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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: August 11, 1998
The unmistakable whine and roar of a 2-cycle engine…what memories. Back in the day, my brother was the leader, and I was a member of the local dirt bike gang that patrolled our neighborhood. My brother had a white Yamaha MX-100 and I rode a fire-engine red Honda ATV 50cc. Up the street from our house was a place we called the sand pits; it was an abandoned gravel pit that we used for stunts, races, and the occasional game of cat and mouse. The sand pits were separated into three sections, with large dirt-retaining walls in between, that were sloped at about 65 degrees. One summer afternoon my brother decided to jump the pit using the tallest retaining wall as a ramp. I was waiting on the opposite side of the wall, all of us younger kids in awe of the spectacle we were about to witness. My brother came flying over, clearing the entire wall, elevating to more than 30ft above the sand pit floor. His jump seemed to last a lifetime, and for a moment, he appeared to fly. Suddenly gravity took over, he had crash landed, his bike only yards from mine, his body more than 20 feet away. One of the older boys told me to ride home and get help. They placed my brother on the ATV and followed me in pursuit, screaming “He’s dead” all the way home. Luckily for us he was only shaken-up, and was soon found riding, jumping, and crashing in the pits.
My brother soon upgraded his MX-100 to a YZ-250, and with the bigger engine came bigger jumps, faster races, and more dangerous spills. My motocross days ended long ago, on the dirt roads in Northern Utah, where I crashed that YZ-250 too many times myself. Thankfully, many other, more capable riders have kept the sport alive. Motocross racing’s appeal has never been more popular than it is today, as it is featured in the X-Games, and has numerous leagues and associations that sponsor competitions nationwide. All one has to do is watch one race, and the sport’s appeal becomes self-evident. It is this appeal of heart-pounding racing, breathtaking aerials, and unbelievable jumps that video game developers have been trying to capture since Excitebike and Hang-On over ten years ago.
The latest attempt in a foray of motorcycle games coming our way soon is Microsoft’s Motocross Madness, developed by the digital media experts at Rainbo Studios. The project started out as a demonstration of the technological capabilities of Microsoft’s Talisman. The project was upgraded to a full-featured game not long after Rainbo had finished the development for the demonstration. Since then the approach towards Motocross Madness has been simple, yet challenging: to develop the most detailed motocross racing game ever made. With numerous other motorcycle games on the verge of being released, including Electronic Arts’ Moto Racer 2, the race for your dirt bike dollar is underway, in earnest.
The biggest challenge faced by Microsoft during development was answering the question of whether to make Motocross Madness more of an arcade game, or a computer simulation. The end result, and answer to that question, was to make the game a little of both, with elements of arcade action and motocross simulation intertwined so evenly, the game player could experience the best of both worlds at the same time. And that’s what this game delivers, an almost flawless mesh of motocross simulation and arcade racing, all in one very complete package.
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