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Motocross Madness was first released on PC in the early 90's. It was one of Microsoft's first published games, and was known for it's realistic bike physics, terrain and intense crashes. Many will remember it for it's invisible human cannon ball, which shot the player into the air when driving to an out of bounds area. It was the best racing simulator for it's time. A successful sequel soon followed, but the franchise eventually died down. Now, Microsoft have rebooted the series in the form of an XBLA title. Unlike the PC version, the reboot goes for a more light-hearted and arcade-y approach. These changes may turn some off from playing, but surprisingly enough, this is one of the most enjoyable racing games to hit the marketplace.
Your Xbox Avatar is the star in Motocross Madness. Similar to Microsoft's Joy Ride Turbo, your personal companion will finally leave the dashboard and head off into the gaming world. From taking part in off-road races, performing crazy stunts, and collecting cool swag in the process. You will travel across three unique environments. Egypt, Australia, and Iceland. There are only 9 maps in total, but a mixture of game modes keeps it fresh and exciting. The career is split into four categories. You begin with your standard off-road races against AI opponents. Soon, you will unlock Rivals, which has you trying to beat the developers ghost times. Eventually, you are able to free-roam the vast environments, collecting medals and coins, or competing in timed trick events. Each race you finish awards you with a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal depending on your position. The more medals you earn, the more tracks will be available.
In the process, XP is awarded for leveling up your Avatar. There's plenty of unlocks along the way. From new tricks, bikes, gear, and even the ability to knock opponents out of your way. Most of the unlocks require you to purchase them with in-game currency. This is earned by winning races and collecting coins scattered throughout the tracks. You can buy cool gear for your avatar. From helmets, gloves, shoes and jackets. It's not a large collection of clothing, but it's a nice little distraction. You will find most of your cash spent on new bikes and upgrade parts. There's only 6 bikes in total, but the variety of upgrades are satisfying. Each bike has a specific class that is recommend for certain events. Upgrading a bike isn't compulsory, but it can make winning a race more challenging.
Each of the tracks are very well designed. They offer plenty of jumps, allowing you to perform crazy mid-air stunts. As you pull off tricks and drift round corners, you will increase a boost gauge bar. Once filled, you can speed past your opponents by holding down A. It's a very fun and useful ability that can change the outcome of a race. Many shortcuts are also available throughout the tracks. Going down the more scenic route can be a great advantage over your opposition. They can lead you into shiny gold coins, as well as offering extra air time.
The handling is slippery, but it doesn't take long to pick up. It's solid and reliable, which makes racing around the tracks and performing drifts extremely fun. There's plenty of room to move, but you may find yourself crashing into various obstacles Whether it's rocks, pillars, or a simple wooden tree. This might be frustrating to some, but I find crashes just as enjoyable as performing tricks. Watching your Avatar get slung across the air like a moving star fish, or bouncing across scenery is amusing. It's what Motocross Madness is all about, and it brings back memories of the original.
There is an online component for those who enjoy online competition. You can either play in local split screen, or play over Xbox Live with 7 other players. Online features three of the career modes. From standard races, Trick sessions, and free-roam exploration. Playing online is great solid fun. The only downside is that empty slots are not filled with AI opponents.
The most interesting and competitive feature is Bike Club. Anyone on your friends list who purchases the game will automatically enter the club. You can compare stats with your friends. From completed races, your favourite bike and many more. You can also try beating a friends record. If someone beats yours, you are automatically sent another record to beat. It's a neat feature that keeps the competitiveness robust.
Overall, Motocross Madness is a refreshing comeback for the franchise. For those who enjoy Avatar-based games, Motocross Madness shouldn't be missed. It's one of the best Avatar games around, and it's packed with enough content to make the price worth every penny.