Hold the front page! Microsoft have made a decent racing game, and tributes are flooding in from the world of interactive entertainment. An early version of Motocross Madness has been skulking in the corner of the office for some time, but the real deal has now been unreservedly promoted to centre stage. Nobody has had a bad word to say about it, crowding around the monitor with all the gusto usually reserved for one of Mallo's Cspecialist' websites. It's a thing of grace and beauty, and if we were Americans there would have been more Cwhooping and hollering' than in an episode of The Dukes Of Hazzard. In short, Motocross Madness is a good thing.
The decision to make it accelerator-only would appear to have been vindicated, as the game looks genuinely sensational, the graphics proving a match for any recent flight sim: dramatic skies, uncannily authentic tracks, extremely realistic shadows, motion-captured riders, particle effects, the works. It looks great. Following the template for game reviews, sound must now be mentioned, and this, unsurprisingly, is also great. It is the sound of motocross, and in the midst of a first-corner melee it's a frightening thing. The developers have clearly recorded the sound of motocross bikes and put it in the game. Obvious but effective. In the stadium events, there is also some cheering, which again is simply cheering. Clever stuff. There are also some odd ambient effects, seemingly involving distressed dogs.
Canine torture isn't really what it's about though, and Motocross Madness ably captures the excitement and adrenalin of this most perilous of sports. Physics isn't the most interesting of subjects, but this is what makes the game the success that it is. Utilising a unique rider/bike physics model, the rider's centre of gravity can be moved forwards, backwards or to either side, resulting in superior control, with all manner of airborne antics to be had. Air is crucial to the game, as due to the design of the majority of the courses this is where you spend a sizeable proportion of the time. Whereas grabbing phat air certainly impresses the viewers, it isn't necessarily a recipe for success. Probably more than in any other game, learning the courses is vital, as careering blindly off a rise at full speed often results in a messy accident. The key is to know how big the jumps are and to aim to land comfortably, thus establishing a steady rhythm. One mistake can have a knock-on effect, resulting in a lack of speed at a crucial time. It often goes horribly wrong, and you find yourself flying through the air with no prospect of safely reaching the other side of a huge ravine. This results in probably the most spectacular crash sequences seen in any bike game, with the rider being tossed around like a rag doll with extreme severity, even knocking the recent Redline Racer into a cocked hat, whatever that means. A fully adjustable camera view is far more than a cosmetic afterthought, and can be used to your benefit, the handy sky-cam enabling you to see any pending hazards, with the game played almost in a Micro Machines fashion. The chase cam is where the action is though, making you lurch around in your seat like a buffoon as you attempt to land a high-speed motorcycle from a great height.
Motocross is a difficult sport and, as in the real thing, getting away from the start quickly proves crucial, avoiding the inevitable carnage of the opening seconds. Should you experience the nightmare of a first-turn spillage though, your rider wisely assumes the foetal position until the rest of the field has circumnavigated his stricken body. The pressure of leading is tangible though, and the fear sets in when you hear the growl of approaching bikes behind you. When playing catch-up, you can often see your airborne opponents in the distance, and clods of earth are tossed into your path from their back wheels.
For anyone who has ever attempted actual motocross, the old magic soon comes flooding back and certain real-life tactics apply in this game, the developers clearly having done their homework. Motocross Madness is by no means a simulation though, and is more of an ultra realistic arcade game, providing an idealised version of the sport, whereby twatting your face on the handlebars results in no more than a few seconds delay, as opposed to a few hours in hospital. The game is by no means easy though, and hours of practice allied with extreme concentration are a must. It isn't the kind of game you can play while idly chatting. Motocross Madness is a lot of fun, and unless you don't like fun, it's a game you should seriously consider purchasing.
