Reviewed: January 11, 2003
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Those of you who read my 2002 E3 Report may recall my visit to the Acclaim booth on day three of the show. One of the many games I was privileged to preview was the upcoming BMX game, then called “Dave Mirra BMX XXX”. Between the show and the release of this game much has happened, most of it of the controversial nature. Dave Mirra removed his name from the title and took his group of 15 world-class riders with him. Stores like Walmart and Best Buy refused to sell the game due to the adult content (read “nudity”) even though you can buy Playboy videos two aisles down. Most surprising of all was when Sony (of all people) demanded a censored version for the PS2, so while the traditionally kid-friendly Nintendo allowed naked BMX bikers and strippers on the GameCube, gamers who were used to tearing up the town in adult games like Grand Theft Auto and State of Emergency were left to close their eyes and imagine exposed nipples.
With Dave Mirra riding off into the sunset with his good name untainted by sins of the flesh we are left with a game simply titled, BMX XXX. Can a game that was originally slated to cash in on the Dave Mirra name survive, and more importantly, can a game that was designed around the hook of nudity and adult content survive on Sony’s system when the “hook” is removed? Since this is an Xbox review we will leave the Sony debate for another time and another review.
Acclaim has had to overcome some serious obstacles in getting this game out to the end user and even now you may find yourself challenged to find a copy. Despite the removal of all nudity, you are still unable to buy the PS2 version in most of the popular stores, and good luck trying to find the Xbox or GameCube version where the nudity is still intact. Unless you have a Babbages or Electronics Boutique in your town you will probably have to go online to get a copy of what will arguably become a collectors item, not so much for game quality, but for the sheer scandal.
BMX XXX is the creation of Z-Axis, those wizards who brought us AKA Aggressive Inline Skating last summer and turned the world of inline trick skating upside down and gave Tony Hawk the first run for his money. This was the first title to utilize the new “boob technology” that gave the female skaters a bit of a jiggle when they moved around. It was only a matter of time before they dared to remove the clothes all together and fully explore this new physics system.
Much like their skating game, BMX XXX features huge interactive environments with all sorts of trick lines in place and plenty of story driven missions. Unlike Aggressive Inline, the stories and missions in BMX XXX are all of a raunchy, more adult nature; although, most adults will find this game childish and juvenile, but isn’t that always the case. Suffice to say that if you enjoyed the humor in the American Pie movies then this game is right up your alley.
BMX XXX takes place in several huge levels starting in the Bronx then moving to the Dam, Sheep Hills, Syracuse, Las Vegas, and even to Florida for a rocket launch complete with aliens. Each area has a massive laundry list of objectives. Some are assigned by the characters you meet in each level, and others are more traditional like performing all the unique (and hidden) jumps in a level, earning three levels of trick points, or finding all the gold coins in a level. You don’t need to complete all the objectives to move on to the next level, but perfection does have its own reward.
A typical day in BMX XXX starts off like this. You ride past Homeless Jones who wants a “big wiener”. You need to collect a bunch of cans for him in about 90 seconds so he can cash them in for a hotdog that he proceeds to cook with a welding torch setting a building on fire. The fire truck arrives but due to lack of water pressure the fireman “can’t get it up” and asks that you turn on the reserve supply. Doing so causes a chain of events that sends the street sweeper into the community swimming pool draining all the water and creating an excellent stunt arena.
Other missions in the Bronx include picking up several hookers and carrying them on the back of your bike to their purple-suited pimp at the hotel, or you might need to smash a bunch of food carts so the hotdog vendor can rule the city with his “mighty wiener”, or how about grinding the power lines above the pimp’s Cadillac so the birds stop crapping on it. Some missions are extremely easy like skitching a police car for five seconds while others are very difficult like collecting all the coins in a single pass through the level. Fail, and the coins all reappear and you start over.
The beauty of the game design lies in the fact that there is no timer for any of these levels. You're only limited by your health, so the less you wreck, the longer you can ride. The only way to replenish your health is to complete one or more objectives on your trick list. While the levels themselves have no timers, most of the missions have very strict timers that will often require you to repeat many quests multiple times until you learn the optimum routes and patterns. One mission early in the game has you starting in the park then with only two minutes on the clock you have to ride to the other side of town, pick up a pink poodle, perform 20,000 points worth of stunts to get her “in the mood”, then return to the park so she can “distract” the male dog who has been crapping all over the place.
