Sitting down to play the newest iteration of a yearly sports title creates a unique sense of anticipation. You never know if the latest version of a running series will bring new features to the table or simply rehash what's been done before. In the case of Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000, that anticipation counts double. The game has moved up not only in years but also in hardware, shifting from the aging PlayStation to the sleek new Dreamcast. But are these apparent improvements enough to make a game that wasn't so great to begin with playable and fun? Not really.
Jeremy McGrath's 2000 edition is what you might expect from a 1995 version, had such a thing existed. It features all the standard racing-game trappings: Single race, tournament, and time trial modes are all on hand, as well as a freestyle mode for doing a few Tony Hawk-inspired tricks. You can also create your own tracks through an intuitive, but limited, track editor, and a "custom rider" option lets you change the name, number, and uniform of your rider. There's nothing very new or exciting about all of these options - it's just racing with dirt bikes, after all.
Of course, those who are into BMX would be thrilled by the prospect of racing a bumpy dirt track on a motorbike. Supercross 2000 doesn't effectively provide that experience, though. There are racing games that provide a gritty, realistic feeling, and there are racing games that gloss over the realities of physics in the interest of smooth gameplay. Supercross 2000 falls squarely into the latter category. All that's really required to place highly in a race is a steady accelerator finger and the ability to steer coherently around the track. Falling off of your bike is all but impossible, even when landing a wild jump at some impossible angle or plowing head-on into a wall at top speed. Though you can select a rider and set various aspects of your bike, like tire grip, such variables have little bearing on the actual outcome of the race. In a nutshell, there's no technique or finesse involved in playing the game.
Jeremy McGrath could have been at least temporarily novel if it had used the Dreamcast's power to create stunning visual or aural tricks, but even those aspects of the game are underdeveloped. The graphics are by no means horrible - until they start moving, that is. Straightaways see a smooth frame rate, but crowd the track with eight riders and hit a turn, and you'll quickly find yourself in a jerky mess. The two-player mode is even worse, since it slows down from the beginning of the race onward. Music is a generic sampling of the pop-punk found in many games today, but you won't hear much of it, because it's obscured by the incessant, annoying buzz of motorbike engines. The graphics and sound could have been a one-two punch on a proven performer like the Dreamcast, but instead they come off as a lackluster half-effort.
New console hardware gives developers the freedom to create more satisfying gaming experiences, but games like the Dreamcast version of Jeremy McGrath make it obvious that, while the sensory aspect of next-generation games is evolving, the core gameplay sometimes is not. Supercross 2000 squanders an opportunity to be something new, and instead gives us the same thing we've played plenty of times before. Maybe Jeremy McGrath will have a better showing in 2001.