Review: MTX: Mototrax (XB)

Game: MTX: Mototrax
System: Microsoft X-Box
Genre: Extreme Sports / Motorcycles
Developer: Left-Field Productions
Publisher: Activision
Released: 3/2/04

Activision managed to capture lightning in a jar in regards to the Tony Hawk series. The easy control scheme and fun gameplay managed to capture the hearts of MILLIONS of closet “extreme sport” followers, and managed to SELL millions in the process.

Ever since then, Activision has been milking extreme sports for all they’re worth.

Biking. Surfing. Snowboarding. Wakeboarding. And probably a few others I’m forgetting as well. Activision tried to capitalize on the “extreme sports” formula by offering a SLEW of titles that WEREN’T skateboarding, but with Tony Hawk-esque controls. Really, there seemed
to be a never-ending stream of them. Not only from Activision, but from other companies like Konami who were hell-bent on competing with them. And not surprisingly, the titles that tried to emulate Tony Hawk (skateboarding and non-skateboarding) failed to capture the same magic.

Of course, this didn’t stop Activision from trying again.

Now we come to MTX: Mototrax, a new extreme sports title based on motorcycle racing and tricks. Now we’ve seen this formula before: a game tries to emulate the awesome play of Tony Hawk, and ends up as close to fecal matter as it can in the process. But is this game any different? Read on in this OFFICIAL 411GAMES REVIEW to find out.

STORY

Is there a super-flashy story to complement your skills on a motorbike? Well, no, but there’s a Career Mode. That fills out the story category nicely.

To begin with, you’ll need to create your character. Creation is pretty basic, as you need to name him (No “hers”, by the way), pick out his face from a bunch of pre-determined faces, and dress him the way you see fit. The good news is that you can customize two different outfits for him: his racing uniform, and his casual, freestyle attire. The bad news is that customization is severely limited, especially compared to other extreme sports games. You’ll only have a few choices to go with, as 80% of the clothing/riding gear is locked (and will probably STAY locked for a long period of time).

Once you have your racer finished, you are sent to your trusty “PDA”, where you can view messages from all those who want to contact you. To begin with, however, is the leader of a fledgling biker team you’ve joined. Since you’re a rookie, it’s your job to win races and perform various tasks in order to excel in the motocross sport.

Now here’s where things get interesting: your career can go one of two different directions at this point: you can either race in officially sanctioned Motocross and Supercross races, or you can practice your freestyle skills and tricks Tony Hawk style. Both modes are incredibly different, and will offer you different rewards as you progress through each.

So, after you pull a quarter out of your pocket and flip it, you find it lands on Heads, which you designated as Motocross/Supercross racing. Your goal here is to (obviously) win every event you sign up for. There are two categories of races to go through: Motocross (tracks that are outdoors), and Supercross (tracks that are indoors). Both contain four races, and your places translate into scores. The one with the highest score after four races wins the whole thing. The only real difference between the two is the fact that Supercross races have one more lap than Motocross races, and Motocross races are longer. Other than that, you’ll find the same twists and turns as with any course.

Now, the better you do in these races, the more money you’ll receive from your team. You’ll get paid according to three categories: (1) Whether you made the “holes hot” or not (Get your mind out of the gutter! PERVERTS!), (2) How well you did in the race, and (3) Money from your sponsors.

Sponsors? How the hell do you get them? Well, as it turns out, winning races means you are one HOT COMMODITY in the racing world. So much so that various companies such as Puma will pay YOU to wear their stuff out on the raceways! The catch is that you have to buy these clothes yourself. Once you make a deal with the sponsor, their clothes become unlocked in the customization menu, and you have to purchase them for ungodly sums of money. Yes, this is the ONLY reason you get paid: to buy a sponsor’s clothing to wear in the races, and earn a minimal return on your investment. And the sad thing is that the many, many sponsors included in the game will contact you ONE AT A TIME. So unlocking sponsors is going to be VERY time consuming and hardly worth the effort.

You’ll also be given the option to switch racing teams from time to time. This will give you access to different model bikes. And I hate to say it, but you’re only as good as your racing team. If you decide to switch teams, and they have crappy bikes, you won’t be able to change back. I made this mistake MANY times, and I’ve suffered each time for it.

All in all, it’s kinda cool to see Activision try a simulation mode such as this in an “extreme sports” title. It has an interesting execution to it, but the whole sponsor/team deals I’m involved in are rather confusing.