Despite the unique level designs and vast assortment of interesting characters you will encounter in each of the areas, the missions all start to look the same. After all, how different is delivering six hookers to their pimp from delivering six construction workers to the port-a-john? The levels and characters may change the the premise is all too familiar.
The game is choked full of raunchy humor, both in the casual interaction of your rider with the population and the numerous cutscenes that accompany each of the major mission objectives. As funny as these are, due to the repetitive nature of the game and the fail/retry mission design, you will find yourself mashing the button to skip these movies on your third or tenth attempt. One minor complaint associated with this fail/retry scheme is that there is no easy way to retry the failed missions without going back to the person who gave it to you. Granted, the levels aren’t that huge, but one of the rooftop missions in the Bronx takes longer to reach the trigger point than it does to try and fail the mission.
Of course the big hook for BMX XXX is the nudity, which comes in two flavors unless you have the PS2 version in which case you had better go find your dad’s stash of Playboys. The first dose of nudity comes in the form of MPEG videos of actual strippers from the Scores clubs across the country. You may have heard about these clubs on the Howard Stern radio/TV show. These video clips are “okay”; certainly nothing worthy of all the hoopla and media hype of either the positive or negative type.
There are about a half-dozen girls and each girl has a two-part video clip with her pole dancing or writhing around on the floor of a smoky stage. There are a couple of bonus videos with multiple girls all dancing around BMX bikes, which seemed rather trite. The first thing I did when I got my Xbox copy was enter the cheat code to unlock all the videos and sit down to watch them back-to-back. With that out of my system I could play and evaluate the game without those strippers taunting me. Frankly, I found the entire stripper gimmick highly overrated, and the fact that Sony wanted them removed is ridiculous, but probably served to spark additional Xbox and GameCube sales.
The other nudity in BMX XXX is player nudity - that’s the game character, not you, but feel free to strip down if you wish. In order to create a custom rider sans clothes you are going to have to do a lot of serious work; more work than the end result is probably worth. You need to win both competition modes and finish in first place. This is not nearly as easy as it sounds, but if you feel up for the challenge you can head over to http://www.bmxxxx.com/thisisbmx/cheats/index.html and read the list of requirements.
Of course the ultimate question is just how good is this game when you strip away the…err…strippers, naked riders, and adult-themed humor. Frankly, the BMX riding and stunts are only adequate and without the adult humor and nudity this game would fail to impress or even offer enough incentive to complete it. I had a blast playing through the Bronx, but once I cheated and watched all the stripper videos I found playing the other levels was more of a chore.
The trick system is massive with more than 2,000 tricks to master including air tricks, grinding, manuals, wall rides, and the new flatland tricks. Like other extreme sports stunt games the trick is to chain multiple stunts together for huge bonuses and the levels help by offering unique trick lines. These lines are environmental objects positioned in such a way that you can jump and grind around the levels. If you find yourself in a flat stretch with no stunt objects you can kick into a manual to chain the last trick with the next. The longer the chain the more points, but if you wipe out you lose everything you have earned in the current chain.
Control is pretty good with each of the buttons assigned to various trick modes and the right and left triggers handling the mid-air rotation or sharp turn skids. There were a few times when the rider would start to pinball off of walls and railings and I simply had to release all buttons and sticks until the bike came to a stop. For grinds and manuals you get the traditional bubble indicator to help you maintain your balance. The longer the grind or manual the more sensitive and impossible it becomes to hold the trick.
There are some multiplayer modes that may appeal to a few of you. These include Strip Challenge, Skillz, and Paintball. Skillz is a two-minute run where you simply compete for the most stunt points, while Paintball has you racing around collecting boomboxes before your opponent nails you. The Strip Challenge is perhaps the most interesting game where you perform stunts for high scores. Each time you beat a record your opponent loses an article of clothing. Again, this is the game character that strips, but I suppose you could start stripping in your living room. Just make sure you aren’t playing with a family member and preferably against somebody of the opposite sex.
