Downhill Domination is the latest game from Incog, makers of Twisted Metal: Black and War of the Monsters, both regarded as some of the best Playstation 2 games at the time they came out. Now they’ve come out with a downhill bike racing game and although it is a whole different genre, the feeling and violence (a bit toned down) reminds me a lot of Twisted Metal: Black. In many ways this game is a cross between SSX and Twisted Metal: Black. However it also sets itself apart from these two series/games by doing something all its own. Let’s check it out.
I was a bit harsh on this game in my Short Take in this regard. After playing it for several more hours I can say the graphics are pretty darn good. As I got deeper into the stages I got to see some excellent graphical work. Such things as riding through baths in Japan and going down a snowy mountain where you can barely see ahead of you was quite cool. Yes, the slowdown is still there when you land off a jump and a lot of people/animals are around, but it is easily forgivable. If there is one thing this game has over the likes of SSX it is a lot less slowdown (SSX slows down in turns, but you don’t see it unless you really look…SSX Tricky had the same problem.
Textures on things like trees and water are quite weak, but the textures on things like rocks and the weather effects (this game even has rainbows in rain drops) more than make up for the weaknesses found elsewhere. The character and bike animations are also spot on. There is a heck of a lot of sponsorship on the race tracks, with a plethora of ads for eBay, Amazon.com and Mountain Dew littering every race. I suppose they paid some good money to get some product placement. The good news about the product placement is that we get real bikes and parts by real manufacturers.Another thing I was quite harsh on in my Short Take, but this time it was deserved. Yes, some of the tracks are good and from acts that you know, but for the most part the music in this game is forgettable. It is really sad when a publication like Entertainment Weekly did a story on the music for this game, giving props to all the big acts on it. The biggest reason the tracks are forgettable is because you are too busy trying to stay on the track and handle the course going by so fast. I had the music pumped up and never even thought about it because I was concentrating so hard on the race track. The music does its job by being background noise, but I’d be willing to bet they want the majority of us to remember and like these songs.
Incog obviously went for a nice control layout with this game. X is accelerate, Triangle is brake (and super tricks), Square and Circle correspond to left and right attacks, R2 is the jump (bunny hop) button to let you jump higher and all 4 trigger buttons are used to do tricks while in the air. Very simple control.
The controls are extremely tight, but the score is not in the 90 range because the trick system seems so basic when compared to the SSX series. You may ask why I bring SSX up time and time again. Well, the fact is the trick system is based directly off the SSX system, except that the R2 button is the high jump button whereas the X button would be in SSX. The tricks are not as cool in this game, but you can do super moves with different button combinations. Most of the time in the game you are trying to keep on the track and ahead of your opponents and not worrying about pulling tricks off. Well, at least that is how I felt. The trick system gets you more money, but it easily could have been left out…although the game may not have been as fun to the majority of people out there.
This game is a heck of a lot of fun to play. This game is both marvelous and extremely frustrating at the same time. The beauty is that even though you may be frustrated, you are addicted enough to keep doing the races until you reach the top 3.
Downhill Domination has quite a few modes in it, some of which have to be unlocked by going through other modes or buying them from the bike shop. At the beginning you can choose between 4 riders that each have their strengths and weaknesses like all other racing games. From there you get to the screen where you can choose to do Career or Arcade. In Career you can do the Super Career or a Specialized Career (with Custom Tournament needing unlocking). I played most of Downhill Domination in the Super Career and Arcade mode. Let’s start off with the Super Career.
In this mode you race through 24 courses. You run through a Freestyle Course (usually very long, longer than most non-driving games), a Speed Course (short with lots of jumps) and a Technical Course (quick turns, lots of danger and pretty long). You get one of the top 3 spots and you go onto the next one. During this you get money for your placing, the tricks you do, the people you beat up and the number of diamond flags you go through. Yes, you can beat bikers up in this game using the Square and Circle button for left and right attack. For all the money you get you can go into the bike shop and upgrade your bike or even buy some locked items in the Bonus Purchases section. You can unlock the other modes by buying them here or buy hitting some milestones anywhere in the game. Such unlocked game modes include Moshbowl where you beat up people and Super Jump where you go down a long jump Ski Jump style.
This game can be very grueling. The Freestyle courses are long, although if you have a good enough bike you can often leave your opponents in the dust with no problem. The other 2 races are much tighter, with the Technical race easily being the most difficult one to win. They thrown everything at you in that one…animals, dangerous environments, cars, etc. The last race in the trifecta at each mountain is easily the most difficult one of the group. This game can get frustrating, but the addiction was so great for me that I didn’t even get overly frustrated like I have in other games.
This game has great value for Sony’s $39.99 price point. The only minus is that you have to unlock or buy a lot of the stuff. In the Bonus Purchases section there is actually quite a bit of extra stuff to buy such as videos and real life riders. Super Career and the Specialized Careers will probably take you a bit to get through, so you will spend some good quality time with this game. Once you blast through it all I doubt you will play this game again other than multiplayer mode with your friends. This game is fun, but when I replayed tracks I had passed I was able to easily win the race. Luckily, each track has many different ways you can go and even has shortcuts so in some ways each race can be seen as something somewhat new.