MX 2002 Hands-On

THQ's Championship Motocross series is making its way to the PS2 as MX 2002. We got a chance to sit down with an playable version of the game to see how Ricky Carmichael looks on the PS2.

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THQ's Championship Motocross series is coming to the PS2 as MX 2002. Developed by Pacific Coast Power and Light, the game promises to complement Championship Motocross's popular gameplay with the PS2's technical prowess. We recently had the chance to get our hands on an advanced version of the game to see how Ricky Carmichael looks on the PS2.

MX 2002 is divided into two basic modes: exhibition and freeride. The exhibition mode is where the actual racing takes place. You pick one of the game's 30 riders and one of 22 tracks based on real supercross and motocross tracks, then you race it out. The freeride mode is where you can simply race around at leisure or even take part in trick competitions and the new bus-jump and step-up modes. The game sports real riders from the 125cc, 250cc, and freestyle ranks, and it features bikes and endorsements from real motocross manufacturers. The game also has a career mode where you can create a new rider and take him from an unknown amateur to a motocross champion. In this mode you'll be able to get sponsorship deals and factory offers from real-life companies, and you will be able to select and tweak one of 10 different realistic motorbikes.

The gameplay is fairly simplistic. You use the left analog stick to control your rider, and you use the face buttons to accelerate and decelerate. The game also has a clutch that you can engage with either the L1 or the L2 button. The clutch is helpful for popping wheelies and making especially tight turns. Pacific Coast Power and Light has done away with the earlier suspension preload system in favor of a simpler, more user-friendly system. Instead of actually having to lean down on your front forks as in the earlier versions, now you simply press and hold the L2 or R2 button to preload your suspension. Preloading your suspension adds more height to your jumps, and this can mean the difference between slowing down for a difficult rhythm section and clearing the section entirely. The game does feature a fairly realistic riding physics : Pushing forward on the analog stick will make your rider lean over the handlebars and will put more traction on the front tire, while pushing back on the analog stick will have the opposite effect. However, the game is pretty lenient when it comes to realistic airborne physics: You'll be able to launch into the air at atmospheric heights and perform some ridiculous stunts. Still, the game manages to pull it off, and the big air just adds to the appeal of the freeride mode.

At this point the graphics are pretty spiffy. The rider models look very good and animate extremely well on the bikes. Riders will actually move about on the bikes as you control them and will even cast their weight appropriately on the bikes. The levels themselves are looking pretty good, but the freeride levels are fairly sparse and unpopulated. The frame rate seems solid, and the pop-up is kept to a minimum. Particle effects are put to good use in that dirt and mud get kicked up from your rear tire, but unfortunately your tire also kicks up dirt while you're riding on cement . The crash animations need some work too as some of the animations look completely unrealistic. The game has a soundtrack with plenty of licensed songs from rock and punk bands popular with motocross fans. Sound effects, such as the engine noise, need a little tweaking before the final game ships, as they are still mediocre at this point.

MX 2002 appears to be coming together nicely. The game has two more months before it hits stores, and it's already looking fairly polished. This fun motocross game is a diamond in the rough and, with only a bit of tweaking, will be a worthy addition to the Motocross series MX 2002 is scheduled for a June release.

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jakeboudville

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looks fantastic