The only thing I really haven’t covered is the Create-a-Rider. Those of you familiar with Aggressive Inline will already know what to expect, but for everyone else prepare yourself for one of the most in-depth character creation sessions in a video game. You can choose from male or female then pick body size and weight, then start dressing them from their Jockeys (or Victoria Secrets) all the way up to their jewelry, tattoos, hairstyles, and sunglasses. The possibilities are virtually endless. I spent nearly an hour creating my first rider then was totally freaked out when she looked exactly like Dawn, one of the Scores strippers, right down to her plaid schoolgirl pleated skirt, white shirt knotted in the middle, white knee socks and black shoes.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to play any of the other versions of BMX XXX I can’t imagine them looking any different. I’m guess that since this was a simultaneous release across all three systems that it was programmed for the lowest common denominator. While it doesn’t look “bad” there is nothing here that is impressive either. What looked good in Aggressive Inline now looks a bit dated.
Rider movement and tricks are excellent and smoothly animated with lifelike realism, but everything else in the game seems a bit cheap. The sauntering pimp and humping dogs in the park are regrettably some of the better animations in the first level. Most of the characters are simply too blocky and low-res to be convincing. Even with their bright colors and moderately detailed textures, everything just has a comic book feel to it.
I do need to mention the total lack of any blood in this game. The wrecks and spills in this game are equally as painful and realistic as those in Aggressive Inline, but we are no longer treated to blood splattered pavement and trails of red as you grind the pavement with your face. Perhaps there is some unspoken rule about blood and nudity in the same game.
The movies are of acceptable quality. The opening movie is really good showing lots of stunts and painful spills while the stripper videos are standard MPEG video. Each of the clips is 20-30 seconds and has some good music, but it all looks like amateur video shot by a customer with a camcorder.
The music in BMX XXX is your typical extreme sports fare ranging from rock, hip hop, and even a bit of punk. There is a good selection of music but with a game that will keep you busy for as long as this one does you will start hearing repeats all too soon. Fortunately, you can use your own custom soundtracks in this game, which gives this game a fresh new feel when you have exhausted the music content of the game. Unfortunately, there is one annoying bug in the custom soundtrack feature that is serious enough that you may decide not to use it. Whenever you do something in the game that stops the music (like interact with an NPC) the music jumps back to the first track in your play list. This only happens with custom soundtracks and I have no idea why. I fought this for a while by manually advancing the tracks through the options menu, but in the end I reverted back to the music that comes with the game.
Voices are absolutely hilarious. I was rolling on the floor the first time I heard Homeless Jones mumbling incoherently but he was being sub-titled (perhaps even translated) in perfect English. It reminded me of the scene in Airplane where the old lady has to translate “Jive” for the flight attendant. There are plenty of thick accents and loads of swearing. Kids playing this game around their mom had better put on their headphones when they approach the pimp.
Sound effects are merely average and consist mainly of grinding noises that vary based on the wood, tile, or concrete you happen to be grinding on. There is some ambient traffic noise or the occasional roar of the elevated trains in the Bronx, and plenty of other sounds suitable to each of the levels you are playing in.
BMX XXX will offer plenty of gameplay, especially if you don’t plan on using cheat codes to watch the strippers. After watching the videos I must confess that I’m glad I didn’t earn them. The requirements are just a bit too steep and the videos simply aren’t that good.
I’m guessing it would take the average gamer at least 40 hours to unlock everything in this game. It took me just under 8 hours to complete all the objectives in the Bronx and much of that time was simply finding the hidden jumps. Once you master the controls of the bike, learn the tricks, and figure out the big trick lines, you can whip through the remaining levels in just a few hours each.
The old adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” has never been truer. With all of the negative media coverage, scandals, stores refusing to sell the game, Sony demanding stripped down strippers, Acclaim will enjoy more sales than this title probably deserves. The target audience for BMX XXX is most likely the same group that is too young to buy it, and those of us old enough to slap down our ID at the software store would be better amused with a Playboy, movie rental, or even a trip to a real strip club.
If you are simply looking for a BMX game full of stunts and interesting levels then BMX XXX delivers, but so do titles like Gravity Games Bike and the new Toxic Grind game that combines BMX racing and stunts with futuristic adventure elements. BMX XXX offers a bit of adult flair, naughty humor, and enough nudity to stir up a good controversy, but does little to advance the genre or create an exceptional BMX experience.