"Was this really necessary?" is the question that Acclaim's Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 begs. With EA's own Supercross 2000 already making lines in the dirt, and Nintendo's Excitebike 64 on the horizon, the question becomes difficult to answer, indeed. Granted, Jeremy McGrath is a decently fun take on the dirt-bike-racing genre that's easy to get into and is loaded with options, but with a product that is, at the very least, its peer already available, and one that will surely overshadow it coming very soon, do we really need (or want) another dirt-bike racer? Be that as it may, McGrath exists, and, truth be told, in a not-so-humble form.
Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 is markedly "arcade style" in its approach to the sport. Bikes stop painlessly; they are able to turn on a dime, and, when the ugly pileups occur, they can get back to winning speed in the blink of an eye. This can be somewhat of a letdown for dirt-bike purists preferring Supercross 2000's heartless take on the laws of physics, but for gamers seeking light, refreshing excitement, it is downright welcome. The game has an overall fast pace to it, and it's very easy (even in the most difficult of modes) to pick up a control pad and race proficiently. The game's camera does an excellent job of smoothly trailing the rider without any fuss, and the adjustable settings are great for letting one choose the ideal vantage from which to maneuver through the tracks. The two brake controls (front and rear), though rarely used, do come in quite handy when you're confronted with a particularly tight turn that you simply can't decelerate through. But the brakes will rarely come into play; given the loose nature of Jeremy McGrath's physics model, it is possible to speed through most tracks (in a most arcade-like fashion) once you get the hang of angling through turns.
You can expect to catch much air in Supercross 2000 as many of the tracks are modeled after real-life NPG courses, complete with all manner of bumps and ramps. The game boasts a stunt feature that lets you execute the sorts of death-defying midair tricks you've seen bikers such as McGrath heedlessly perform. Once you're in the air, the stunt button (R, by default), along with a combination of other keys, will execute moves such as the No Hander, the Recliner, and the Super Mac. While these moves have absolutely no bearing on the game (aside from stunt mode) and their presence seems rather like an empty afterthought, they're fun nonetheless.
Graphically, Jeremy McGrath is something of a mixed bag. While the riders seem sort of on the smudgy side (and stiffly animated, no less), the environments are surprisingly crisp for the N64, since they're not possessed by the muted nature of environments we've come to expect from it. The graphics, for the most part, move at a decent frame rate, but this is undermined by the riders' shoddy animation. If Acclaim had taken as much care with the riders as it did with the environments, the company would have had a great-looking game on its hands. As is, though, the mixed nature of the visuals left me definitely soured.
The sound effects are adequate and don't stray too far from what we've come to expect from this sort of game: the buzz of 250cc motors, the crooning of the announcer, and the swishing of dirt. The Offspring, everyone's favorite major-label punk band, contributed to the soundtrack, and the band did its rocking-est to create a soundscape suited for this type of extreme physical expression. For a cart-based title, the music is actually surprisingly clear, though the highs tend to get sort of tinny, but that's to be expected.
Jeremy McGrath's multiplayer mode lets up to four players get in on the action. As you'd expect, the frame rate is in the weeds during such proceedings, but if you can handle the slowdown, then you'll definitely have a decent time, as the actual pacing of the races doesn't suffer too much. Along with the tournament, single-race, freestyle, and rider/track-editing modes, the multiplayer function nicely rounds out the package that is Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000.
The single-player modes, while fairly easy are charming in their straightforward nature, and the multiplayer mode makes use of the function that the N64 seems to excel at - social gaming. The customization options, while fairly cut-and-dried, let you home cook your own racers and courses, which can be saved to memory paks and called upon for later use. If history is an accurate indicator, however, Excitebike 64 will no doubt outdo Jeremy McGrath in this arena.
This brings us back to the original question: Was this really necessary? Yes and no - yes, because an arcade-style racer is always welcome, especially in an area as relatively vacant as dirt-bike racing. No, because upon Excitebike 64's triumphant arrival, Jeremy McGrath's winning features will be swiftly and easily outdone.