Motocross isn't the biggest sport in Australia but it seems every six or so months a new motocross game is released. Ranging from the arcade style of Motocross Madness from Microsoft through to the simulation style of more recent games such as SX Superstar. Activision have done extreme sports games for quite some time, most notably with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Later this month they will throw their hat into the ring of the highly competitive motocross world and we went hands on with a recent PS2 build.
Like a few other Motocross titles already available, MTX Mototrax will feature an in depth career mode giving you a feel of what its like to become a professional motocross rider. You will start off in the doldrums as a nobody and hopefully in time become a world famous motocross rider on the international circuit. Throughout this career mode you will earn money and this will determine a lot of factors about you rider. Obviously the richer you are, the more you can afford and the better equipment you will have which may give you a distinct advantage over the other riders in the field. In the career mode you will be asked to compete in motocross, supercross and freestyle events. The progression of your career will not occur in a linear fashion and will be dictated by whether you have enough money to gain entry to an upcoming event which means that potentially each time you play through the game, it will be a somewhat different experience.
For those not up to scratch with motocross terms, they are the three main disciplines of the sport. Motocross and Supercross are almost identical except for the power and size of the bikes used for that discipline but the main difference is the freestyle events. In freestyle the aim is to rack up big points via death defying tricks on the motorbike. The harder it is to pull the trick off and land it, the more points you are going to gain. Whilst this is nothing new to a motocross game it does look as if the developers have placed a heavy focus on this discipline due to the fact it is actually part of the career mode.
As expected, MTX Mototrax will feature a wide variety of tricks for players to perform but they have to be unlocked. As you progress through the career mode you will be able to upgrade different parts of your rider and his or her bike. The bikes are officially licensed from manufacturers such as Suzuki and Yamaha and are categorised into different classes such as 125cc and 250cc. Once you progress far enough you will be given the opportunity to upgrade to the four stroke 250cc and 450cc models which will offer a lot more speed and power to an accomplished rider.
The game feels somewhat different to a few motocross titles from the past in that it is going for a simulation approach. That's not to say Activision has done away with pick up and play gameplay with the title because they haven't but whilst the game will be easy to play for beginners, to really master the game will take some time in front of the television. We took the bikes around for a spin on a few of the tracks in the game and came away impressed with the physics of the game and the sensation of speed. The meat of the game, the career mode from a quick look appears to have a great interface using an email style system to give you updates about sponsorship, upcoming races and tournaments and generally information about your current rider.
Also shipping with the game will be the ability to create your own tracks and then share them with friends online on the various online console services. If this sounds familiar, it probably should. The game is based around Neversofts engine for the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise. Obviously the limitations that were imposed on Tony Hawk players also will apply to MTX Mototrax but even so you should be able to create some fairly unique creations and share them with your friends to have almost infinite replayability, especially if you have access to the online features of the game.
Whilst we didn't get a chance to go online with the build we tried out, the online features do sound very appealing. Both the PS2 version and the Xbox version will be online. The races will be able to feature up to eight different riders and you will have twenty four tracks to choose from when online. The tracks featured in the game are entirely fictional but you will be racing around the world in different locations in both indoor arenas and outdoor settings which should offer a large amount of variety. The tracks we played looked great and the draw distance was quite impressive. From our play time we didn't notice any popup on the PS2 version at all. The graphical detail is quite impressive as are the animations of the riders doing their tricks. There doesn't seem to be much advantage given to riders who pull off tricks during actual races other then the fact it looks cool. The fact they look great becomes the main incentive. The game also runs at sixty frames per second on both the PS2 and Xbox.
MTX Mototrax is entering an already crowded market but does look like it has enough depth and variety to stand out from the pack. The online play will appeal to many people as will the in depth career mode. The pick up and play mechanics already in place make the game easily accessible, but it will take time to improve the skills of your rider, giving the gamer the best of both worlds. MTX Mototrax should be on store shelves by the end of March.