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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: January 9, 2002
Extreme sports have been slowly but surely making their way into the personal computer gaming landscape. The incredible success of Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, released in 1999, helped to trigger this trend. In addition to skateboarding, freestyle bike riding has attracted considerable attention. If anyone is even crazier than motorcycle stunt riders, it is bicycle stunt riders: risking life and limb, they perform unbelievable tricks on flimsy vehicles with little protection. Into this context Activision has recently released Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX, developed by Gray Matter. Mat Hoffman is a highly successful BMX rider from Oklahoma who developed many of today’s BMX stunts in a sport that began in the early 1970s when young people began jumping bicycles over any obstacles they could find. Given that this new title uses the same engine as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, can Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX match its prowess on the virtual screen?
Three single-player play modes are available — single session, free ride, and career — in a manner parallel to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. In single session, you ride for just two minutes on one level in an effort to achieve a high score. In free ride, you may choose a level and ride as long as you please. But career mode, where you complete a variety of different tasks to earn rewards, is the focus of this offering, as only through playing this can you unlock additional courses. There are five goals in each level, and if you progress far enough, you are invited to participate in elite competitions — where you may earn medals for placing in the top three spots — among the very best riders.
You may perform your free-wheeling high-flying action in eight different courses (compared to 12 environments in the directly comparable Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX). The levels take place at the Hoffman Bike Factory, construction yard, London underground, Bluetorch Competition, New York City park, treatment plant, La Habra (California), and Crazy Freakin’ Bikers Competition. Only the Hoffman Bike Factory is open initially. These settings are quite varied, as in some you encounter wide open spaces and huge vertical drops, while in others you face very restricted space to maneuver. The level design seems a bit uneven in terms of how engrossing each is, but overall the better settings make up for the poorer ones; one of the more intriguing aspects of the levels is discovering where the hidden magazine covers are.
The eight riders in Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX include the top names in the field. These include Mike Escamilla, Cory Nastazio, Joe Kowalski, Rick Thorne, Dennis McCoy, Kevin Robinson, Simon Tabron, and of course Mat Hoffman himself. Each rider has a unique style and his own specialized moves, and even the special way each one dresses makes a distinctive impact. You have access to only a single bike at the beginning of your career, so the skill of the rider plays a central role in success. Thus depending on who you select, you need to alter your mode of performing considerably. There are even a couple of hidden riders to unlock, the famous Tony Hawk and a comical Grandma.
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