Game Review - by James Allen
Imitation is the sincerest form of ripping something off. Therefore, we have the Tony Hawk derivative, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX. Emulating Tony Hawk in almost every aspect, except a bike has been substituted for a skateboard, Dave Mirra features all the excitement of the freestyle BMX circuit. Since this game is so similar to Tony Hawk 2, that must mean it's just as good. Will Dave Mirra pull of a double backflip, or go careening off the handlebars?
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX features ten of the best BMX riders in the world, including Ryan Nyquist, Joey Garcia, and Dave Mirra himself. Each biker has his own abilities, which can be improved by gaining unlocked bikes, which, after each vehicle has been unlocked, makes all the riders equally superior. There are also twelve different locations, ranging from scenic Greenville, North Carolina, to the Acclaim Circuit. Again, these are unlocked through a career mode. Playing the "Proquest" mode (aka Career), you complete several challenges in amateur, pro, and hardcore difficulty. Completing each set of five goals unlocks a new level, a new bike, or new clothes for your rad biker. You can quickly turn some tricks in a Session or Free Ride. Unfortunately, you can only ride at locations that you have unlocked with a specific rider: for example, if you unlocked a Woodward level with Dave Mirra but not with any other biker, you can't play with Leigh Ramsdell at said location. This is highly annoying, as it takes quite some time to unlock all the levels, and since all the bikers have the exact same tricks and nearly the same attributes, it's just an exercise in unnecessary repetition. Other than the proquest, session, and free ride modes, there are no other ways to play, which translates into one thing: no multiplayer. Why, oh why, oh why in this day of increasing internet play does a game ship without some sort of multiplayer capabilities. Well, that's because this a direct port of a console game! I feel besmirched.
Finally, on to the weirdest bug I've seen in quite some time. If you try to reconfigure the controls, everytime you exit the appropriate screen, it defaults all the controls to "button 1" and, consequently, it renders the game unplayable. This seems to be present on many machines, and what's the solution? Download the demo as a patch! Nice. How in the heck did this huge bug get by the beta testers? So close to Tony, yet so far away.
The sound is overly dominated by the soundtrack. If you use the default settings (you better, your gamepad might not work afterwards), you can't hear anything besides Sublime blaring out of your speakers, which is fine, since the environmental sounds aren't too impressive. However, the list of acts is, including the Deftones, Swingin' Utters, Social Distortion, and many more. It's a pretty good list, which overshadows any shortcomings in the other effects in the game. Sadly, there aren't enough songs to make it more than 10 sessions before hearing the same songs over, and each is clipped after the magic two minutes, even in free ride mode. Again, we land short of Tony.
The gameplay is bearable, but not nearly as fun as Tony Hawk 2. The best aspect is the innovative trick and modifier model. For example, if you pull a superman, you can then pick seat grab, or rocket air, to make a permutation of the previous trick. It makes the list of possible acrobatics more impressive, but you still have the same tricks for every biker. And there is a strange absence of special tricks, specific for each rider (like the 900 for Tony in his game). On top of this, the game just doesn't seem to flow correctly, as the tricks seem disjointed from each other when they are preformed in succession. This is a derivative of the wacky (to be nice about it) physics model. You'll routinely jump from place to place instantly, especially when you are attempting to complete detailed challenges. This is most evident in the nosepick bug: you can perform seven (the maximum number of linked tricks) nosepicks in a row, just magically bouncing on the same spot for an infinite amount of time. Maybe this game uses some sort of relativity physics replica, but I suspect not.
One of the nice aspects of the game is the highlighting that appears when completing challenges in Proquest mode. Since "jump onto the roof" is vague at best, the game highlights the ground and specific objects it wants you to grind/jump over/smash. It makes figuring out what the game wants that much easier, and is possibly the best innovation from Tony Hawk 2. Another difference is the addition of a height/distance meter, which tells you how far you've traveled from the ground or along it. Still, these are not enough to make this a superior game, just a tolerable look-alike.
The graphics look about what you would except for an accelerated console port. The riders themselves look very sharp and detailed. The environments fall victim to the low-res console effect, where they become really bad looking up close. Thus is the consequences of playing a port, I suppose. You even have to set the resolution every time you enter the game. What's up with that? With all of the graphically superior games available for the PC, we'll just have the settle for something less for the privilege of playing a console game.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX tries its hardest to imitate Tony Hawk 2. From the features to the gameplay to the music selection, Dave Mirra comes so close but never surpasses the competition. It's still a good game, it's just not Tony Hawk. And because of all the similarities between the two games, we can't segregate the two extreme sports titles. Unless you have a need to watch BMX tricks and bikers, just go and pick up Tony Hawk 2.