One of the most original Motocross games was the original Excitebike for the NES.  While the game was very simplistic, the feeling of your bike flying through the air, and then crashing to the ground with your rider tumbling head over heels, was priceless.  Since then, other motocross games have tried to capture that same feeling.  MTX: Mototrax is the latest title to stand out in the motocross crowd.  Can MTX compete with other motocross titles, such as the recently released MX Unleashed, or does it crash and tumble like the Excitebike rider?


When I loaded the game, I watched the intro.  The first time I load a game I always watch the intro to see what effort they put into it.  I watched…and watched…and watched.  Some exciting video shots from races and freestyle tricks were included, but it lasted WAY TOO LONG.  I want to see the intro and get into the game.

MTX does have some features going for it.  The motocross and supercross sections look pretty good.  While riding, dirt will spew up from the back of the bike.  During certain tricks, the camera will move to the side to give a better view of the trick.  The uniform will show dirt accumulated from spills or as races go on.  After going around a corner after holding the clutch to get extra speed, the blurring effect is a nice touch to get a sensation of speed.  However, there have been times when other drivers are hard to see, and I’ve run into them sometimes because I couldn’t see them.


Unfortunately, MTX has plenty of problems in the graphics department.  Some clipping issues arise at times during races.  The character models and objects are blocky.  The textures are muddy (which you’d think would be a good thing in a motocross game).  The forest trees look like walls with a tree bitmap painted on them.  Crashing through a glass obstacle will cause the glass to shatter, but it looks more like a bunch of big triangles than glass.  The arena audience looks static, but I don’t know of a game that has perfected a stadium audience yet.


I was probably most put off by one of the free ride levels.  One of the challenges in that area is to jump your bike across some docks and land on a pier at the end.  Of course, these things are in water.  However, the docks don’t move in the water.  The water is perfectly still.  What’s even worse is that there is no splash when crashing into the water.  Instead, it looks as if the biker goes through the water’s plane of the water and flops around like a fish out of water, IN the water.  If the bike accidentally (or intentionally) goes into the water, the bike is just reset to a nearby location.

The sound during the motocross and supercross is done well.  The bikes will rev up when the clutch kicks in, but they aren’t very loud.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between engines.  The ingame music has a good feel and is actually drivable.


Unfortunately, the Free Ride section really sinks the score.  The voice acting is abysmal.  When a character makes the comment that the trick was “killer,” it sounds like a guy with a California valley girl accent.  During a swamp level in the free ride mode, one mission is to chase a hillbilly through part of the swamp.  (Who knew that hillbillies could ride motocross bikes in the first place?)  He sounded so much like cousin Billy Bob from down south, I was half expecting the theme from Deliverance to start playing.  Yee haw!


However, the music in the game is nothing like hillbilly music.  The music is your typical grunge rock/metal/I-hate-the-world music.  Usually, this would work in a game like this, but it doesn’t.


One issue I have is that, the game is rated “E” for everyone.  However, it includes such songs like “Doomsday Jesus,” “Everything Sucks Today,” “Dismantle Me,” and “B%tch.”  (That’s how the last song is listed in the credits and the game.  If you can’t figure out the title, play some Wheel of Fortune and buy a vowel.)  Yes, the game lists “Mild Lyrics” in the ESRB rating, but it’s worse than that.  It is nice that they included the option of which songs to include in the soundtrack, or you can turn on purely instrumental tracks, but I wouldn’t want to deal with it.


Finally, the music in the Free Ride mode sucks.  It sucks in a “large loads of gravel scratching across a chalkboard for several miles” kind of way.  I normally enjoy this style of music, but I couldn’t stand it.  The music sounded more like some indie garage band instead of professional artists.  I don’t use the custom soundtrack feature on my Xbox much, but this game made me wish I had gotten a copy of the Xbox version instead so I could turn on the custom soundtracks.  Yes, it’s really that bad.

The controls are fairly simple.  Moving the directional pad or left analog stick will steer the bike as well as control the bike landing.  X accelerates the bike, while Square breaks.  Tricks are done by hitting the Circle and Triangle buttons in conjunction with the directional controls.


