Freekstyle has come quite a long way, and it's just about ready to hit shelves towards the end of the month. We've gotten a demo build of the game though, and from what we've played thus far, dirt bike and EA BIG fans are in for quite the ride.
The characters were excellently illustrated and are replete with subtleties, and they also feature tons of accessories, tattoos and, of course, loads of style. Each player also has a number of bikes to chose from, which are unlocked as progression in the game is made. These bikes likewise feature tons of detail and great shape and proportion.
The level we had the chance to explore in the demo was Monumental Motoplex, and Page 44's developmental geniuses show their goods very well in this department. Vast and lush, this level seemingly has no boundaries and is chock-full of huge ramps for some insane air sequences. In addition, we've finally seen some levels away from the ice -- that the SSXs and Sled Storm featured -- and they're quite impressive, with an immense size, vibrant colors, and tons of detail toward the backgrounds. In the end, Page 44 has added an excruciating amount of detail that results in a very good looking game.
The demo build let us play Single Race, though there are other modes in the final version, such as Circuit and Freeride. During Single Race, we were able to play with Mike Metzger, a rider filled with attitude and style, and we took our skills to the ‘Plex. Filled with jumps and turns, Monumental Motoplex is a pretty fun race that lasts roughly three to four minutes. Throughout that time, jumps were of the plenty, and the sky was the limit.
The mechanics found in Freekstyle are essentially the same as Sled Storm's. The four shoulder buttons execute the various tricks, and the flair and difficulty of the tricks will increase according to how many buttons are used for the trick. For instance, pressing R1 as you leave the ramp will initiate one of the simpler tricks, while holding a combination of two or three buttons will require more air and also raise your boost meter more.
As you pull off the tricks -- over 100 in all -- the boost meter at the bottom of the screen will increase accordingly. The bar on the right is yellowish-gray and shows how much boost you have. This meter will gradually disintegrate whenever you use the square button to give your rider a boost.
The meter on the left, however, has much more significance. This meter is more difficult to increase. But once you do, you'll have a certain amount of time to execute your rider's special, which is done by holding all four shoulder buttons as you leave a ramp. This trick, referred to as "Freekout Zone", is full of flair and makes for an awesome showing, and using the tweak button during your "Freekout Zone" trick will literally knock your socks off. In the middle of the air, the trick will freeze and the camera will pan closer to a side view, where it will then make a 360-degree rotation while your player's in that frozen stance. This Matrix-like touch came totally unexpected and looks simple amazing. That's still not all though, because once you land a tweaked-out special, your rider will go into a turbo-like state that makes him ride at a blistering pace, and this will increase your chances at a 1st place finish drastically.
The last part of the trick system -- that was briefly mentioned in the last paragraph -- is the tweak button, which works completely different and much better than the tweak move found in the SSX series. Amidst the air, you can press the tweak button during a trick, which will completely change the trick around. This linkage in tricks looks and feels perfect, and the animation of transition from one to the other moves with perfect fluidity. All in all, the game's controls feel smooth and tight, and they're very responsive, making the game easy to steer. Furthermore, executing jaw-dropping maneuvers is a snap.
Dirt bike fans have never seen anything this fun and extreme, nothing! The off-the-edge and over-the-wall type feel has been instilled into yet another sport from the good folks at Page 44 Studios, with EA BIG running the project. While the overall feel is somewhat like SSX Tricky, Freekstyle is a solid, fun, and inspired game that oozes fun all over. Stay tuned for the full review later this month.
6/7/2002 Joseph Comunale