Okay, now lets hypothesize that the quarter from earlier landed on Tails, or the “Freestyle” section. Now you get to play Tony Hawk, only with Motorcycles!

Freestyle stages are always two parts. The first part involves you practicing your skills in a remote location with lots of space to try things out. If you’ve played THPS4 before, you’ll be familiar with the level set-up. You ride around in your bike until you come across a guy who will give you a task. These tasks can range anywhere from racing, to trick performing, to whatever else they can come up with. Each of these items will earn you points. Collecting 50,000 points in a given stage will allow you to go to the Freestyle Competition associated with that level.

But in order to succeed in the competition, you’re going to need to know tricks, right? Right. Luckily, each level will give you the opportunity to learn TONS of tricks. You can learn these tricks through specific missions, or by secret spots that will tell you exactly what trick to perform. However you learn them, you’ll have to successfully perform them once in order to keep them in your line-up. The cool thing is that there are over 100 tricks, and each one has its own button combination. There’s no need to switch between tricks here!

The second parts of the Freestyle levels, as mentioned, are the actual competitions. these are split up into four parts: (1) Bust through hoops, (2) Perform all the tricks listed, (3) Win the Competition, and (4) Complete all tricks in order and where they tell you. Yes, there are four competitions set up EXACTLY like this, with no deviations other than what tricks you have to perform.

You’ll need to complete BOTH career paths in order to finish Career Mode. This could present a problem. Why? Well, since both career paths are INCREDIBLY different from one another, adjusting could be harder than you think. You could really be getting into a groove with the free and open feeling of Freestyle, only to insert yourself into the cramped, rigid world of racing when you finish. It’s really not that fair. Granted you need to be the best of both worlds, but some similarities should have been included to ease the transition more.

Story: 7/10


GRAPHICS

I’ll just come out and say that the graphics are beautiful for the most part. There’s really no creative introduction I could give in order to do them justice, so I’ll just skip to descriptions, if you don’t mind.

First up are the environments. The worlds you tear the dirt up on are HUGE, especially with the Freestyle areas. You are treated with expansive, realistic areas in lush forests, gritty dirt areas, and even a mountain-pass construction site. All these areas are richly detailed, and a pleasure to ride in. Unfortunately, they aren’t perfect. Why? Well, once I was joyriding around a level, crashed up, and my racer FELL THROUGH THE WORLD! I just passed through the ground and kept falling. The camera even paned up to see the environment, now a floating island, getting farther and farther away. Granted this happened only once, but it still happened, and that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.

Then we have the people. The character models look…really less than stellar. The faces don’t move, and in fact look really bland. The bodies will repeat the same animations over and over and over again. I guess we know where the lion’s share of Activision’s budget went in the extreme games department, eh?

Then we come to the camera. For the most part, the camera does a good job following around the rider, and only shifts position slightly when you are attempting tricks or performing wheelies. Problems do come when you are negotiating sharp turns (the camera has a hard time of catching up to you.), but those are only problems you’ll encounter there.

Graphics: 8/10


SOUND

Hey, and extreme sports game! You know what that means: LICENSED MUSIC UP THE WAZOO! You like Slipknot? GREAT! They’re all over this thing! You like generic-sounding rap and punk music? GREAT! That fills up the rest of the music! And to be brutally honest, outside of the exclusive Slipknot track, I can take or leave the music. I’ve heard better licensed arrangements before.

The voices are terrible. Simply terrible. Unlike the masterful voice jobs done in THUG, the voices here are completely devoid of emotion, and really sound tacked on. Hearing “Great-job. You-won-some-of-my-cash.” with all the passion of a block of wood is just annoying. This could have been a hell of a lot better.
<Sound: 5/10


CONTROL

Like the two career paths, the controls can be split into two categories as well. For the Racing levels, you’ll need to know these by heart: the R-Trigger to accelerate, the L-Trigger for the clutch, X for the brake, and either Down or A to build tension. The clutch will slow you down when coming into turns, as well as give you a slight speed boost once you let go. Holding down the Tension button and letting it go will allow you to jump higher and farther, giving you more of an advantage on areas with lots of hills.

With that said, I found it a bit difficult to turn. Either holding the clutch OR the brake provides you with major disadvantages when it comes to turns. The clutch seemingly won’t slow you down enough, make you take the turn wide and crash into whatever obstacle you’re trying to avoid. Using the break will slow you down better, but it will take forever to build your speed up again, allowing people to pass you at will. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to catch up to people on the straight-aways.

