"Motorcross with a career mode, but it's not all that different"
Motorcross games are nothing new for consoles. Starting right back with Excitebike on the NES and through to today where it seems both THQ and Acclaim are releasing titles every couple of months based on the sport. SX Superstar is trying to change from the norm and has included a career mode and a few other extras, but does it stand out enough from the crowd?
SX Superstar revolves around the life of a young motorcross rider, you. Starting off living in a dump, with a (seemingly) pregnant girlfriend and little cash in your wallet, you set out to become one of the greatest motorcross riders the world has ever seen. As you would expect, win races and everything is great, come last and the game becomes significantly harder.
Career mode is the crux of SX Superstar and contains a few key, and not so key elements. You receive information about upcoming tournaments via your trusty fax machine and from then you're out to impress sponsors and other riders. Win the championship and you will progress to the next tier. Depending on how you place in each race will determine the type of sponsorship deals you land. It may be wise to sit out a few deals to wait for the big one but it has an element of risk as choosing this path will force you to place well in upcoming races or risk alienating potential sponsors.
As you might have guessed the career mode basically revolves around money. As you win races, you win prize money and this prize money is used to buy better bikes. At first the career mode is a breeze, I was done with the first championship in about thirty minutes play time but from then on its a wake up call, a new bike was required and depending on how many races (you can actually skip some) you won in the previous championship will determine which level bike you can buy. Obviously win them all and the best bike will be affordable.
There are some aesthetic features of the career mode as well. As you become a better rider and more famous, you will "dump" your current girlfriend (who obligingly abuses you via fax) and move in with a new one. However fame is fleeting, and should you start losing they will drop you faster then a ton of bricks. The girlfriend aspect doesn't add anything to the game, it's just another goal for the gamer to see if they can land the "hot babe". Your parents also call you to encourage you based on your performance as does your manager, but again it doesn't add anything to the career mode in terms of gameplay mechanics.
However underneath the career mode, SX Superstar is just another motocross game, that's not entirely a bad thing though. Championship races vary from circuits, to baja, to offroad which adds a decent variety to the title. Circuits are fairly self explanatory consisting of a race around a (usually) indoor circuit, baja is more offroad in the middle of no where, rather then following a set track, getting to the checkpoint first anyway you can is the name of the game. Offroad is basically circuits but at locations such as a tropical forest or beach.
Each circuit has been constructed well but stray offroad for more then a few seconds and the game will reset you. A few seconds is being generous, it's more 1.5 seconds which really gives you no time at all to resume racing on the track. The indoor circuits basically consist of what you'd expect, small jumps and ramps whilst some of the offroad and baja circuits include some huge jumps, and dangerous environments.
Some of the offroad circuits have branching tracks. For instance whilst riding along a rail line, the track split in two; left took me through a nice long straight but had I turned right, I would have encountered a twisty maze of bends where I no doubt would have crashed. Decisions like these can greatly affect a race and can be the difference between winning and losing. The AI riders are fairly accomplished but that doesn't stop them running into you when you've crashed. It's also fairly easy to run into them on the ground as well.
Tricks have become a staple when it comes to motocross games and SX Superstar is no different. The tricks are performed with the shoulder buttons on the PS2 pad. Small ones like punching the air, gain little reward but the more daring tricks such as "superman" are hard to pull off but worthwhile. As a player continues to perform tricks, a meter is built up which acts as the bikes turbo. At first during my play time tricks weren't overly needed but coming up against the next tier it became obvious that turbo was a necessity. Most of the tricks are stock standard fare and have been seen before in other motocross titles.
Visually SX Superstar is a letdown and whilst it's not on the level of some of the early PS2 titles it pales in comparison to games such as Gran Turismo 3. The bikes are well detailed, as are the riders but they are thin and don't appear to animate overly well. One area that is visually impressive is the environments. Races will take place on a variety of unique environments and the draw distance is quite superb as is the frame rate.
SX Superstar will appeal to motocross fans and maybe a few casual gamers. It does have pick up and play aspects which helps the title and the career mode adds a significant level of depth not seen in a motocross game before. Had the game shown a greater emphasis on achievements rather then just getting a new pad and better looking girlfriend, then perhaps it may have been easier to recommend. However it retails for $49.95 AU and you could do a lot worse on the PS2 at that price.