If you're into dirt-bike racing games on the PlayStation you're probably well aware of the fact that there hasn't really been a strong title in the genre. Jeremy McGrath was OK, but it failed to capture the feel of the sport. Moto Racer's dirt bike tracks were good but too limited. And of course there was VMX Racing, which was a complete joke. Out of the lot, Championship Motocross Featuring Ricky Carmichael is a step a above the competition in just about every category.
Championship Motocross Featuring Ricky Carmichael is a 3D motocross game that gives you a realistic interpretation of the sport. Championship Motocross features five different modes of play: championship, quick race, two player, time attack, and practice. Championship mode lets you progress through each race in the hopes of being crowned the dirt-bike-racing champion of the world.
The game features three teams for you to select from. Each team can choose from a 125cc, 250cc, or a 500cc bike. Each bike is rated in engine power, power band, top speed, weight, jumping, cornering, rough terrain, and suspension. Picking the right bike for each track is essential. In each race, you are up against seven other riders who, of course, all want to be in first place as well.
You compete on a total of 12 different tracks. Five of them are motocross tracks, four are supercross, and three are enduro-based courses. To vary the racing experience on the tracks, you can select three different weather settings: overcast, rain, and normal. You can also race the courses mirrored.
The control is fairly responsive and intuitive, although the designers left a little play in the control so that you get the feeling that the bike's going to pop out from underneath you at any moment. The only real trick when playing is not to go too fast into a turn. Using the power-turn button when coming around a tight corner really helps, although if you power-turn too much you'll end up going the wrong way. There's really no secret to winning any of the races in the game - all you have to do is pick your line and try to get around the corners as tightly as possible. When coming off any of the big jumps in the game, it's actually quite fun to pull off tricks in the air, although if you're like me you'll have to keep in mind that races aren't won on style. After you catch some air, a little distance indicator will come up and discretely let you know just how far and high the jump was. Each course has its own records in four different categories: fastest course time, fastest lap, longest jump, and highest jump. These course records can be saved to a memory card so that you can continually try to improve on them.
Visually, Championship Motocross looks decent. It doesn't suffer from too much pop-up, and the 3D models of the riders and bikes look good, as do the spectators, tents, cars, hay bales, and other ambient objects on the sides of the tracks. The animations of the rider performing tricks, leaning, sticking his leg out in a turn, and other various movements look fairly realistic. The game has a good frame rate and moves at a brisk pace - it really gives you a good false sense of speed. All this, along with the occasional rooster tail of mudflying off the tires, gives the game a good look that matches the controls well.
The sound effects for the bikes and the announcer are fairly good and add to the game's feel. In addition, the game features a loud rock soundtrack that can be almost overwhelming at times.
Championship Motocross Featuring Ricky Carmichael, with its control, visuals, and overall feel is the best motocross game for the PlayStation. For fans of the sport, this is the one to get, although if you're not a fan of the sport, Championship Motocross Featuring Ricky Carmichael probably isn't going to make you one.