The game does have some advanced control features.  Compressing the suspension will help the bike get more air coming off a ramp.  Compressing can be handled two different ways.  One way is to push down on the left analog stick when coming to a jump and then flicking it back when hitting the top part of the jump.  I didn’t care for this method because it uses the same controls as steering.  Fortunately, the R2 button can be used as well.


During a turn, hitting the L2 button disengages the clutch.  When using this inside a turn, the bike will gain a small speed boost.


The controls work well, but they aren’t without a few problems.  First, I expected more buttons to be used for performing tricks.  Most combos are done by using a directional key and the hitting one of the two trick buttons a specific number of times.  Maybe I’m too used to games like SSX3 and Amped 2.


Two trick buttons and simple key combos sound like the tricks are easy to perform, right?  (In my best Alex Trebek voice:) “No…sorry, that’s incorrect.”  The timing for hitting the buttons to execute tricks has to be precise.  In fact, it needs to be a bit too precise.  The timing feels like something more like a fighting game than a trick game.

MTX has several single and multiplayer modes.  The singe player arena contains the MTX: Mototrax Career Mode.  Exhibition Mode lets anyone pick up the game and play as one of the pros and ride any of the tracks.  This won’t affect the career mode.  Ghost Mode is just like the Ghost Mode of any other racer, where the driver races against a “ghost” of a previous better run.  A track builder is also included.


The online multiplayer has several modes.  The single race is just that, a single race across any supercross or motocross levels.  The race series is a series of motocross or supercross races.  King of the Hill has everyone battle for a golden helmet, and the driver who holds the helmet for a specified length of time, while others try to knock it away, wins.  The Freestyle competition has players grab a gold helmet and then complete tricks, while other try to ram into that driver to get the gold helmet.  The first one to complete a specific trick point count first wins.  A splitscreen mode is available for the single race and race series modes.


When first starting the game, most of the tracks are locked.  As progress is made through the career mode, more tracks will open up.  Motocross races will open motocross tracks, supercross races will open supercross tracks, and free style objectives will open other free style areas.


The motocross and supercross elements are a blast.  Each of the tracks has their own personality.  Some have more ramps, while others have more turns and twists.  The competition is always fierce, and it doesn’t feel like the computer cheats to win a race.


Then there is the free ride career element.  Activision could have named this part of the game MTX Underground, and everyone would have an idea what the game would be like.  While this doesn’t sound like a bad thing, the execution is lacking.  After creating a character, the player starts out at Travis Pastrana’s house.  (Don’t know who he is?  Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter, and you won’t care.)  Basically the player has to find a few tasks to do and perform certain tricks.  To get beyond this area, those tasks must be completed.  Sometimes the player has no idea where to go to find these tasks though, which can make the player feel lost.  Also, there isn’t any real reason given to complete these, other than the typical “you’re a scrub and you need to work your way up to the X Games” story.  Unfortunately, the cohesion in these levels is lacking.  Why in the world would I need to go to the Everglades, do tricks in a swamp, and jump across docks?  Will this really prove my skill?  Also, I want to RACE in a motocross RACING game.  Unfortunately, the career mode forces the player to go through the free ride and freestyle portions before actually getting to race.  Eventually the player will get invited to events, get emails from a manager about sponsorships, and eventually works his or her way through the MTX career.


Unfortunately, the issues listed above detract from the gameplay.  Some of the physics are bad as well.  Sometimes the player can seem to be driving up a tree, and the bike will stay up on its back wheel.  Sometimes the physics of the driver were unrealistic as well.  Crashes just didn’t seem to cause the bike and driver to fly through the air properly.  This is disappointing, because the game contains eight supercross levels, eight motocross levels, and nine freestyle areas, and each area seems varied enough from other areas.

The game does have online play, and single races online or in the exhibition mode are great for those “pick up and play” times.  The career mode consumes several hours of gameplay.  Getting through it all will be a challenge.  The racing is fun enough, but getting through the freestyle mode is frustrating.  MTX is retailing for $30, which is a good deal for a new game.  I can see myself playing the racing parts for a while.

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