Review by JPeeples
"Great game marred by shoddy AI. TO THE EXTREME."
Freekstyle is motocross to the nth degree. This EA Big game continues the trend of high-octane, out of this world gameplay that made EA Big what they are today, their outlandish take on extreme sports usually ensures that the player is in for a fun game. Over the top characters and stages give the game some personality, and help to give it a look and feel all it’s own. The outlandish moves pulled off in this game add to the atmosphere even more. The break-neck, back and forth racing action keeps the excitement level high at all times.
As you can probably imagine, the gameplay takes places on motorcycles and has you going from venue to venue beating everyone in your path on your quest for supremacy. During this trek, you will face-off with riders even more twisted than yourself in an effort to gain respect (and the use of that rider.) The core gameplay isn’t too complicated. You ride around the course and do tricks (which can be linked together to up your Freekout meter, and give you some wicked point bonuses) in an effort to build up your Freekout meter, which, when filled, will allow you to cruise along at insanely fast speeds and enable you to pull of your character’s biggest trick by pressing the four shoulder buttons at the same time. Now in theory, this may sound kind of mundane. But when you actually play the game, and see it for yourself, you will be floored. For example, when you fill up your Freekout meter, the screen will become blurry, a fire trail will follow you, and you will hear your heart beat intensify (literally, there is a beeping heart monitor going at full blast when you max the Freekout meter out), and your palms will sweat with excitement. The complete sensory overload provided by this one simple meter does quite a bit to add to the atmosphere of the game. Now, you might be thinking,”It’s a motocross game, I’ve played them all, and they are never exciting”, but believe you me, once you pop this game into your GC, you will become a believer. The frenetic gameplay really helps to keep things interesting. Thanks to the rubber-band AI of your opponents, there is never a dull moment to be had. However, while the rubber-band AI adds a level of excitement to the game, it is very artificial, and it lends itself towards cheap gameplay. I’ve had to restart many races because, after leading the race for a lap, someone just races past me out of nowhere while I am mere feet away from the finish line, causing me to needlessly redo a race that I should have won. Rubber-band AI can be effective when it is used in moderation, here, it never stops being used. You could be in second place, hit the brake for about one billionth of a second, and have five opponents just race by you as if you were a Sunday driver. It saddens me to say that it really can ruin the game. It makes the game nearly unbearable to play for long stretches of time, because no matter how many times you have raced on a single track, you simply can’t get ahead. You could know each and every shortcut, and still come in second place after leading for a lap. By the time you’ve raced on a single track for about the sixth consecutive hour, the rage built inside of you would build to the point of near-insanity, making short play sessions a must. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the game is fantastic, but the single, solitary negative aspect of it can really ruin the game at times.
Ah, getting out all of that rubber-band AI rage sure felt good. Now it’s time to mellow out and talk about how the game controls. Thankfully, this aspect of the game does NOT induce fits of rage. The controls are as responsive as one could expect, and the logical, and helpful, control layout helps matters out greatly, especially when you are going for the four-button tricks. The stellar controls make everything in the game a breeze to do, from the simplest one button trick, to the most complicated four button trick (which can often involve you moving the d-pad at the same time.) Given the complexity of the controls, EA Big should be commended for making the most out of what they have, and giving the player the most intuitive control system possible.
The graphics in the game are the best I have ever seen for a motocross game, which isn‘t really saying much. Nothing looks spectacular, so don’t come into the game expecting a visual tour de force. What you will get are graphics that more than get the job done, and some nifty little visual effects add to the experience (the motion blur and fire trail used during Freekout mode.) The entire game features a very solid look. Nothing looks bad in the game, and it looks to be what you would expect from second-generation GC game. It’s got detailed character models, detailed motorcycles, detailed scenery, etc. Everything is caked in detail, yet none of it will knock your socks off, unless you only play motocross games, in which case, this game will stun you.
The sound in the game, is, for the most part, great. The sound effects are all fantastic, and add to the atmosphere of the game. Particularly the heart monitor beeping when you get into Freekstyle mode. The game’s soundtrack features a nice mix of hard rock and punk rock, mixed in with some electronica that really adds to the ”extreme” nature of the game. However, since you will be restarting each and every race approximately 1,000 times, it might be a good idea to turn the music settings down a bit after the 35th or so restart.
Freekstyle features a nice mixed-bag in regards to its replay value. On one hand, if you have the patience of a saint and manage to not go clinically insane due to the rubber-band AI, and by some miracle, you are able to finish all of the tracks, you will be rewarded handsomely. On the other hand, if you don’t feel like trying on straight-jackets, you will be more than happy with just what the game gives you right out of the box. You get a fun game, in moderation, and, if you have reflexes that would make NASCAR racers green with envy, you will really enjoy the game.
Overall, Freekstyle is a fine game that doesn’t quite live up to its full potential. If the game lacked the cheap rubber-band AI, it would be a must-buy for those looking for a quick fix. However, since the game does feature the rubber-band AI, it would be in your best interests to rent the game first, before spending too much of your hard-earned money on it. If you are in the mood for some random insanity, mostly by you, pick this game up. If you are in the mood for a nice, relaxing stroll on a motorcycle, go get Animal Crossing and play Excitebike. If you have got a GC and a PS2, and you want to know which version of the game to get, it really just depends on your controller preference. If you think the PS2’s controller would be better for this game, then pick that one up, if you like the GC controller more, then pick up the GC version. You can’t really go wrong either way.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/19/02, Updated 11/19/02
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