reviews\ Sep 30, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Freekstyle - GC - Review

It’s part of the sick nature of being a human to enjoy watching others put their lives at risk.  Fellows like master escape-artist Harry Houdini and the limitless Evil Knievel were worshipped by onlookers in their day for letting it all hang out and restricting precaution to merely crossing their fingers.  It was these lunatics of yesterday who paved the way for the lunatics of today to engage in life-threatening extreme sports such as back-country snowboarding, strongman competitions (when is someone going to make a strongman videogame?), and freestyle motocross.  The rising popularity of these extreme sports among key demographics has video game developers seeing dollar signs and pumping out extreme sport video games faster than skateboarders can break tibias.  Hot on the tail of EA Big’s extremely fun and successful SSX and SSX Tricky comes Freekstyle, a high-flyin’, bike-swingin’, jaw-droppin’ extreme motocross video game. 


Veterans of SSX will notice similarities straight away.  The presentation, feel, and controls are all fairly identical to SSX with some minor tweaks. 


There are a total of eight riders to choose from, with only four of them being available from the start.  Among the riders are the Godfather of Freestyle MotoX Mike Metzger, leader of the Metal Mulisha Brian Deegan, and Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie model Leeann Tweeden, who I missed at E3 due to an obvious scheduling error (maybe next year, Jeff?).  Each rider starts off with particular traits in several categories including speed, boost, and landing, but can be upgraded by progressing through the game.  As players complete all the tricks in a rider’s repertoire, new outfits for riders will be unlocked, including some Saran Wrap-tight tops for the lovely Ms. Tweeden. 


Each rider has his or her own set of bikes.  Every bike will give a moderate increase to rider’s attributes, and each bike has its own set of tricks that can be performed with it.  Just like riders, new bikes must be unlocked through completing portions of the game.  


As in SSX, the main attractions of Freekstyle are the outlandish courses.  Whether you are racing through mountainous terrain with falling trees and rolling boulders or industrial sights with coal mining carts and tunnels, each track is a blast to race on.  Every course is designed with dangerous shortcuts, enormous jumps, and a plethora of obstacles to contend with.  The only downside of the courses in Freekstyle is there aren’t enough of them.  While each of the six racing courses are great, you’ll wish there were about ten more.  The three freestyle courses offer minimal diversions and can get menial after only a few runs. 


You’ll want to spend most of your time in Freekstyle in circuit mode, as winning races will unlock tracks in each of the other modes, Freestyle and Freeride.  The first six stages of circuit mode challenge your skills as a speed demon.  Simply finishing in one of the three top spots in the first two heats and winning the final heat beats the track, moves you on to the next stage, and unlocks the next course.  After beating the six racetracks, three rounds of freestyle need to be completed on three freestyle courses before it’s back to the race courses for six rounds of Freekstyle, a sick combination of racing and freestyle.  In order to beat the Freekstyle levels, racers need to win the races and score freestyle point by completing tricks. 


Tricks are pulled off using any combination of the X, Y, L, and R buttons.  Each trick can be further tweaked with the Z button, allowing for tons of tricks to pull off.  Riders can perform the Superman, Nothing, and Double Can as well as a few outrageous tricks that look both incredibly dangerous and incredibly good.  Timing is the key to landing tricks and keeping your speed up, and holding tricks as long as you can or performing multiple tricks in one jump is the key to high scoring.


While Freekstyle’s graphics aren’t legendary, they are very far above average.  Even though most of the course is zooming by at 90 mph, the courses are detailed and highly creative.  The highlight of the graphics is definitely the tricks.  To see these riders execute these aerial acrobatics is very impressive.  While the crashes look painful, they aren’t nearly as animated as they should be. 


Freekstyle is an extreme game, and has the extreme soundtrack to support it.  A load of thrash-metal bands contributed to the soundtrack and keep the whole extreme thing going full-throttle.  Even if you rock out daily to the sounds of angst-injected thrash-metal, most of the thrashing will be done to your ears as much of the music is uninspiring.  There’s very little else to hear in the game except the constant whirring of the engine and a few of the other riders talking smack. 


Freekstyle doesn’t shatter any ground, but it does keep players interested initially.  After playing for a few hours, I honestly can’t see this game having a lot of replay value for casual gamers. After the tracks are unlocked, there isn’t very much motivation to continue to play on unless you’re really interested in seeing Leeann Tweeden in some slinky tops.  On the other hand, motocross fans and riders should enjoy this game immensely, especially while sitting in their hospital beds nursing their shattered clavicles. 


Freekstyle is rated E for everyone.


Gameplay: 7.5

Freekstyle is more than a simple “push the accelerator and tear it up” type of game.  Hitting jumps correctly and finding the shortcuts is both challenging and fun.


Graphics: 8

The Gamecube makes this game look good.  The courses can be a bit dark at times, which is a shame.


Sound: 6

The music isn’t really gripping, and the sounds, although done fairly well, are simple. 


Difficulty: Hard

Riding and pulling off tricks isn’t easy, and finishing the game will take a while.


Concept: 6.5

Freekstyle is basically SSX on dirt bikes.


Multiplayer: 6

Nothing special here, just split-screen racing.


Overall: 7

Freekstyle is a fun racing game, but is limited to the number of courses you can race on.  It’s little more than an adrenalin-injected version of Excitebike, but should satisfy the thirst of would-be MotoXers without having to endure the pain of a piercing or tattoo.   


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