Is it just me or are there more and more extreme sports titles on the store shelves? With everyone trying to cash in on the wave of success created by the Tony Hawk series, it can become difficult and overbearing to sort out the garbage from the worthy titles. Fortunately Activision has taken its Mat Hoffman franchise more seriously in it's latest outing, Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX 2. Last year developer Runecraft failed to beat the competition, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX. This year however, Rainbow Studios refined the title to end up with, not a perfect game, but a title that definitely possesses its own strengths.
The visuals have improved upon from last year's effort. Rainbow Studios is very comfortable with the Playstation 2 environment and as a result the presentation is pretty slick. This is more so in terms of the environments and animations. The riders on the other hand seem to suffer from blockiness that should have been remedied prior to release. Another graphical issue comes in the form of excessive clipping between the rider and his bike. Other instances of collision detection are evident and quite annoying at times. The camera for some reason is fixed in at a very close proximity. It takes a lot of getting used to and it would have been functional if the user could pull it back and get a better view of the course. Despite these flaws, the game plays fairly well. The soundtrack is impressive as always and includes a variety of tracks from the likes of Ice-T, LL Cool J, Suicidal Tendencies, Boomfunk MC's, Iggy Pop and more. Environmental sound effects are standard for the genre.
The control of Hoffman and his fellow BMX pros is somewhat of a mixed bag. The new stunt system allows you to fashion your own tricks and combos. The manual move selection is quite impressive with so much to learn and master. The problem arises in the inconsistencies in pace and momentum. The close camera issue does nothing to remedy this. Another issue is time limits. They are frustrating and this point in the evolution of BMX games, who needs them? As a result the controls can feel clumsy which proves frustrating. The problem for developers is trying to map the complexities of bike dynamics into a videogame. It is much harder than a skateboarding game and this means BMX games are still behind the much refined Hawk franchise. If anything comes out positive in Hoffman 2 is that the developers are trying to refine the system with each title. Hopefully the leap next year will be twofold.
The meat of the game is found in the Road Trip which is an interesting twist on a career mode. Here you join Hoffman and his crew on a road trip across America and visit 8 enormous locations. Along the way you must beat amateur challenges to build up lucrative Road Trip Points in order to move on to your next location of choice. Each stage requires different accomplishments which include 12 goals and a number of secrets to unlock. This game is deep and will take a major commitment to finish, therefore Hoffman 2 is no weekend rental for the hardcore. The multiplayer modes are plentiful and enough to keep your friends coming back for more. The next logical step will be online play in the next installment. The added park builder although a nice touch, is somewhat limited to the usual standard features.
Matt Hoffman 2 is a step in the right direction in getting BMX games more refined. However, it is unsure as to how long the gaming public will go with mediocrity before moving onto another genre. Acclaim is taking a big chance in going XXX with Dave Mirra but maybe it is something the BMX arena needs. In the meantime, Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 is the best BMX experience currently available.