Championship Motocross: Featuring Ricky Carmichael
Thirty pro-riders, career mode and create-a-rider modes, a combo system, signature moves and tricks for each rider, plus the ability to play as three-time AMA champion Ricky Carmichael add up to a whole pile of reasons you may want to inspect THQ's latest dirt-track game. Funcom is back in the driver's seat for this one, and they have retained the use of their smooth graphics engine and realistic physics model, along with a nice game engine that simulates the highs, lows and bumps and jumps of motocross racing so well. CMFRC is scheduled to collide with the PS2 launch, right at the end of October.
Download Championship Motocross: Featuring Ricky Carmichael
Up until now, motorbike-racing games are one of the few types of games that have not been hit by every developer. Your choices have really been limited to Moto Racer 2, Jeremy McGrath Supercross 98, or VMX Racing. Moto Racer is a good game but the other two were not the most impressive. Thankfully, you can forget any of these other titles because Championship Motocross blows them all away. This is, hands down, the best dirt bike racing game on the system to date.
Championship Motocross is endorsed by racing stud Ricky Carmichael who has allegedly spent a lot of time with the developers on this game making sure that it was realistic and fun to play. Okay, I have heard that a ton of times in the past but this time it has actually been successful. The game boasts what they are calling a proprietary "Real Motocross Dynamics" system, which gives the game realistic physics. You can test out these physics on nine different bikes, 12 tracks, and varying weather conditions. If you can think of it, you can pretty much bet it is in the game.
In the next month, both EA Sports and 989 Sports are set to release their take on the whole Motocross scene. Before playing this game, I would have thought that it had would have been the worst of the three just because of the huge budgets the other two developers get to work under. Not knocking THQ and Fun Com, but it can be tough trying to compete with the big boys. Well, I have news for these big boys. The bar has just been raised so I hope they are prepared to compete.
So lets get to it. The game features a number of different gameplay modes. Everything here is pretty standard stuff. You can race head to head with a friend, time attack, or practice on the tracks you have opened up. Like I said, this is all pretty vanilla stuff but I just wanted to make a quick note on the two player game. It plays quite smooth so if you enjoy racing against your buddy, no problem here.
The real meat and potatoes of the game is the championship mode. This is where you will spend most of your time. When you start the game, only the 125cc class is open to you. You have to race through the 125cc class and win the championship before you can move on to the 250cc class. If you win the 250cc championship you move up to the 500cc and then the unlimited class. Sounds easy enough, right? Hardly.
One of the things that makes this game so good is the challenge it offers. I can normally master racing games pretty quick. After a few races, I figure out the tricks and nuances of the game and end up kicking the crap out of the computer controlled racers. I figured it would be the same in this game but I was mistaken. It took me forever to win the 125cc championship which is the first you can play. It only got more challenging from there. There is a fine line between making a game so difficult that it feels unfair and making a game that pushes you to ply your best and awarding you with victory. This game falls into the second category. Okay, I will admit that there were times when I was frustrated but I was more frustrated with myself for making the wrong move instead of at the game.
You are not sent out there to the racetrack without the opportunity to pick a bike and even make some custom tweaks to up your chances of winning. They did a great job of giving you just enough customization without it becoming overwhelming. First, you can choose a bike that ranges from lighter with better handling but has less top speed, a bike that is middle of the road in weight and top speed or a heavy bike with a higher top speed. The bike you choose really makes a difference to the handling so pick carefully. Once you have your bike picked out, you can make minor customizations to it to suit the current track. You can change your exhaust, sprockets, tires, suspension, and brakes. You only have three options to choose from in each category and you get a nice description of what each setting effects. This was just really well done.
So now that you have picked your bike and customized it to your liking, it is off to the first track. I want to take a minute and talk about the tracks in this game. I think they did a great job of designing them. There was a terrific mix of jumps, turns, racing surfaces, and obstacles. There were both indoor and outdoor tracks with varying weather conditions that actually had an effect on the tracks and the handling of the bikes. There were only a couple of tracks that I did not like but they were the ones that I usually sucked at so I had a reason not to like them (what I am trying to say is that it might not have been the tracks that were the problem).
At this point of gameplay, I am ready to race. I start out up on the line with seven other racers and the flag drops. Everyone screams off the line ahead of me. For some reason, I never got off the line as fast as the computer bikes. Anyway, I hit the first turn and slid around the corner and a big smile comes to my face. Smooth and responsive. By the time I finish the first lap, the smile has turned into outward joy at how the bikes handle. Everything is fast, fluid and responsive. The first thing I learned was that the power slide button was essential for making corners so I made it my mission to learn how to use the power slides most effectively. The second thing that became apparent to me was that the key to success in this game was learning how to corner correctly. Anybody can haul ass down a straightaway but the races were won and lost in the cornering. I just can't stress the importance of cornering enough because since the races are all so tight, the difference between first place and sixth place could be one bad corner.
The last thing that I liked about the game were the tricks that could be pulled off. I almost forgot to mention them because I used them very sparingly since the races are so competitive -- I never really had much of a lead, so I did not want to jeopardize my position by crashing after attempting a stupid trick. Anyway, if you want to pull off some sweet tricks, I suggest you play in practice mode. The trick system is very simple and some of them are just a riot. I suggest playing around with them and seeing if you can pull them all off.
I really only have one gripe with this game and it has to do with the collision detection. There was a lot of bumping that would happen between the racers and I was never knocked over by another racer but I would always knock the other guy off his bike. Why am I complaining? It just made it a little less realistic for me. I guess that due to the difficulty level of the game, they decided that that would push it over the line of challenging to insanely difficult but I would have rather had them tone back the difficulty level and even out the in-race strategy.
This game is one of the few games that still makes me feel that the PSX still has a little life left. Okay, it definitely does not have the details of other systems and if you really look at things, you can see they are all pixels but when you are racing, you do not even notice it. The riders and the bikes all look great. On muddy courses, the bikes and riders will get covered in mud. The riders' animations look cool. For example, they put a foot down going around corners as the bike slides out. When pulling off tricks, the animations also look great. I think they did a great job getting the best out of the system they were working on.
This is the best motorcycle racing game on the system. I am very impressed with just about every aspect of the game. It is tough but not insanely tough. You will be playing this game for quite a while before you finish it which is a good thing in my eyes. There is just enough customization to give you control things that you will feel part of the game but it is not overwhelming. I recommend this game to both racing fans and non-racing fans alike.