Reviewed: July 15, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: June 18, 2002
When it comes to realistic motocross racing games we get to pick from either Acclaim’s Jeremy McGrath series, which hasn’t released a decent title since the franchise began, or one of THQ’s excellent Ricky Carmichael games. MX 2002 was the last great MX racing game released for the PS2 last July, and was quickly followed up by an Xbox port in December.
Another year has passed, and instead of just tacking a new year onto the MX title, Pacific Coast Power & Light has funked-up the franchise to give us MX Superfly featuring Ricky Carmichael. Superfly builds upon the MX success by offering more of the same great gameplay, multiple racing modes, 22 challenging tracks, and 27 high-profile riders including Mr. Carmichael, himself.
The trick system has been tweaked to perfection, and we still have access to the innovative “clutch” that adds that extra bit of realistic control. The Career mode has been blown wide open and you can now earn money to upgrade your bike and compete in new championship series. The 11 mini-games, powerful stunt track editor, and multiplayer modes combine to offer the most comprehensive MX racing experience you can experience on your PS2.
Those of you that experienced last year’s MX 2002 have a good idea of what you can expect with MX Superfly. Superfly expands upon the original in almost every way offering higher quality content and more of it. As soon as you load this game for the first time you are presented with a dizzying array of gameplay modes and options.
The Career mode is the core of Superfly and where you will spend the bulk of your time. You begin your career by using the MX-exclusive Create-A-Rider to pick a gender then equip your rider with a bike from one of five major manufactures and official racing gear from name brand sponsors. Once you are ready to ride you still need to earn some money to pay the entry fee into the Championship series. Earn some quick cash by participating in some amateur practice races and completing the various tutorials.
There is also a Freestyle Career mode that lets you show off your mad trick skills in various venues. The trick system has been refined to near-perfection, and while you won’t be pulling off the insane moves of Freekstyle, you can do all of the incredible tricks that the pro’s manage to pull off in real-life.
Even though the library of tricks doesn’t begin to approach the number or complexity of those found in skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX, or inline skating games, there are still some amazing stunts you can do while attached to a few hundred pounds of throbbing metal. There are all sorts of flips, rotations, grabs, and other moves you can perform to earn points and the respect of your peers.
The success or failure of any racing game almost always boils down to the physics engine, and Superfly nails the MX racing style perfectly with just the right amount of gravity and reactionary physics of a bike on dirt. Sure you will catch some unrealistic air at times, but this is conducive to performing the crazy stunts required to be competitive. During actual races you must learn to resist the temptation to take to the skies, otherwise you will lose value speed, time and ultimately the race.
Two features that made MX 2002 so popular were the clutch and the preload function of your shocks. In a nutshell, the clutch is used to give you an extra burst of speed coming off the starting line or at the moment you land a jump or when coming out of a sharp turn. While it’s possible to play and win Superfly without ever touching the clutch, you will find it makes your world a whole lot easier.
Preloading is half physics, half intuition, and half memorization…wait; that’s three halves! That’s okay because it is that important to the overall gameplay. Mastery of the preload is critical if you ever want to catch big air, traverse the moguls, or hope to win even your first race.
For you MX newbies; preloading is the act of compressing the springs of your rear shocks by shifting your rider weight to the rear of the bike. Then at the right moment you lift your butt off the seat and the resulting decompression literally springs your bike high into the air. When done at the precise moment (normally at the lip of a ramp or hill) you can catch insane amounts of air.
Knowing when and how much to preload is as much intuition as it is memorization of each and every bump and hill on each of the 22 tracks. Sometimes your speed alone is enough to carry you across a jump, but most of the time you are going to need some extra bounce to make the jump. There is nothing more satisfying than landing that big jump just right, popping the clutch, and not losing an ounce of speed.
The rider AI is brutal and you will need to be turning out near-perfect laps to place in the top three let alone win these races. One missed jump, one face plant, or one wipeout on a turn can cost you precious time and often the race. The great thing about Superfly is that no matter how many times you lose a race you don’t mind replaying it because with each new lap you learn the track that much better and decrease those lap times.
There are almost a dozen clever mini-games that will require some precision riding. Take a shot at “Pizza Delivery”, “Golf”, or how about some “Target Jumping”. And when you have exhausted all the career modes and mini-games you still have the two-player split-screen modes and the powerful Stunt Track Editor.
