reviews\ Sep 9, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 - PS2 - Review

At a time when quality extreme sports games are more plentiful than ever, it takes a pretty amazing game to stand out from the pack.  While Activision has been leading the way in the skateboarding segment with their Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series; their BMX efforts have noticeably lagged behind.  Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 is actually their first biking game that’s made it to the PS2 console.  So how does this latecomer stack up against the competition?  Read on to find out…

To begin with, Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 puts you in the shoes of some of the top riders in the sport today, who all have different attributes and tricks, including Mat Hoffman, Mike Escamilla, Cory Nastazio, Kevin Robinson, Simon Tabron, Seth Kimbrough, Nate Wessel, Ruben Alcantara, Joe Kowalski, and Rick Thorne.  While it’s great to have so many choices of riders, the lack of a create-a-rider function is very disappointing.  Equally disappointing is that the riders’ stats don’t build as the game progresses, which makes the latter portion of the game less fun.

In the primary road trip mode, Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 allows you to hop on a tour bus and explore eight of the best places to get your ride on in the country, from New York to L.A.  The cool thing is that all the guys in the game actually went on this tour in real life so videos have been included that actually highlight each spot and they vary depending on which rider you choose.

Aside from this concept though, the game works very similar to others in the genre.  Meaning, you start with only one level available (in this case it’s Oklahoma City at the Hoffman Warehouse) and by completing various challenges, more levels are unlocked.  However, you do have some freedom in terms of choosing which level to drive to next, which is a bit unique.  Also nice is the fact that there are three different tiers of challenges per level (12 total challenges per level), so there is a decent amount of gameplay; especially since the game can be completed with each of the eleven riders individually.  The problem is that some of these challenges (even those that are early on in the game) are extremely tedious and time consuming.  The result is being stuck in a single level for a little longer than desired.  It's great to make the tasks challenging, but they at least need to be clearly defined.

The other available play modes include session, free ride, and a variety of multiplayer games.  Session allows you to try to break high scores in the individual levels that have been opened up without having to worry about the challenges.  Free ride lets you explore without any time constraints so it’s a great time to get a feel for the game and perfect your moves.

The multiplayer game modes include: graffiti war, trick attack, tag, horse, push, free ride, treasure hunt, and halfpipe hell.  While some of these are quite typical of the genre, a few of them are actually fairly innovative.  For example, in the split-screen push mode, the better you do, the smaller your opponents screen becomes until they are eventually pushed off the screen.    The treasure hunt mode is simply a race to collect the most treasures, which are strategically placed around the levels, and this is also fun to play.

To score the big points in this game it’s necessary to take advantage of all the different types of maneuvers, including quick tricks (Xup, look down, barspin, etc.), big air tricks (tailwhip, superman, nothing, etc.), grinds (feeble, sprocket, rodeo, etc.), various stalls, and manual/ground tricks.  The amount of flexibility in terms of trick combos is pretty incredible compared to other games, since you can tie everything together with grinds and complex ground tricks.

Manuals are the most fun and innovative feature in the game since a plethora of flatland tricks has been included.  In addition to regular manuals and nose manuals, it’s also possible to do front peg, rear peg, and bridge manuals.  For each of the manual types there are roughly 10 different flatland tricks that can be performed.  Some examples are the Xup manual, eggbeater, whiplash, perverted decade, and the surfer bridge manual, which is straight out of the school dance scene in the classic BMX film “Rad.”  Having the ability to perform these types of tricks makes the manuals far more interesting than those in any other game and they look really cool too!

When riding, there’s an adrenaline meter that fills up after landing tricks (like the special meter in the Tony Hawk games) – and once this it’s possible to pull off tricks that are even more insane (each rider has their own).  Not all the button combinations are given to you but they’re not too hard to figure out … a back flip tailwhip, anyone?

In addition to having such a wide array of tricks to choose from, all of these tricks can be tweaked using the R2 button + any direction, allowing for even greater flexibility.  This allows most regular tricks to be done as a no hander, a one footer, etc.