Download Motocross Madness
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Still need a good reason to buy a 3D accelerator card for your PC? Microsoft's Motocross Madness lets you do it in the dirt on stadium supercross tracks; in Baja checkpoint contests; and in awesome no-rules, free-roaming desert stunt courses. Everything's shaping up to be fantastic here--topnotch physics, detailed player models, excellent track construction, and a great sense of freedom. The game supports the new Freestyle Pro controller, which lets you lean into turns simply by tilting the gamepad. Multiplayer motocross matches make it even more fun, and a track editor completes the package. Off-road fans, don't dare miss this one.
Motocross maniacs now have a PC alternative to their dirtbikes. Microsoft's Motocross Madness delivers thrills for both racers and stunt riders--especially if they're using the right equipment.
Look Aren't Everything
Motocross Madness gives you a variety of racing choices, as well as first-rate tracks and an excellent-handling bike. MM includes everything from tough indoor Supercross and outdoor Nationals tracks to a teeth-rattling desert Baja track to outrageous stunt quarries that offer hours of replayable, air-grabbing fun.
But while MM is long on variety, it's short on graphical details. Even though the game requires a 3D accelerator, the textures and particle effects lack total realism. They're solid enough for this arcade-style romp, but you won't feel truly dusty after you wreck. The sound features buzzing motorbike engines and an appropriate hard-rock soundtrack that loops intelligently when you wipe out.
Get A Grip
Your choice of controller will have a lot to do with your enjoyment of Mo-tocross Madness. A game pad will do nicely, as will a joystick--and a force-feedback stick is better yet. However, if you really want to experience MM in style, you would do well to hook up with a free-motion controller, like the Sidewinder Free-style Pro: To steer and tilt your bike, all you need to do is tip the pad in the preferred direction. And this type of controller is particularly fun to use while racing through the stunt quaries: Pulling up to get air on a huge jump is as easy as getting out of bed.
Might As Well Jump
Adding a premium peripheral to Motocross Madness ups the price tag overall, but it also ups the Fun Factor. However you choose to play, though, Motocross Madness is a welcome leap tor racing enthusiasts.
- Clear as many jumps as you can on the tracks; that way you don't have to use up power getting over a succession of hills.
- You need to get a lot of air and hit the stunt button right away in the quarries. Wait even slightly and you'll be eating dirt.
- Resist the urge to land jumps on your back wheel--you'll bounce all over the place.
- While going into turns during track races, stay on your accelerator and brake slightly.
- You'll want to keep the camera directly behind you, but during close races the Reverse Cam proves useful.
- Work out your frustration if you're losing badly by taking out other riders with a well-timed bump.
Hop on, kick the start pedal and don’t fasten that seatbelt -- you’re about to do some incredible stunts and racing in vast, hilly, three-dimensional wasteland environments and supercross arenas. No, this is not your father’s Excitebike -- this is madness. Motocross Madness, to be exact.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Motocross Madness gives you the choice of four different types of competition. The first three are all track-style races. Baja is a sort of cross-country race in which you ride from checkpoint to checkpoint as quickly as possible. National races take place in a trench-like environment. Supercross is an arena-based track with lots of bumps and jumps. And last, but certainly not least, perform as many stunts as possible to earn points in the Stunt Quarry.
Control is rather unique compared to other motorcycle racing games I’ve played, as you not only control the balance of the bike, but also the rider’s balance. This adds a level of realism that is pretty much only paralleled by physically riding a bike. When you get air and try to land, make sure you level your bike properly, otherwise the word "dismount" quickly comes to mind (and body). Speaking of dismounting, the physics of the crashes are amazing and usually fun to watch (although I’m sure the computer bikers wouldn’t agree with me). In fact, they are so realistic that my friends and I find ourselves cringing and yelling "ouch" (and other words) whenever we eat it pretty bad. Mind you, this isn’t Mortal Kombat, so don’t expect limbs to go flying. You cannot die or damage the bike at all -- once you crash, you’ll be reset on the bike and ready to go as soon as you and the bike stop moving. I found this to take away a little from the amount of realism present, but hey -- you can’t have it all, now can you?
