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'Championship Motocross' is high-flying fun

November 2, 1999
Web posted at: 11:48 a.m. EST (1648 GMT)

Big Jump

By CNN Interactive Senior Associate Editor John Robinson

So you've decided you want to try a little pro motocross, eh? Are you up to the physical and mental sacrifice it takes to be a champion? Well, unless you have been training and riding competitively for a long, long time, it might be better to give THQ's "Championship Motocross" a try.

Speaking of champions, "Championship Motocross" for the PlayStation game console features Kawasaki pro rider Ricky Carmichael -- a rider who has a good idea of what it takes to win. Carmichael has nailed down the AMA 125 title for three years in a row and is showing no signs of letting up. But a game that bears the name of a champion isnít always a champion itself.

There have been several motocross games for the PlayStation in the past and even though some of them were pretty good, most were really big duds. With motocross games coming this year from developers like Electronic Arts, 989 Studios and Acclaim, fans have a lot to be excited about. THQ admittedly is facing a lot of fierce competition but "Championship Motocross" does have the distinct advantage being the first to market.

Featuring only one pro rider and one bike manufacturer, it would seem that "Championship Motocross" would be another big dud. Fortunately, the lack of extensive bike and rider licensing does not seem to hurt this game a bit. The reason for that is because it plays, well, like a motocross game should. There are ruts, bumps and jumps galore. Just like the real thing, it takes a combination of good timing, speed and balance to hold a fast line and land the big jumps without losing or ending up eating a big dirt sandwich.

2 Player

The realistic handling combined with some suspect computerized racers can make "Championship Motocross" a very frustrating experience at times. The computer-controlled bikes are extremely difficult to beat and occasionally super-human. Beating them requires you to ride that fine line between being in control and being totally out of control. Youíll need patience, practice and a good knowledge of how your bike handles and reacts on a given surface. You can increase your odds of winning by properly setting up the suspension, gear ratio, exhaust, tires and brakes before each race. It also helps if you forget about running a clean race in favor of running the other riders off the track.

In "Championship Motocross", you have the choice to race 125, 250 and 500cc motorcycles from Kawasaki as well as two fictitious manufacturers. Controlling the bikes is relatively intuitive with rider movement relegated to the left analog stick or the d-pad. Pull back on the control stick ant the front wheel comes up; push it forward and the rider hunches over the bars. Pushing the stick left or right causes the rider to lean in that direction. A small disappointment is that you can only use the action buttons for gas and brake. Analog support for those functions would have been really nice.

From a visual perspective, the game's graphics are not necessarily what you would call awe-inspiring (this is the PlayStation we're talking about), but they definitely get the job done. The riders and the bikes are well rendered and proportional which really helps to make the game feel more realistic. On the track, effects like mud flying off the back wheel and the subtle terrain changes also add to the realism. Track-side details like trees, rocks and hay bales look pretty good as well, but donít look for too long because they will send you flying over the handlebars if you donít avoid them.

The music in "Championship Motocross" is actually good, considering it features a track from ex-rapper turned hardcore singer, Vanilla Ice. Vanilla Ice offers a new, hardcore rock version of his one hit "Ice Ice Baby" and you know, it's not all that bad. The rest of the music tracks are the same style of grungy guitar rock designed to get your adrenaline flowing. The motorcycles themselves sound great although when you rev them up, it always seems to be a half-second off. Other than that, the game sounds exactly like a motocross race should -- like a swarm of angry bees.


The measure of a good racing game, at least for racing enthusiasts, is most certainly accurate handling of the machine. Whether it is the drafting techniques employed in NASCAR racing or the controlled powerslide of the off-road rally racer, a realistic feel is what makes or breaks a racing game. "Championship Motocross" is just one of those games that feels right and for that reason is the one of the finest motocross games available for the PlayStation.

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THQ International
Ricky Carmichael
Playstation Codes : Championship Motorcross
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