Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 Review
It's been quite the wait for Activision's sequel to Mat Hoffman. The game was announced quite some time ago, but it has finally come around and is ready to boot on your Playstation 2. Developed by Rainbow Studious, famed developers of PC titles Motocross Madness 1 & 2, the ever popular Playstation 2 title ATV: Offroad Fury, and the recent Star Wars: Racer Revenge for PS2, tackling an extreme sports title for the group is obviously an easy task now. The group, now owned by THQ, has done a great altogether job with Mat Hoffman 2. It retains the feeling of the original, but it still feels like a breath of fresh air. And while the BMX market has been less than competitive (let's face it, Gravity Games was atrocious) thus far, one thing's certain; Acclaim's PS2 Dave Mirra BMX title has met it's match. Originally released last Summer, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 was an excellent, fun, and all around worthy extreme sports title that had a ton of replay value, a great soundtrack, and great game physics. To this day I find myself going back and playing the game, whenever I'm in need of a quick BMX fix, and I'm almost positive I'll be doing the same with Mat Hoffman 2.
Aesthetically, Mat Hoffman 2 features some excellent scenery that is void of any draw-in or pop-issues. You can see anything, and everything around you no matter how far it is. The game runs as smooth as silk, and that is quite common among Rainbow Studios titles, as they are able to make all of their code scream at 60 frames per second. ATV: Offroad Fury was the first title to demonstrate not only their knack of making a perfect frame rate, but it was one of the first games, if not the first, with a completely open terrain with absolutely no draw-in, and that trait has been carried over to Mat Hoffman 2, because some of the stages are quite large and require exploration. Being large, the stages are also superbly detailed, and are topped off with good looking textures that dress up the environments to make them look more appealing and convincing. The BMX bikes look pretty good. They are well done, and pretty accurate as far their real-life counterparts go. The BMX riders look decent, but are a bit on the somewhat blocky side. They a little squared in comparison to Dave Mirra's incredibly well done riders. But nevertheless, as a whole Mat Hoffman 2 is a very good looking next-generation title. It's large, detailed, plays smooth, and is completely barren of the once common jaggy and shimmer.
Playing the game is a lot like playing the first, but it still feels a bit different. Those who felt the first was a bit stiff, or was missing a certain something, should feel rest assured and surely try out the second as it is bound to entice. The Road Trip (career mode) is huge, and unfolds in this documentary like fashion where for every time you enter and complete a stage you are given a new video of your rider. But it doesn't just show him on a vert pipe or street doing tricks. It also shows interviews of his friends, and what they think about the him. Naturally, I went through my Road Trip with Mat Hoffman, and some of the videos showed Mat just going all out on a half-pipe, another showed him talking to the god of skateboarding, Mr. Tony Hawk, and another showed a good friend of The Condor's speaking of him in high regards. It's all very varied, unique, and never dull or boring. So throughout your career, you're not just striving to win that one video at the end, but you're shooting to get that stage completion video which is just an uber idea and I'm glad Rainbow Studios put a cool little twist like that. As far as stage objectives are concerned, they are very much like those found in Dave Mirra 2, excluding the extreme difficulty of some of the last. You have to accomplish various objectives based on the difficulty rating in which they are based on. For example, starting off on a new stage you will be given an 'easy' list of objectives to complete. Once completed, you will then move on to the intermediate and more difficult objectives. Obviously, it's a departure from Tony Hawk's "do these 10 similar objectives through every stage and move on" facet. Lastly, for those wondering, unlike the upcoming Tony Hawk 4, and the current Aggressive Inline, Mat Hoffman 2 still possesses the 2 minute timer in the Road Trip mode, but in Single Session that can be altered to 10 minutes. So yes, you're timed at all times.
Career mode aside, Mat Hoffman 2 features an attractive bevy of play modes, the most appealing of which are found in the 2-player mode. If you loved the 2-player matches in the first, and loved them in Tony Hawk 1-3, you'll fall head over heels for the modes in Mat Hoffman 2, as they include Joust, Treasure Hunt, Tag, Trick Attack, Graffiti, HORSE, and PUSH. The casual modes such as Single Session and Free Ride are also available for those who are looking for either a quick fix, or spend some time practicing with the game. The game's depth doesn't stop there. Rainbow Studios has created an intricate trick system that allows all tricks to be tweaked and altered so that the in the end it results to dozens of new tricks, and hundreds of new possible combo lines. Mat Hoffman 2 is also the only BMX title to feature kick ass flatland tricks like the backpacker, eggbeater, whiplash and hitchhiker. In addition to the 8 given courses, you can utilize the in-game Course Editor and create your very own BMX course, complete with the works including rails, fun boxes, ramps, and dozens upon dozens of other course toys. Lastly, Mat Hoffman 2 features a feature called the Photo Scrapbook. The Scrapbook is a collection of your best tricks, lines, and etc that you yourself took a picture of and saved. So if you went all out and pulled off a one million-point string, take a pic of the final results and save it onto the memory card to show off your friends, or your pet gerbil, what have you. As a whole, there is very little to complain about Mat Hoffman 2. An online mode, a'la Tony Hawk 3 would've been awesome, but we'll probably have to wait until the next title, whenever that'll be. As it stands, Mat Hoffman 2 is arguably the finest BMX title on the market. If you're a fan, don't miss it.
The aural presentation in MH2 is done well to say the least. The soundtrack isn't quite as incredible as it was in the first one, but it does the job and does it well, excluding one painfully bad audio track by Suicidal Tendencies. "Institutionalized" is the name, and god knows why it was even chosen to be put into the soundtrack. It's certainly one of the worst choices in a game soundtrack thus far, but thankfully the rest of the line up, such as N.E.R.D's "Rockstar", Iggy Pop's "The Passenger", Dub Pistols' "Official Chemical", Crazy Town's "Toxic" and Swollen Members' "Fuel Injected (among others), make up for it. The soundtrack is well done, and my only qualm is with the Suicidal Tendencies track, and it's really times like this I wish the PS2 had the custom soundtrack option, a'la Xbox. But thankfully, there's a playlist editor that allows me to remove a track from rotation. The rest of the sound effects are the generic sounds you'd normally hear, coupled with some pretty good sounds of ambience.
Much like the first, the controls are nearly identical with the exclusion of flatland tricks being added. Controlling a rider's actions is just as it was in the 1st, but that's only when pulling off tricks and grinds. You can use either the analog or digital in the game. My personal preference is digital, since it's a bit more spot on, and not as loose as the analog controls, which take some dedication to master. Pound for pound, the controls are solid and should not disappoint or turn off anybody who's accustomed to the O2 line up of extreme sports titles.
All in all, Mat Hoffman 2 has been worth the wait. It's an excellent BMX title with a ton of depth, fun, and great atmosphere, which largely contributed by the Road Trip mode. Had it not been for the wonderfully done Road Trip mode, Mat Hoffman 2 would've just been another extreme sports title. But after going through Road Trip, I, as the gamer, got a good feel as to what the BMX athletes go through while on tour. Like I stated, it's almost documentary like, and the presentation values are top-notch, all career modes should be this good. Visually, the game looks great, and doesn't feature any noticeable flaws that need to be pointed out. The animation is top-notch, as is the draw-in distance and frame rate. And while there is one song that plagues the soundtrack, it's a great compilation of songs nevertheless. Mat Hoffman 2 should be on shelves by the time you read this, so go on and run down to your local retailer and fork over the cash for this superb BMX title. If you're a fan, you surely won't regret it.
8/12/2002 Arnold Katayev