to process major geometry. There is also some draw-in that takes place in open areas. The game is scheduled for release in just a few weeks, so it may be tough for Z-Axis to get these problems cleaned up, but the core gameplay is tight enough that most will be able to forgive these shortcomings. Most importantly, the feeling of absolute freedom that is inherent to extreme sports is captured with precision. Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX is shaping up to be a great alternative to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater that stands well enough on its own merit. Look for our full review of Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX soon.

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