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Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:

Anytime Activision announces a new 'Pro-anything' game, thousands of gamers (this reviewer included) around the world tend to develop a certain, special tingling feeling. It's the anticipation of another Tony Hawk or something just like it that guarantees a few hundred hours of blissful gameplay on the horizon. Simply knowing that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is so close to our grasps, yet so far away, only fuels our desire for something to pass the time until it gets here. Enter Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2, or what some prefer to call 'Tony Hawk On A Bike 2'. Whatever name you have for it, it's on the Xbox and it's a blast.

Games this fun don't even need to look good, but Rainbow Studios did a hell of a job with the graphics nonetheless. This is one of the prettiest sports titles I've seen on any system, hands down. No, there aren't tons of breathtaking particle effects or lens flares everywhere (in fact, the water looks downright terrible and not much can be said about lighting), but the character models are extremely fluid, and the level designs are top notch. What else do you need, really? Nothing, that's what.

Now, although the game's sound effects are on par as usual -- peg grinds come off crystal clear, biker grunts are fairly realistic, etc. -- I really have problems with the soundtrack this time around. Extreme sports titles should bring rough, energetic tunes to match the intense action in-game, if you ask me. I was a fan of previous Tony Hawk soundtracks, and most of the tunes from the original Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX were perfectly fitting. Here, though, oomph-less songs like Iggy Pop's 'The Passenger' and Dislocated Styles' 'Unified' seem to drag the experience down, unavoidably to the point of using a custom soundtrack just to enjoy the game. Then again, a few glimmering gems can be found from LL Cool J ('Rock the Bells') and the Dub Pistols ('Official Chemical'), so perhaps there's something for everyone. Check it out for yourself before burning tracks from the 'ol CD collection.


Well, if you thought it was easy to rack up huge points in the first Mat Hoffman, now you can manual straight out of a vert trick and go into a plethora of all-new flatland moves to send the combo multiplier through the roof. If you don't really care about BMX sports and that last sentence didn't make too much sense to you, don't worry. Mat Hoffman 2 isn't the most complex sports title out there, but there's definitely plenty to keep anyone busy for a while.

Players get to choose from over 12 world renowned BMX masters on their cross-country trip to the championship, including Joe 'The Butcher' Kowalski, Rick 'T-Bird' Thorne, and the Condor himself, Mat Hoffman (duh). Clear enough objectives and you'll be able to visit new cities, like windy Chicago and our own beloved New Orleans! Of course, while not all of the levels could possibly be picture-perfect adaptations of their real life counterpart cities (since when did Vegas get that huge concrete pool in front of Ballah's casino?), each stage seems larger than life and comes loaded with cool secrets to uncover.

Gamers should enjoy cruising through levels in Session and Free Ride modes just to check out the scenery, whilst snatching up new bikes and map points in Road Trip, the game's pivotal single player mode. With two players, the same old Trick Attack and H.O.R.S.E. modes are still gratifying, but the brand new PUSH mode really changes the face of competition by giving players the ability to force their buddies' side of the screen away completely by busting out better and longer tricks. Thankfully, this mode is also featured in the recent Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer, or 'Tony Hawk On A Surfboard,' if you want to be stubborn about it.


Even if you're a hardcore, 'been-there-since-THPS1' veteran of Activision O2's extreme sports titles, Mat Hoffman 2 still requires its own adjustment period. It's not exactly a cakewalk when learning how to combo all sorts of tweaked flatland moves with Adrenaline tricks right off the bat, y'know. The addition of new player functions combined with the Xbox controller's clunky handling (well, clunky to some people, anyway) can make for a pretty sloppy learning curve with novices, but it's only a matter of time before gamers of any caliber can concoct a few 200,000-point combos of their own.

Of course, the level objectives can get pretty nasty later in the game. Breaking away from the traditional THPS formula, Mat Hoffman 2 presents goals in sets of four per skill degree -- 12 goals in each level -- and only awards points when a full tier is completed. In this manner, players are forced to buckle down and finish one area completely before unlocking a new city, unlike Tony Hawk's freestyle process of clearing tricks in any order to progress through the game. Also, replay value would suck if the programmers didn't throw in a few insanely difficult challenges in the top level Pro sessions, so you can count on pulling out some hair in frustration every now and then. All in good fun, though!

Game Mechanics:

As stated above, controls are very intuitive here, albeit potentially confusing to first timers. It can be tough to handle all of the game's new modifications with ease, but everything's where it should be, especially since the player mechanics are nearly identical to those of Tony Hawk at the most basic level. A few strange niggles poke out from time to time, though - namely, the tendency for Adrenaline tricks to come out only a fraction of the time when the correct motions are entered, and the annoying phenomenon of bailing for (seemingly) no reason. Sometimes a ramp will lead you to bailing because the bike automatically ends up perpendicular to the rail underneath it, triggering a wipeout even when trying to grind. This can get pretty irritating when you've only got a few seconds left to finish collecting voodoo dolls in New Orleans, only to have to start over because you bailed for reasons unexplained.

Regardless, Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 isn't perfect, but it'll do well to fill in the month between now and THPS4's imminent release. If you're just looking for a quick diversion with pick-up-and-play appeal, consider this a solid rent; if you're a trick freak who has to clear every objective with every character in this sort of game, just go ahead and buy it and get started today. You know you were planning on it anyway!

-Ben Monkey, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ben Lewis

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