One other fun tidbit worth mentioning is if you can get to the edge of one of the outside courses, there is a little surprise that’ll send you back to the middle of the map. I found that steering the bike during some of these races, particularly during the National, tends to be a bit sensitive and may take a few minutes to get the hang of. Baja is your best place to start until you are comfortable controlling the bike, as you usually don’t have to turn much. The stunts, however, take a bit longer to get under control. There are sixteen different stunts that are all pretty neat to watch and perform. There is even a "stunt camera" that will show the stunt from a different angle when the stunt is executed. In general, the stunts are not hard to execute, but timing is crucial; otherwise, you’ll be kissing the dirt. The computer opponents are rather challenging -- they aren’t impossible to beat, but you’ll have your work cut out for you. The interface is very straightforward. Anyone who isn’t blind should be able to figure it out in no time. In fact, my copy had no written documentation and I figured it out.
Normally I wouldn’t include a section for this, but this game had enough of them to merit it. Upon loading the game, I received an error message about my video card not having the latest drivers and that they needed to be updated. I updated with the files on the CD (which turned out to be the same version I already had) and still got the same message. I then clicked on the "Start" button on the CD splash screen and got an "Access Denied" message that scrolls for about five seconds before it loaded the game. The animated splash screens from the game took up to three minutes to show (compared to the same Microsoft splash screen that takes maybe fifteen seconds on Age of Empires, Outwars and Monster Truck Madness 2). Fortunately, you can bypass this. Once the game finally loads, the largest problem of all comes into play: it tries to access my B: floppy drive for up to a minute before going to the next screen when I select something. I found if I completely disabled my B: drive, the problem went away. Since most people these days don’t even have a B: drive, this may not be a problem for you at all. During the actual gameplay, I had no problems at all except when I finished a Baja race, the game completely locked up. I have been told that there should be a patch for these problems soon.
Hmmm, how do I describe this in a word? Perhaps "realistic" will do. No, that’s not it -- maybe "fantastic?" No, possibly "stupendous?" Still not right; perhaps "Droolrific" will work. Oh well, I guess I can’t describe it in one word. This game requires a 3D card to play so if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to get one, this would be it. The terrains are quite vivid, which says a lot given that most of the playfields are pretty much wastelands. I found the shadows of the bikes caused by the low-lying sun to be really amazing. The bikes and the riders are clean, crisp and well done overall. This is especially noticeable when performing stunts and/or when crashing. In a nutshell, 3Dfx strikes again.
If you hate the sound of dirt bike engines roaring, I would suggest turning off your speakers. If you hate the sound of rock music, again, turn off the speakers. The rest of us will enjoy the sound of very realistic-sounding engines revving and tunes blaring. The effects of bikes in the background or when they pass you (or if you’re so good, vice versa) are very nice also. Occasionally an odd sound will be thrown in when selecting options in the menus. Also, that little surprise I mentioned earlier involves the sound of a shooting cannon and a bomb dropping.
Windows 95/98, 3D accelerator video card, Direct X 5.0, Pentium 133 MHz with 4 MB 3D video card or 166 MHz with 2 MB 3D video card, 16 MB RAM, 30 MB hard drive space (for minimum install, up to 405 MB for fuller installs), DirectSound API compatible sound card, 4X CD-ROM drive, mouse. Force Feedback joystick, game pad, or a compatible device is recommended
As this version is what’s called a Gold Master (which is supposed to be the same code as the full release), I received nothing more than a documentation leaflet that was more a spec sheet than anything else. For this reason, I cannot effectively comment on written documentation. I can say, however, that the game is intuitive enough that you really won’t need much documentation. I found all the info I needed for doing stunts by looking on the web. For you fanatics who NEED documentation or you’ll die, I’m sure some will be included in the final release.
I had originally planned on giving this game a 94, but due to (what I considered) the serious problems I encountered and that this is release code on the CD, I had to drop the score quite a bit. Please do not let this discourage you from considering purchasing it, though, as overall this is an absolutely wonderful game that will prove to be a lot of fun for everyone and especially for you dirt bike freaks when the cold, dark winter months roll around.