The controls are very straightforward if you have any experience with Tony Hawk Pro Skater and the like.  Pressing the X button results in a bunny hop (or you can hit up twice first to do a higher bronco hop), the square button controls quick tricks, circle controls big air tricks, and triangle is for grinds/stalls.  The R1 & L1 shoulder buttons can be used to spin faster, which is helpful because it doesn’t interfere with the actual trick controls.  L2 allows you to switch between manual types once a manual has already been started, eliminating the need to do a bunny hop in between.  Lastly, the camera view can be changed using the right analog stick and then locked by pressing R3.

Either the analog sticks or the d-pad can be used to control the chosen rider, but the digital controls are too touchy, making it a little difficult to accurately steer the bike.

The levels are, for the most part, both visually and functionally well designed.  The complete list is as follows: Oklahoma City, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Boston, Los Angeles, Portland, and Hawaii.  Although not all these levels necessarily accurately portray their respective cities (some of them do much better than others), they all contain elements that at least hint at the location.  An example is the “bead girls” in New Orleans, who don’t hesitate to show you some jugs, melons, or cans (the actual objects, of course).

While they definitely aren’t nearly as big as those found in Dave Mirra 2, they’re not too small either.  The biggest problem with some of them (e.g. New Orleans and Las Vegas) is that they’re way too dark to see what you’re doing.  Sure, it’s cool to ride at night, but when it’s hard to see what’s in front of you - that’s not good; especially when trying to complete the challenges.  Also, a variety of clipping problems and even some “black hole” (falling through the level) problems were observed, but they didn’t occur often enough to significantly inhibit gameplay.

There are also some additional features found in the game that are worth mentioning. Included is a park editor, which allows custom levels to be made when the others are exhausted.  Additionally, the scrapbook is a component that automatically saves photos from certain gaps, which have a camera object floating between them, that is if you choose to turn it on.

Overall, Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 is a very fun game to play if you're looking for some serious two-wheeled action.  Surprisingly, it's not just Tony Hawk 3 on bikes either, as it has many characteristics that make it unique.  There's no question that it brings a lot more to the table (in every department) than the previous (PSX) version, but it still isn't perfect.  It lacks the ability to create a rider from scratch, which some people prefer to using one of the pros.  Additionally, some of the challenges are too time consuming for being such simple tasks.  It will be interesting to see how Acclaim's upcoming BMX XXX faces up against this one.

Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 is rated T (Teen) and takes up a minimum of 323KB on a PS2 memory card (not including the scrapbook, which requires significantly more space).

Gameplay: 9
This game packs some features that make it unique and extremely fun to play.  For example, the ability to perform an assortment of ground tricks and to seamlessly tie tricks together really makes it stand out.  The physics in the game are well done, which is noticeable with everything from the amount of air you can get on different types of ramps to the way the bike flies out after a tumble.

Graphics: 8
Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 is visually impressive in many respects.  The riders themselves look almost identical to the respective real-life pros as do the bikes that they ride.  Additionally, their movements are physically accurate and the animations for the flatland tricks look especially good.  The levels have a fair amount of detail and a wide variety of appropriate textures.

Sound: 8
The diverse soundtrack in this game is nothing to complain about as it includes artists such as Ice-T, Fugazi, Iggy Pop, N.E.R.D., and more, all of which help get the adrenaline pumping.  Not all of the songs are available to listen to initially though, since CDs must be collected around the levels to open up additional tracks.  There was one song, "Freestyler" by the Bomfunk MC's that I wish I didn't open up...but oh well.  The sound effects are also well done, but nothing especially different was done in this department.  Pedestrians will say short phrases if you get near them, the bike sounds are right on, and when a rider takes a spill they let out a pretty funny yelp.

Difficulty: Medium
I almost gave this game a "hard" difficulty rating, but it's not quite to that level.  At times though, some of the challenges seem too hard, but this is primarily because they are not explained well enough.  All of them are possible, but expect to spend a decent amount of time figuring out exactly what to do or where to go.

Concept: 7.5
Aside from having the ability to choose which level is unlocked next, Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 is too much of what we've come expect from these types of games.

Multiplayer: 8.5
This is a great game to play with friends as it includes both classic game modes (e.g. horse and trick attack) and brand new modes, such as the innovative "push" split-screen battle.  Keep in mind that you must open up levels in the road trip mode to have access to them in the multiplayer modes.

Overall: 8


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