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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: January 2, 2001
If anyone is crazier than motorcycle stunt riders, it is bicycle stunt riders. Risking life and limb in situations where the forces of gravity seem to disappear, they perform death-defying tricks astride a rather flimsy vehicle with little protection. BMX bicycle stunt competition began in the early 1970s when some young hotheads began jumping their bicycles over rocks, ramps and ruts wherever they could find them. Now the sport has become more legitimate and established, with two major organizations holding major BMX competitions in the United States–the American Bicycle Association on the West Coast and the National Bicycle League on the East Coast. While today’s 20-inch bicycles are much lighter, stiffer and faster than the originals, utilizing materials like aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber, none of the technological advancements meaningfully eliminates the gut-wrenching perils involved. With extreme sports like mountain biking, skateboarding and snowboarding already having made their way to the personal computer, it was only a matter of time until bicycle stunt riding made it there as well. Thus Z-Axis has developed for Acclaim’s sports division the new release, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX.
This title sports great authenticity, as it is the only game to feature and receive the endorsement and significant design help from the most famous BMX rider of them all, Dave Mirra, who is a 10-time world champion and was named Male Athlete of the Year at the 1998 ESPN X-Games. You get to ride as Dave or another superstar rider, specifically Shaun Butler, Joey Garcia, Kenan Harkin, Chad Kagy, Mike Laird, Troy McMurray, Tim Mirra, Ryan Nyquist, or Leigh Ramsdell. Jamie Bestwick, who unseated Dave Mirra and took home the gold in the “vert” competition in the 2000 Summer X games, is not present. Each rider and bike differs in jumping power, straightaway speed, rotation speed and balance. In addition, more than 30 real-life sponsors were brought into the game, including Slim Jim, Adidas, UGP, Maxxis, Pro-tec, and Haro. These are highly relevant because as you master each level, you earn clothing, equipment, upgrades and bike sponsorships.
The single most stunning design feature in Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX is the range of stunts available. There is a truly astounding total of over 1300 different stunts, while an innovative open system allows you to start with basic tricks and to modify them yourself. In other words, instead of just running through a predetermined set of stunts, as you do in games like Motocross Madness 2, you actually get to use your creativity in devising never-before-attempted stunts, mixing and matching almost any moves to compose your creations. Despite this nearly infinite choice, it is a bit sad that there’s no differentiation among the riders in terms of which stunts and tricks they get to perform.
Within the 12 environments, there are no pre-existing barriers to restrict your freedom. Instead, the mode of off-road racing allows you to freely explore as you jump around the course. These settings, most of which closely resemble their real-life counterparts, provide a mixture of dirt, street and “vert” riding: Street riding involves heading to town and hitting everything, including handrails, benches, ledges, curbs, drop-offs, walls and gaps; “vert” riding involves learning crazy tricks and executing them at heights of up to 12 feet in the air; and dirt jumping is the most popular form, with mud and grunge forming the base of the stunts. The well-known Camp Woodward’s Lot 8, San Jose Ramp Club and even Dave Mirra’s own Eastwood Ramp Park are all here. Each level is filled with many opportunities to get airborne and do twisting moves, while plain flat areas are downright scarce. Moreover, the environments contain considerable interactivity, as you may find yourself bumping into lawn equipment or bouncing on a trampoline along the way.
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