Over on the Freestyle areas, you’ll need to know a few more buttons, pressing a combination of B, Y, and direction buttons in while in the air or coming off a ramp will allow you to perform tricks. As said above, there are over 100 tricks to learn, and you can perform them ALL without any modifications. However, there does seem to be a distinct delay between button presses and on-screen tricks. I remember many, many, MANY times wanting to do the trick assigned to Up, Up, Up, B, B, but instead having the game register as little as two of these buttons. Plus with the delay, I have to time my presses just so in order to avoid crashing too early. It’s a royal pain in the butt to be sure.

Control: 6/10


REPLAY VALUE

You’ll most likely be coming back for the Freestyle levels, and the Freestyle levels only. The Supercross and Motorcross races are okay, but hardly worth the time and effort to play through over and over again. Besides, all you unlock that way CLOTHING. Do you really want to go through Career Mode over and over again to unlock CLOTHING???

You’ll also be able to unlock hidden riders, and other various things after completing the entire Career Mode. But really, these items are worth very little. And unless you’re a Slipknot fan, there really isn’t that much to come back for.

Replay Value: 5/10


BALANCE

Welcome to “A Tale Of Two Bike Games”, by Activision and Left-Field Productions. For today’s story, we’ll look at a story of danger! A story of heroism! A story of two, completely different games awkwardly merged into one!

The first game went by the name of Freestyle, and he was easy-going lot. He wandered far, far, far into the countryside, performing tricks along the way. He lived a carefree life, not bound by the rules and restrictions of man. He would perform errands, enter competitions, and other such tasks while asking only for points in return. And he had an easy time of it. And had fun while doing it.

The other game called himself “Racing”, and BOY did he have a temper. He lived his life by a strict code, only traveling roads that that were pre-determined for him. And he wasn’t alone either. On any given day, he would have to battle for the right to walk on these roads with seven other contenders. He would constantly push himself to go that extra mile, only to have his hopes dashed as others overpowered him. With ease. Over and over again. No matter WHAT skill level he competed against. Because of this, he grew bitter. His constant struggle left him battered, bruised, and without any self-esteem.

The moral of this story? Don’t load up all your difficulty on one portion while giving players a practically free ride on the other.

Balance: 6/10


ORIGINALITY

The game is THPS, only with motorcycles and Motocross superstars. The formula for the Freestyle portion is BEGGING to be compared to Tony Hawk in some way, shape, or form. And truth be told, they are nearly exactly alike. You reach goals, you enter competitions, you earn money, you learn new tricks, etc, etc, etc. Why do I have the feeling like I played this before, only on a skateboard?

The originality comes from the racing levels. While other games replicate motorcycle racing, I haven’t seen too many “extreme sports” titles try such a simulation route before. Maybe I’m just overlooking other titles at the moment, but including racing levels does lift the score a bit.

Originality: 5/10


ADDICTIVENESS

I’ll say that the game DOES have some addicting qualities. The Career Mode will have you coming back a few times, if only for the Freestyle portions. For those with X-Box Live, there’s also the ability to race your friends, or compete in Freestyle arenas. So most will find a reason to stay with the game for at least a week. After that, it’ll be very hard to even look at it for a while.

Addictiveness: 5/10


APPEAL FACTOR

You know, I think I’ve seen a commercial for this game! You know, the one with the intern and helicopter…oh wait, that’s MX Unleashed. In fact, I’ve seen commercials for MX Unleashed every night for the past three weeks now on varying channels. And I’m sure that somewhere in there, there were a couple of MTX: Mototrax commercials. But I can’t be sure. And if there WERE, ads for the OTHER motorcycle-racing game outnumbered ads for this game 10-to-1.

So, thanks to these ads, buyers know there’s at least ONE motorcycle game out there. Maybe they’ll get confused at their local retailers and pick the wrong one? Or so Activision hopes?

Appeal Factor: 4/10


MISCELLANEOUS

You know, there’s really not much else to say here. I’ve already described the modes, the music, the worlds, the extras, the Live play…there’s nothing else to say really, except that the fusion of two worlds really don’t go together that well.

What we have here is a racing game and a freestyle game meshed into one, with the same controls programmed for each. And to be blunt, it doesn’t work all that well. Players will either gravitate to either one of the two sides, without really giving a crap about the one they don’t play. Yet the still have to go through it in order to complete the game. I don’t like it, and I quite sure that others won’t like it as well.

Miscellaneous: 5/10

THE SCORES

Story: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 5/10
Control: 6/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal Factor: 4/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
TOTAL: 56/100 411 Score: 55