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The games market these days is absolutely packed with shooters, action games and RPGs where you walk here, shoot there, eviscerate this and decapitate that. Maybe you want to try something different? Something a little more old-school? Or perhaps something that’s just simple fun?
Motocross Madness, is a racing game now available on Xbox Live market. Some of you may recognize the name from the 1998 original and its sequel released two years later, well this “not-quite reboot” bears little resemblance to its realism-heavy predecessors but that does not make it any less enjoyable.
Upon starting the game the first thing you'll see is your Xbox avatar, this will be your racer throughout the game. What makes this feature appealing is that your avatars clothing carries over to the game. Ever wanted to see Master Chief riding a dirt bike, or perhaps a Locust from Gears of War go hurtling from a spill and tumble down a cliff? This, combined with the rag-doll physics when you crash gives the game a certain charm that takes quite a while to get boring.
The game features a single player career mode where you complete races and other game types to build up XP and cash. Gaining XP increases the skill level of your rider and gradually gives access to new abilities, bikes and perks such as a speed-up for tricks. The cash is used to upgrade your bikes components to improve performance, buy paint jobs and even avatar clothing for your character in the game, although this does not transfer to the dashboard. Both of these are a good incentive to keep playing, chances are you'll complete a race only to find you’re only 50XP from levelling up, or $150 from your much-needed bike upgrade, this keeps you in the "one more game" mentality. Both XP and cash come at a good pace and don’t feel too slow or like they’re thrown at you carelessly.
Gaining more XP comes from performing more complex, risky tricks in races and you can gain extra gold by collecting coins strewn throughout the tracks. With this, you may find yourself performing death-defying stunts just to gain XP even though there’s a chance you’ll slip, fall and find yourself five places behind, all because you know you’re so close to leveling up. It all blends together nicely to make it not only fun but to give you reason to go back to previously completed races to try and secure first place and gain some extra cash whilst you’re doing it
Furthermore in the single player career mode there are four modes to pick from.
Race, wherein you earn gold, silver or bronze medals in three-lap races and acts as the familiar racing format.
Rivals mode has players try and complete a lap on different tracks faster than the developers to attain either a bronze, silver or gold medal.
Exploration, somewhat of a wild card in the mix, has you explore the large areas of the game to collect golden skulls, the more you get then the better medal you receive by the end, this also acts as an excellent way to scout out shortcuts in your own time and really admire how attractive the track areas are, even with their cartoon-ish edge they still look great.
Trick Session where you must perform tricks to build up points to try and beat opponents within the time limit and get the highest medal possible. This can be particularly exciting with tokens around the areas that offer extra boost, points multipliers or even time boosts to give you those extra precious seconds to try and snatch first place. Though you could often find yourself off your bike more than you're on it as you desperately try to cram in as many tricks as possible for those much needed points.
These game modes in mind, and the fact that the tracks and areas in which they are based are very pleasant to look at, there are only three areas. Egypt, Australia and Iceland. Whilst they are great-looking with sand blowing behind your wheels or a huge volcano erupting as you ride your bike up the side of it. While the areas look great, another region or two would have helped to throw in some more variety to the games visuals as not too long into the game you unlock the third area, and even though each area has a number of tracks, you realize things aren't going to get much more different visually from here. What further draws you out of the game is that often when start races there is texture popping where textures and parts of the track load before your very eyes, which, though isn't a huge deterrent, is still somewhat of a smear on what is otherwise a visually appealing game.
Along with the short supply of environments, there’s also a few gameplay hitches here and there. Sometimes when driving in narrow spaces or in awkward areas of the track the camera can get positioned awkwardly and leave you with your avatar on his or her bike right in the centre of the screen, leaving whatever is ahead completely out of sight. As well as this, sometimes when the camera moves around mid-race as you swerve across the track, you can find yourself blinded either by the rays of light coming from the sun or dust bellowing from the wheels of your bike, clouding your vision almost entirely. These occurrences tend to be brief and not exactly common but when they happen they can prove frustrating and aggravating as you just regain your sight of the track only to realize that you are hurtling max speed towards a rock which you just couldn't see before. Thankfully in these instances where you feel you have no hope of winning the current race there is a restart race option available in the options. There’s also a technical issue sometimes with the game that may or may not be a widespread problem. Sometimes when booting the game you’re greeted with a black screen and then...nothing, your Xbox freezes. This could happen fifty-percent of the time you go to load the game. Try not to let this put you off what is undoubtedly an enjoyable racing game, it’s just a shame that such a blaring issue somehow found its way into the released version of the game.
Whilst the single player is very robust and offers a lot for you to do and see, there’s also a multiplayer component where you can go online and race other players on Xbox Live or in split screen. Three modes of the original four are available, Race, Trick Session and Exploration and each work as they do in single player. The multiplayer is just as fun and can provide a more intense racing experience. However, should you find yourself in a race with a few players whom are of higher skill level and with better bikes than your own then your chances of attaining a good victory position drop substantially. Though it doesn't make it impossible for you to win, each race is exciting and though you may not always come first when you first start out, it’s still immensely satisfying to zoom by a player whom has just misjudged a turn and is sliding across the track, arms and legs flailing.
Should you not want to face other real players then the single player still offers quite the challenge. The AI racers are more than capable of keeping up with you and do take shortcuts at times. You can find yourself cheering with joy as you cross the finish line in first place with the one AI racer whom has been dogging you throughout the race trailing behind you. Sometimes you’ll curse in frustration as you make one tiny mistake on the last turn of the last lap only to see one or two of the AI racers take full advantage and make you pay heavily for your mistake with a bronze medal and that’s if you’re particularly lucky.
Motocross Madness isn't trying to be the next big thing nor does it take itself immensely seriously. What it does do is provide honest, clean and at times frustrating fun that you may find yourself coming back to time after time to get that next bike or helmet, or to get your favorite bike from a C grade to a B grade. With the extensive single player component, complete with leveling up system, upgrade capabilities for your bikes and a not-too-bad number of unlocks and challenges to be met, Motocross Madness is a steal at 800 Microsoft points. Despite the occasional visual hiccup here and there, this wacky racer may well leave some of your big blockbuster AAA games in the dust...for a while, anyway.
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