Review: Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2
Posted 02 Jan 2003 at 05:46 by Shane Keane
Since the release of the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater title in 1999 there has been a surge in "Extreme Sports" games. The popularity of the genre has continued to grow as we have see more and more "Extreme" games being released. Activision has lead the genre with its collection of "02 Sports Revolution" games, including 2 Snowboarding titles, Surfing, Wakeboarding, Motocross, BMX, and its flagship 4 Skateboarding titles. One the latest releases from Activision 02 is the second BMX title, Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2.
The first Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX game was released on the Dreamcast and PSX. Unfortunately it wasn't too well received by critics as it was plagued by poor level design and graphical glitches. Although it wasn't entirely a bad game, it's just that it was compared to Tony Hawk in just about every single way and with Tony Hawk being far superior, Mat Hoffman was made out to be a lot worse than it really was. Fortunately the latest in the Mat Hoffman series has improved greatly on its previous failings and has basically been redesigned in every aspect and now offers a solid and enjoyable single and multiplayer game.
Mat Hoffman 2 shares the same graphics as the PS2 version, so it doesn't really take advantage of what the GameCube is capable of when you consider that the GC can handle much more detailed texturing that what is shown here. In comparison, Dave Mirra 2, and Tony Hawk 4 come out better when it comes to the graphics department. But that's not to say that the graphics don't do the job – there are fairly huge levels with large buildings, cars, and a heap of architecture. What the texturing and modeling lack, is made up by the excellent animations. Like I said before, Mat Hoffman 2's fluid animation is leaps and bounds ahead of the jerky animation and control of the Dave Mirra games. There is no progressive scan either, so for any of you out there who own a HDTV – bad luck.
Also a slight complaint, the movies that you earn through out the Career mode, although there are lots, they aren't of great quality and are scaled down and don't actually take up the whole screen. It was said that Activision were looking into DivX compression to give better video quality for the GC version, but this has obviously not happened.
The overall sound and music in Mat Hoffman 2 is pretty mediocre. It's a taste thing, I know, but a lot of the music in Mat Hoffman 2 is a rather poor. It's a mix of rock, hip-hop, punk rock and some other weird stuff. If you're like me you'll be muting the music and putting on your own CD in the background. But there are a few decent tracks, Suicidal Tendencies, NERD, and Bomfunk MC's are some of the better names. Be warned, there are quite a few tracks that are about 20 or more years old and might not appeal to your taste. The sound effects are also pretty tame, with the usual sound effects you'd expect and if anything a little unrealistic. For example, slamming on the brakes causes a loud screeching of the brakes that sounds more like a car skidding than a bike.
The best parts of Mat Hoffman 2 is what is shares in common with the Tony Hawk games – fluid game play which allows you to link up massive tricks as well as challenging objectives. Unlike the jerky and awkward Dave Mirra series, Mat Hoffman 2 flows and allows you to navigate around levels and perform tricks with relative ease. The amount of tricks available is huge, with a control style taken from the Tony Hawk series. Manuals can be used to link grinds with ramp tricks allowing you to create some massive combo's (which you are definitely going to need to get pass some of the difficult objectives!) – a la' Tony Hawk.
The career mode takes the form of a Road Trip, where by completing the objectives in each level earns you points, allowing you and your BMX buddies to travel to the next location. As you earn more points you can unlock more levels, and as you go more points are needed to unlock each level, this is where the difficulty level could pose a problem for some gamers. Every level has 3 difficulty levels that have 4 objectives each. The difficulty ranges from Amateur, Semi Pro, and Pro. While the Amateur objectives are reasonably easy, the Semi Pro, and Pro difficulties do become very hard and often the objectives are vague leaving you with no clue on what you actually have to achieve. The difficulty level and structuring of the game makes progression a lot slower than, say, in Tony Hawk 3. Where in Tony Hawk 3, moving onto the next level was fairly easy yet it still offered a challenge, yet Mat Hoffman 2 makes progressing through the levels a lot tougher thanks to its very difficult objectives. A lot of the time you'll find yourself trying to complete a objective trick which is nigh-on-impossible to achieve, which although doesn't damage the game in the longevity stakes, it does act as a bit of a turn off.
Rainbow Studios has taken over from Runecraft in developing the Mat Hoffman games, and in doing so has fixed just about all of the gameplay issues that hindered the first game. Manuals, and flatland tricks are a lot easier to do and you'll find yourself pulling tricks off along flat areas as much as you would on ramps and rails. This is one of the areas where Mat Hoffman 2 is superior to the Tony Hawk series. If you played the predecessor to this game you'll probably notice that the physics and animation of both the bike and the rider is a lot more realistic and feels much more natural than any other BMX game out there.
There are also a lot more videos to earn as you progress through the Road Trip mode. The videos are from real road trips and competitions, some that are a bit weird while others are pretty funny. It does offer an incentive besides just moving on to the next level. There is also a reasonably detailed Custom Level designer. So if you've had enough of the ready-made tracks you can make your own.
The multiplayer modes in Mat Hoffman 2 are probably better than those on any other of the "Activision 02" games. There is the usual "Trick Attack", "Free Ride", "Tag" and "Horse" modes that borrow form the Tony Hawk series. There are also modes unique to Mat Hoffman 2 such as a rather poorly modified "Graffiti" mode, "Halfpipe Hell", "Treasure Hunt", and "Push". Push is maybe one of the best modes of multiplayer that I've ever played. It's a 2-player battle where as one player does better than the other, the screen on the opponent's side gets smaller and smaller, until the other player has no room left! Superb!
Like I emphasized before, this game can get frustratingly difficult and unforgiving. Progressing through the levels takes along time. This is mainly due to the fact that you can only attempt 4 objectives per level at a time, and once those 4 have been completed you get another 4. If you were able to attempt any of the 12 objectives for each stage whenever you wanted you would find yourself progressing a lot more smoothly as you can do in the Tony Hawk games. But unfortunately that's not how the game works and you'll find yourself stuck on shockingly hard objectives a lot of the time. The tracks are all set out excellently, with lots of rails, ramps and flatland areas. Every thing seems to link together well which makes linking up combo's a breeze.
Despite the difficulty, the game is very easy to pick up and start playing, the dynamics are natural and it makes it simple to judge landings. If you're familiar with the Tony Hawk series, you'll have no trouble sorting out the controls.
Thanks to the tedious and difficult structure of the Mat Hoffman 2, if you're not a patient gamer, you'll probably find yourself looking for cheats to open up the rest of the game, which sort of takes a huge chunk out of the lifespan. But if you're willing to keep battling away at the career mode, you'll find a rather challenging game that should keep you busy for quite a while, especially with a great multiplayer mode and track designer.
Improving on is predecessor hugely; Mat Hoffman 2 could still have been a lot better than it is. Thanks to a poorly constructed objective and progression system in the career mode, many players will find themselves giving up too soon. Although the hardcore gamer will get his money's worth out of it, this game is probably best left for a weekend rental as the multiplayer and track designer mode offer the most enjoyment for the average player.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Difficult and unforgiving. Only if you're really into BMX. Good for a weekend rental.