Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 Preview
Check out our exclusive preview of Activision and Rainbow Studios' upcoming game.
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Love it or hate it, the alternative sports genre is well entrenched. The gameplay and design style made popular by Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is continually expanding to include new sports, and with more and more developers making these sorts of games, we're seeing a lot of little twists to Neversoft's formula. While Activision's first Mat Hoffman game stuck close to the original Tony Hawk formula, the upcoming installment from Rainbow Studios expands a lot on the previous game, making it into more of a legitimate BMX experience than a Tony Hawk clone with bikes instead of boards.
At its core, the configuration of Pro BMX 2's controls remains unchanged. The square and circle buttons are used for air tricks and triangle grinds, respectively, and the X button is for jumps. When you're in the air, L1 and R1 can be used to spin the bike. You can do manuals to link both vert and ground tricks together, enabling the same sort of combo-filled action first found in Tony Hawk 3. New to the series is a large collection of flatland tricks. Like Tony Hawk 3's special manuals, the flatland tricks are done from a manual position. While the flatland tricks look insanely complex in motion, they're very easy to pull off--the only thing you really have to think about is your balance meter. Acclaim's Dave Mirra games introduced the concept of modifying tricks, which let you do several variants of the same trick. The new Mat Hoffman game does something similar by making the L2 button your modifier button. Doing a trick, then quickly hitting L2 and a direction will let you do no-handers, no-footers, and other twists on the game's existing trick set. It's fairly easy to use and gives you a lot of options.
The original game gave you all of your level goals right off the bat, and the objectives were all easily viewable on a short list. The sequel takes a page from the Dave Mirra book in this respect, breaking up your level goals into different difficulties. At first, you'll have access to only a few goals, but completing all of those unlocks another set of tougher objectives, which in turn will unlock even more goals when finished. From what we've seen so far, the game has a fair amount of "find X number of Y item" goals, such as knocking crab traps into the ocean, collecting life preservers, finding and tricking over fire hydrants, collecting hot dogs from five hot dog stands, and so on. The game also has score-based goals. Most will simply ask you to achieve a specific score during one run, while others will force you to get a certain number of points in one combo. There are some unique goals to be found in the game, too. In one level, you'll have to stop a gigantic octopus from terrorizing the area. In another, you'll be asked to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by dumping garbage into the river to turn it green.
The game's main career mode manifests itself as the road trip. All the levels are based on US cities, and the game's developers took a trip across the US to shoot footage for in-game FMV clips. Ever wanted to watch Mat Hoffman eat at a buffet? Of course you have, and Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 makes it possible. The game also contains the requisite free ride and other secondary modes. As you play, you'll unlock new outfits and bikes for your riders.
Graphically, the game maintains the same basic look as the first game, but the game's new engine and the obvious performance boost provided by the PlayStation 2 do make the game look a lot sharper. The most obvious improvement over both the original game and most other alternative sports games is the animation. The riders move very fluidly while performing tricks, and the modifiers also look nice and smooth. The levels are fairly large, and the texture quality is also pretty sharp.
The original Mat Hoffman game was praised for having a quality, diverse soundtrack, and the sequel attempts to duplicate that multigenre approach to sound design by containing songs from N.E.R.D., Suicidal Tendencies, Dub Pistols, and Swollen Members, among others. In a new twist, the full soundtrack isn't available immediately. As you make your way through the career mode, you'll find new music in the levels, which adds them to your song list.
So far, it looks like Rainbow Studios is attempting to keep the good stuff from the first Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX while adding the modifier and goal structure concepts originated in the Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX games. Whether the hybrid is a successful one or not will have to wait until our full review, which will be ready around the game's mid-August ship date. Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 is also scheduled to be released on the Xbox and GameCube, with the Xbox version featuring an exclusive level.