reviews\ Oct 26, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Toxic Grind - XB - Review

The world is entering the year 2100, and BMX biking is illegal.  Those caught doing it could be thrown on the latest television show that's taking the land by storm - Toxic Grind!  The show pits single bikers in crazy arenas where they must complete certain objectives or die!  To make matters worse, each "contestant" is injected with a "microid" - a tiny device that slowly leaks toxin into the person's blood stream.  No one has ever survived the show, and Dixon Von Blass, the creator, doesn't intend for anyone to actually win!  However, ratings are dropping, and Blass needs to spice things up.  He goes back in time to 2002, to kidnap you, Jason Hayes, one of the most impressive riders of your time!  Soon enough you find yourself thrown onto the show, injected with a microid, and riding for your life!


That is the premise behind THQ's latest title, and it was intended to spice up the extreme sports genre a little.  While I applaud them for trying something new, the story feels very corny - it definitely could have used some work.  The cutscenes that portray the story don't help, either.  They consist of static figures and voice-overs, and while they seem a little artsy at first, I soon grew sick of them - they feel kind of cheap and crude.  Nonetheless, the story does provide some incentive to carry on with the single-player mode.


And you're going to need a little motivation to complete this game.  A standard stage feels much like that of the previous Tony Hawk titles: you're thrown into a large level full of verts and railings, and must complete certain objectives.  There's a small twist, however: you must complete all the objectives before the toxin completely fills your bloodstream.  The idea sounds good on paper, but it doesn't turn out too well.  By doing fancy tricks, you can pump up your adrenaline meter (basically a special meter, a la Tony Hawk) which in turn counters the toxin.  Since the toxin seeps very slowly, and the adrenaline meter can be filled rather easily, levels can go on for a ridiculous amount of time.  And some of the objectives are so vague or hard to complete, you'll find yourself almost wishing you would die; some kind of "save your progress during a level" feature would have been much appreciated.  If you happen to turn off the game, or do die, you have to complete all of the objectives again.


The actual gameplay can be pretty fun, though.  It's very reminiscent of titles like Dave Mirra - you can grind, stall, move around on your bike, move your bike around, manual, etc.  For the most part, tricks are simple to pull off, and look cool.  There will be quite a few times, however, when you'll be wondering "Why in the world didn't I land that?!  It was perfect!" and "I can't believe that I keep crashing in this same spot!”  The game runs at a solid 60 frames per second, and very rarely does it stutter.  The control feels pretty tight, and even offers some nifty moves, like a quick 180-degree turn.  Stalls, grinds, and bunnyhops are all easy to pull off and link together, although the manual isn't used very much.  All in all, the meat of the game isn't that bad, but it's nothing really groundbreaking either.


Toxic Grind sports some graphics that are probably somewhat better than the average Playstation2 game.  Textures look decent, and animation is good.  The environments are detailed in some spots, but rather bland in others - usually not too hard on the eye, but could be better.  The only time the game looks rather bad is in multiplayer mode, when it tends to run at a slower framerate and just doesn't look as nice.  Speaking of multiplayer, it's nothing to get really excited over.  It can be fun for a little bit, but it's very shallow.  There isn't much room for customization, and the few modes are nothing new - some straight rip-offs of Tony Hawk, like one where you grind on various surfaces to "claim" them, but if your rival grinds on them and earns more points, they steal it.  It's exactly the same, except you can't modify the time limit or anything else. 


I know I've compared Toxic Grind to Tony several times throughout the review, but I think this is fair considering how much the game borrows.  Frankly, it doesn't do much of anything better than that title, but those of you that can't wait for an extreme sports fix might want to check it out - it's at least worth a rent.  If you do get into the title, it should hold you off for a good while; there are about a dozen levels, and most of them will take you a good while to complete.



Gameplay: 7.5

Toxic Grind can be a very frustrating game.  You'll wonder why your bike crashed, how in the heck to get to certain areas, and wrestle with the controller to pull off certain moves.  That said, Grind can be very fun whenever you aren't cursing at the television.


Graphics: 7.0

The graphics in Grind aren't really fantastic, but they get the job done.  Animation is well done, and the environments are pretty stylish.  The cut-scenes between stages, however, seem crude and simple, and considering the game is pushing its story element, this is sad to see.


Sound: 7.5

The game features a soundtrack that may get on your nerves after spending enough time in a single stage - and believe me, you will be spending lots of time in each stage.  Thankfully, there is a custom soundtrack option.  The sound effects are fine, but the voice acting seems a little corny.


Difficulty: Hard

Half of the things you do in this game are simple and easy, but there always seems to be an objective or two that you can't complete.  Spending twenty minutes to get to a single item gets very tiresome, and if you there's no way to save your progress during a level.  If you quit, you have to do all the objectives over again.


Concept: 7.0

Toxic Grind seems original.  It's got something most sports games lack - an actual story.  Unfortunately, that story happens to be pretty corny and feels like filler to get from one stage to the next half of the time.  The gameplay is often uninspired, giving you a laundry list of objectives to complete before you die (or turn off the game).


Multiplayer: 7.5

Grind does feature a multiplayer mode, but it's nothing special.  The game will slow down, rounds are over too quick, and there's not enough customization - hardly any, in fact.


Overall: 7.3

If you're into BMX, Toxic Grind might not be a bad purchase.  Its tough levels should keep you busy for awhile, and the story, while corny, is it at least a reason to play the single-player mode.  If you aren't into biking, though, it is advised to skip this one.


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