Call me crazy but I am an avid fan of all things extreme - extreme games especially (that was a URL joke BTW) - and am always keen to test out similarly geared games. Take 1080 Snowboarding on the N64, I played that for months. Well the Motocross Madness II demo was just made available and I soon had a shiny 40MB install ready to play. It is of course the sequel to the original Motocross Madness, a very popular and enjoyable game (although I must confess I only got a chance to play the demo). Well I was expecting more of the same; fun, stunts, speed, fun, crazy physics and more fun!
So what do you get for your 40MB investment (and I mean investment if you are on a dial-up)? Well in the trial version you get access to one map (basically a big dirt quarry with plenty of massive jumps and trees), two motocross bikes and two modes of play: Stunts and Nationals race. Not bad.
Stunt mode gives a you set amount of time to do as many crazy stunts as possible, earning points for each move you successfully pull-off and land. You can either chose to play on your own or add some computer controlled opponents. There is no set route and you are free to explore the massive quarry environment as you please, finding the largest and most dangerous jumps you can (there is even one which launches you into electricity pylons).
The Nationals race mode uses the same quarry map but a track is laid out, complete with tricky hair-pins and jumps. Again you can chose to play on your own or with computer controlled opponents. The race starts off normal enough but with all the jumps and turns, soon turns into a free-for-all with multiple crashes and the occasional mid are collision - if you time it right ;)
Controlling the bike is quite simple: the arrow keys for direction and speed, the W, S keys for weight distribution (very handy for landing the bike) and Z, X, Arrow combinations to pull off the stunts. I played the game with this setup and soon got used to bombing around the map. However I feel a joy pad would give you much better control over the bike, especially for those particularly nasty bends, as the arrows keys are a tad too responsive.
The game looks amazing and the quality visuals of the first game have been greatly improved upon. The quarry map is very dense with loads of objects (trees and the like) to crash into and the whole hill-side environment is very very smooth.
The developers have decided against in-game music, concentrating on the realism of the bike engine, which is not at all annoying (surprisingly for a constant chainsaw-ish sound). You also gets a lot of grunts and scrapes when you fall off (which will be rather frequently) and 'ambient' vehicle effects, like a helicopter viewing the proceedings!
This game is all about fun, and to achieve that the coders have not completely taken nature's view of physics. The result is a lot of speed, massive jumps and loads of completely crazy crashes. Take a look at the screenshots to get an idea of what I mean. Totally stupid. However the very responsive controls (notably when using the keyboard) and this physics engine does degrade the feeling of control and grip you have on the bike, when zooming around hair pins and over massive dirt mounds. But thats my only gripe.
So what can we expect in the full game? Well disecting all the statistics and marketing bull on Microsoft's site you can expect to get: 40 massive and dense terrains (40,000 3D objects prominsed in ech level) with mud, ice and slick gravel surfaces; indoor arenas with noisy crowds; theme-based environments like trailer parks and a snow lodge; licensed motorbikes and gear; more stunts; a Pro-Circuit mode where you can build up prize money; other racing events (The Baja and Supercross); music from Incubus; 3D positional sound; and an on-line scoring system with multiplayer modes, leagues, ladders, teams and tournaments. To top it all off a downloadable 3D terrain editor will also be available.
Well with all that squeezed into a CD-ROM it can hardly fail, and I'd buy it just for the stunts and crashes alone :)