While the track editor does a good job of allowing you to create your own custom courses in three unique stadium environments, there are some noticeable deficiencies. The interface is not all that intuitive, although it is fully functional with practice. The stadiums feature unalterable terrain, so you are forced to use the various ramps and other objects to launch your riders. There are plenty of other objects you can toss into the ring such as trucks, barrels and other items you can put between ramps and attempt to jump.
MX Superfly runs on the RenderWare engine and is one of the few games to actually make good use of it. The levels are huge and moderately detailed with no fogging or pop-up. It manages to animate over a dozen riders on the screen with no noticeable slowdown. Even the most complex levels all maintain a fluid 30fps.
The levels themselves feature varied locations that offer a good mix of challenging racing action. You might be racing on a muddy dark brown track one race only to be on a dusty yellow desert track the next. Ride on rocky mountain trails or through populated cities or take your bike indoors to the big Supercross arenas with challenging jumps and stretches of spine jarring moguls. All of these locations are modeled with amazing amounts of polygons and rich detailed textures.
The riders are all very well modeled with plenty of polygons and motion-captured to realistically depict all the bone crunching spills, and high-flying stunts you see in this game. The level of detail is easily apparent when you are equipping your rider with even the most subtle costume alterations such as goggles, gloves, or boots. Subtle animations such as the rider looking down to check out his new gear as you make these costume changes are nice touches.
Other nice touches include a great lighting model that accentuates the riders and their bike during these races that take place at all times of day and in various lighting conditions. The PS2 engine is used to create some excellent particle effects to render smoke and dust that add to the overall authenticity of these racing environments. Overall, Superfly is a step up from last year’s MX 2002 and represents an almost perfect visual racing experience.
As the name implies, Superfly introduces some serious funk into the musical selections of this game as well as the more traditional grunge tracks. The title track from R. Riley and performed by The Coup is an addicting little groove that ranks up there with the theme song to Shaft. Other popular artists lend their musical talents such as; Hoobastank, Hotwire, Spineshank, Souls of Mischief, Del the Funky Homosapien, Dropkick Murphys, Mest, The Turbo AC’s, The Dickies, Bodyjar, Little Known Fact, and The Vandals. Personally, I had never heard of any of these guys other than Hoobastank, but after playing this game I’m ready to buy most of their CD’s. The music is just that good.
The sound effects take a definite backseat to the music. The 125cc and 250cc engines all sound like high-powered weed whackers or leaf blowers. Seriously, the bikes do sound like their real-life counterparts, but when compared to the 955cc engine in my current motorcycle it just sounds kinda wimpy.
The riders all make the obligatory yells when you bump into them or grunt and cry out when they dump their ride. The commentary from ESPN announcers Cameron Steele and Davey Coombs is pretty weak and aside from the pre-race narrative you get very few comments other than the occasional "Yeehaw..." when you catch some crazy air.
The entire sound presentation is wrapped nicely with a ribbon of Dolby Surround that separates each sound, positioning it in the proper speaker so you know when Rider X is about to pass on your left side allowing you to cut him off.
Superfly packs enough content onto the disc to fulfill all your motorcycle dirt bike racing needs until next year’s offering. The career mode will keep you busy for 20+ hours, and the mini-games will add even more playtime to this title. Plus, we can’t overlook the excellent two-player modes that let you challenge your friends to any of the racing or freestyle challenges in this game.
The Freestyle tracks hold many concealed routes and secret areas that you can only reach with the largest of jumps. You can spend countless hours locating and exploring these areas, but they are so cool it is worth the time and the effort.
And when you finally do exhaust every last bit of content this title offers you can finally dig into that track editor and create your own stunt tracks. This is a feature-rich title that will keep you challenged and busy for months to come.
MX Superfly is a perfect example of what can be done when you take an existing great game and don’t change anything that made it great. Everything you loved about MX 2002 is back and tweaked to perfection. The control and trick system is perfect, the rider AI is aggressive and more challenging than ever, and the economic system incorporated into the career mode offers some interesting gameplay.
This is the best looking, best playing, best sounding (musically speaking), and most comprehensive motorcycle racing game you can currently buy for your PS2. The only thing bigger than the replay value of this game is the air you can achieve with that next perfect jump.