First Impressions: Whatever you do, don't look down.
It's amazing to see how rabid the extreme-sports genre has picked up in the last few years. Even though we can pretty much give credit to Neversoft for developing the spark plug (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater), the fun and freshness of the genre is undeniable. Now regarded as its very own category, there have been good, mediocre, and bad extreme-sports titles. We worship the ones that are great, welcome the ones that are good, and rip the bad ones to shreds. Skateboarding has the Tony Hawk series, inline skating has Aggressive Inline, and BMX has Mat Hoffman and Dave Mirra. Even though there have been some acceptable BMX games, none have matched the high caliber status of Tony Hawk. After numerous delays and push-backs, Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 is roaring to go with a mid-August release and a throne to claim.
The developer of Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2, Rainbow Studios, has openly admitted that they focused on gameplay more than graphics. Their goal is to present a well-balanced, realistic (yet somewhat arcadey), experience with great controls and insane tricks. Road Trip mode will replace career mode. In Road Trip, you'll travel to numerous cities and states across America including Oklahoma City, Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Chicago, Hawaii, and Portland. Each time you complete a series of tasks, a new level will be unlocked. Every so often, you'll be given a choice to which city you'd like to head to next, a ?fork in the road? per say. Each level is massive in size with individual looks and feels.
Similar to THPS, each stage will have a hidden area which will be unlocked once a particular goal is completed (such as grinding a series of poles or benches). Each level will be totally interactive and alive. Cars will be driving, people will be walking, and you can trick off of practically every object in the city. If it's visible on the screen, there's some way to get there. This allows you to do an accumulation of grinds, flips, jumps and manuals all in one trick. You shouldn't run out of combinations either--this game has gobs and gobs of stunning tricks. Hoffman 2 boasts some very cool multi-player modes to go along with Road Trip and Free Ride. Wreak Havoc and Horse are a few games, as well as Competition modes. There's also a neat level developer where you'll create your very own imaginative arena that will later get it's own living, breathing community. Sound cool? It is.
Something that Matt Hoffman 2 introduces to the BMX games is flatland tricks. You start off with a manual (Bridge), and have the opportunity to do some mind-blowing maneuvers on the ground. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you're missing out, because this stuff is amazing in real-life! Just imagine a person crawling all over the front, back, and sides of their bike while doing kick-ass spins and crazy moves. Now it's brought to your home, courtesy of Hoffman 2. Not only is it supposed to be the wildest thing this side of sports games, but the player animation is flawless. And the best part? It's not too difficult. Freestyle tricks will easily connect grinding and jumping combos. Wait till you see this stuff, it's simply amazing, even if it is on a video game (people do equally remarkable things in real-life with their bikes, though). The game's flatland tricks make THPS3's look like nothing! You'll be freestylin' into the night, and jolted the whole way!
Hoffman 2 has decent textures and impressive graphics. Taking advantage of the PS2's power, but not pushing any real boundaries. (Like mentioned before, Rainbow Studios focused more on gameplay than graphics.) The textures aren't first-class, but should get the job done. Each level will feature unique visual style and flair. The bikers look great, all smooth with probably the best extreme-sports animation (character movements) to date. MH 2 appears to have no problems with aliasing, either. Everything is crisp and smooth, so we're making no complaints!
MH 2 appears to have a good soundtrack, mostly rock, rap and hip-hop. Some tracks are:
? Dub Pistols - Official Chemical
? Ice T - Reckless
? Spoon - Take a Walk
? Iggy Pop - The Passenger
? Crazy Town - Toxic
? Jazzhole - Forward Motion
? N.E.R.D. - Rock Star
There's roughly 20 songs total, those are just a select few. As you can tell, there aren't very many huge name bands, but we can at least hope for some quality tunes to trick-it-up with. Not every song is unlocked, you'll have to gradually earn them through completed tasks.
There are 11 bikers in Hoffman 2, four of which are new. Some are Mat Hoffman (of course), Mike Escamilla, Cory Nastazio, Kevin Robinson, Rick Thorne, Chad Kagy, and Ruben Alcantara. Every character is upgradable. The more grinds you do, the more grind characteristic points you get. The more freestyle tricks you do, the more freestyle characteristic points you get. It's a simple concept, but will surely provide hours of challenge. The amount of bikes doesn't seem as prosperous, but excess bikes isn't truly necessary anyhow.
Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 should provide an astronomical amount of gaming, with a surplus of tricks and vast amount of opportunities. Rainbow Studios makes a final strike with Activision (Rainbow was recently bought out by THQ) to dominate the BMX gaming department. Thankfully, MH 2 doesn't follow that Tony Hawk formula that we've all become prone to know. Rainbow Studios has instead revamped the series, and done their best to split BMX into its own category, rather than tagging along happily behind extreme-sports in-general.
It's a difficult task for a developer to pull off a well-balanced game, but Rainbow Studios may have done just that. Mat Hoffman 2 seems to have all the key elements--flash, interactivity, fun, replay, an abundance of tricks, and most importantly, originality. It might be a mere few components, but the successful ones have them, and the poor ones don't. Being the extreme-sports powerhouse that they are, Activision should render us a good game under any circumstance, even if it doesn't reach the Tony Hawk stature. It's a big thing to ask for, a game equivalent to Tony Hawk, but fans have been patient a long time for a topnotch BMX game, not just a decent one. At the very least, Hoffman 2 could become the ?King of BMX Games.? Release is almost upon us, let's hope that it's what we've been waiting for.