MTX Mototrax Review
Due to the success of the Tony Hawk series, extreme sports have become go-to titles when a company wants to make a little bit of money and earn some street cred. The process is simple: find a niche sport, get the best guy to be your coverboy, put together a hard rock soundtrack, and then incorporate as many Tony Hawk gaming elements as possible. MTX Mototrax, developed by the people responsible for Excitebike 64, does have many of the standard elements to it, but its bevy of play options and overall strong gameplay make it a solid racing game.
Most of MTX's gameplay is found in the requisite career mode. You can give your rider a name, customize his gear, change his uniform, and even throw a last name on the jersey. Once your rider is complete, you are introduced to your new team, which is an up and coming group that has signed you for your talent and potential. After completing a brief training session at Travis Pastrana (He's the most popular racer these days) you can choose to race in either a motocross or supercross series. Motocross tracks are large, outdoor tracks, and supercross tracks are smaller, indoor courses with plenty of tight turns and bunched up action. Each series consists of four races, and the final results are tallied using a points system. If you win the series, you get kudos from your team, a new bike, and even a trophy ceremony, complete with a trophy and a buxom, bikini-clad woman.
You can also pick up sponsors based on your success on the track, not only based on wins, but also the style you exhibit while winning. One of the neat things about having a sponsor is that they really want you to wear their gear, but you don't have to if you don't want to. You'll get an email from them saying how they know it's up to you what you want to wear, and they respect that, but also that they don't get much out of the sponsorship if you don't sport their logo. It doesn't do much for gameplay, but it's a cool way of adding to the realistic feel of the racing series.If running laps isn't your thing, MTX has a solid trick system that should tickle your fancy. The basic tricks are easy to pull of, and as you would expect, they become more difficult to pull off the more complex the trick. Some of the tricks must be completed before you jump, something which isn't shown to you in the trick book. This can lead to many frustrating attempts at the same trick over and over again. You start out in a free ride mode at Pastrana's house, where much like in Tony Hawk, you come across people offering you challenges. These range from winning a race, to completing certain jumps, or mastering the art of the wheelie. After you earn enough points on the free ride levels, you can then participate in freestyle events, where you try to string together combos to earn the highest score.
Your progress in career mode is tracked via a PDA. Your team owner, as well as sponsors and the league will communicate through email, letting you know what they think of your progress, or lack thereof. In your PDA menu, you can also make changes to your uniform, select a new bike, and view upcoming races. It's nothing fancy, but it's a neat way of breaking up the menu system into something interesting.
Last but not least, Mototrax supports online play for dial up as well as broadband. Two players can go head to head via a modem, and as many as four people can compete if you've got a high-speed connection. There are three game modes from which to choose: race, king of the hill, and freestyle battle. All of the modes are fun to play, and the heavy stat tracking online keeps you coming back for more.
MTX Mototrax graphics, while not visually stunning, are technically well done. The courses are creative, well designed, and the game also has very bright and vibrant colors. These intense colors are particularly striking on any of the outdoor levels with trees - it's like a fall drive through the mountains with all of the different colors. The game also provides a good sense of speed, and the framerate is fast, and very solid. The racers aren't especially detailed, but they do show dirt on their uniforms if they bail during a race. Again, the graphics aren't going to blow you away, but they get the job done.
Other than screaming, high-pitched bikes, there's not a whole lot else you expect to hear in a motocross game. The game's soundtrack is what you've come to expect from Activision and includes artists like: Disturbed, Dope, Faith No More, Metallica, and even a new track from Slipknot. It's a pretty hard soundtrack and not for everyone, but if you're into hard rock, then you'll dig the tunes. When in the free run areas, the riders that give you challenges are unfortunately reminiscent of the wooden voice acting in T.H.U.G. Most of them sound like they're attending a funeral they're so lethargic, and some of the things they say when you fail a task just don't make a whole lot of sense.
In the end, MTX Mototrax is a solid, but unspectacular game. It's not that it's a bad game, but it doesn't really break any new ground, and it doesn't do any one thing particularly well. If you're a fan of the genre or curious about what you've just read, it's worth a rental, but it doesn't have enough mainstream appeal to draw the interest of casual gamers.
5/8/2004 Aaron Thomas