November 11, 2001
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 - Review
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Grinding along a power line.
Last year Acclaim released an extreme sports game called Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX on PSOne and, more impressively, on Dreamcast. Developed by Z-Axis the BMX game was astonishingly addictive despite some small problems. The sequel has just been released on the Playstation 2 and promises a whole lot more including more tricks, bigger levels and a lot more excitement. Does this game live up to its potential?

Playing Dave Mirra 2 gives you the option to select from 14 different riders including Dave Mirra (of course!), Ryan Nyquist, Troy McMurray, Mike Laird, Tim Mirra, and Zach Shaw among others. The game modes include the Pro Quest (which is much like a career mode), the Freeride, Session, Multi-player and the awesome Park Editor. Before I get into the gameplay I just want to point out that the Park Editor is one of the most detailed, and rewarding ever seen in a video game. It's quite possible to make a bike park equally as exciting as the in-game parks. The game begins with only one unlocked park but by completing all the tasks more are unlocked for use in the game.

The first thing you will notice when playing Dave Mirra 2 is that the bikes have been sped up considerably, perhaps a little too much. The game retains the same structure as the original where you have to complete several tasks within each level in order to progress. These tasks range from completing 60m grinds, jumping large jumps or getting massive air. After only a couple of levels you will realise this game is pretty tough so hardcore gamers should have a blast. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this game is the variety and structure of the levels. They are now around 4 times the size of the original game, and have a much wider range of jumps, rails, buildings and hidden areas. Also impressive is the way in which Z-Axis give you a choice of controls like the original Dave Mirra, or modified controls which mimic those in Actvision's Tony Hawk games. I personally prefer the Dave Mirra style, although I suspect that the majority of extreme sports gamers will prefer the Tony Hawk control setup.

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Levels now include other riders.
While the original game was near perfect in its execution, Dave Mirra 2 seems more flawed. The biggest problem is the size of the levels. While the larger levels are nice, it makes completing some tasks, such as finding ladders or beach balls, a test of memory rather then skill. This could quite easily have been remedied with the inclusion of a map, or by adding more variety to the buildings so you could recognise easily your location in a stage. Also slightly annoying is the inability to know when your bike needs turning around. It can take a few painful seconds to discover why your bike won't move more then a few inches. Another problems is the games annoying tendency to respawn a rider after a bail in such a terrible position that your rider almost instantly bails again.

Compared to the original game on Dreamcast Dave Mirra 2 is definitely improved graphically, but not significantly. The sequel includes slightly faster graphics with better texturing, although the textures are still a few notches below what you would expect from a Playstation 2 game. The camera is also a little below average with the camera taking some strange angles on many occasions, especially when your bike is up against walls or in buildings. Also annoying, although intentional is the way the camera will look directly at the face of your player when he has to turn the bike around to continue. It's slightly too unconventional for my liking. Dave Mirra 2 also has some small graphics glitches, such as clipping and collision detection, in places as well as some frame rate drops during some sections of the levels. Animation is pretty solid with particular attention seemingly given to the bails for the riders.

It's not all bad however with the variety of the levels being surprisingly good. One minute you will be tearing through an Airport hanger, then a train station, and then an amusement park. The game also includes some neat spot effects such as the sparks from the bikes when they are grinding on rails or ledges. Also impressive is the way in which the developers have included other riders in the levels who will also ride around and perform stunts. They can also help you progress through the Pro Career with advice and instructions.

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The levels are now a lot bigger.
If you like your heavy metal/grunge music you'll be in heaven with this game. The music tracks are provided by bands such as Sublime, Tribe Called Quest, Rage Against The Machine, Ozzy Osbourne and The Cult. The tracks are all fast paced and suit the extreme nature of the game, although for a dance music fan like myself became a little harsh at times despite their quality. Sound effects are also quite impressive with plenty of authentic sounding skidding sounds and crashing bikes, as well as plenty of ambient sounds such as trains and birds in the backgrounds. However, it's the whirring of the wheels that gives the game so much atmosphere.

In summary, it could be said that while Dave Mirra 2 is an enjoyable game, it's still not perfect. Compared to the original Dave Mirra this sequel is a letdown, if only due to the heightened expectations for the game. Despite both the positive and negative aspects of having levels several times larger then in the original game this sequel just doesn't have that polished feel that it should have after a lengthy development period. The poor camera angles become quite annoying, especially when they cause you to crash in a level with seconds remaining to complete a task. If you love BMX riding, extreme sports, or were a fan of the original game then Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 may still keep you happy. If you have any doubts you may want to rent it first. I was hoping for a lot from this title, but was left wanting something better.

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