BMX XXX Review

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Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Acclaim


Platforms: Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2 (there is no nudity in the PS2 version)
Reviewed on Xbox

BMX XXX began its life as the next offering in the Dave Mirra BMX game series. The XXX part emerged, Mirra went his own way, and there you have it. Stunts and sluts. Tricks and trollops. Swearing. Pooping. Boobies. And beneath all the hoo-ha, the latest update of the BMX series you know well. Take it to the eXtreme!!! Or something.

Rating:
Rob de los Reyes


If it achieved nothing else, BMX XXX managed this much: to impart to the world that the average console gamer is in his mid-20s, not his pre-teens. Grand Theft Auto III didn't seem to get that message across to the mainstream, perhaps because its focus on criminal mayhem simply fed the long-standing argument about the horrors of exposing children to fictional violence. But BMX XXX was, as far as the mainstream press was concerned, all about nudity. Bereft of the baggage of school shootings or any track record for a game with realistic nudity, the media found its way to the demographic statistics. It learned that gaming is now principally an adult hobby, not a kids' hobby. Learned in youth, perhaps, much like playing cards or board games or any of the myriad ways humans have passed idle time throughout the ages, but an adult hobby all the same. Perhaps we gamers would have preferred a nobler standard bearer for the message, but as with other touchy societal topics (free speech, privacy, criminal law), the battles tend to be fought at the margins of acceptability. Better there than in the heart of cherished customs.

As it happens, BMX XXX does quite a bit more than deliver a message to the press, but it certainly doesn't deliver all that was promised or all that might have been delivered. Fundamentally, BMX XXX is simply the next Dave Mirra game. All of which is to say that, as far as the "extreme sports" part of it goes, it's no Tony Hawk but has some nice elements. Where it fails to deliver is on the "XXX." Acclaim has defended its raunchy content on the grounds that it built a gaming media successor to The Sopranos and American Pie. I am of the view that Acclaim is not obliged to defend the (perfectly legal) content of a game it made and marketed for adults. If Acclaim thinks adults want boobs with their bikes, let them test the market. Playboy, for example, rarely has to defend itself in this energy-wasting public manner anymore. Perhaps it would have been better had Acclaim not attempted so to defend itself. Because whatever BMX XXX is, it certainly is not The Sopranos or American Pie. What those works do, with certain dramatic and comedic licenses, is to explore areas of real life that we either know, do or think about, but don't talk about in polite company. What makes them "mature" is that they lift the veil on real adult topics otherwise left uncovered in the public dialogue – sexual topics in particular – even if they are exaggerated for effect. But BMX XXX presents none of that. You have never stayed up late with your spouse or college roommate talking about private matters only to confide that you've always wondered whether you could make a dog horny by performing stunts on a bicycle. Or wondered what thrill might come from indulging in the taboo area of delivering flatulent construction workers to a Port-O-John. You explore topics like those – if you ever do – sometime in the fourth grade. Once you're old enough to know where babies come from, those things stop seeming as funny as they once did.

In fact, the only genuine adult content here is the nudity. And there isn't enough of it if this is the game you're going to make. Were Acclaim to purge itself of the notion that feces is inherently funny, and focus on a parade of hot, naked women, it might well have a frat house classic on its hands. Non-fraternity brothers might be turned off, but that's what niche markets are all about – no one expects tile-based war games to outsell The Sims. Unfortunately, most of the nudity is locked up behind nearly insurmountable obstacles. Available cheat codes unlock the brief stripper scenes (which are far too short if they're to be the main attraction), but to unlock the topless character mode, you have to endure some painfully difficult game missions. Of course, if you're not actually going to play the game and instead just punch in cheat codes to watch the strippers, you might as well hit the internet to watch some real porn. It's certainly much easier to get to nudity on the net than it is to get it here.

Locking the strip scenes behind game challenges is a reasonable enough way to integrate some fun gaming with some fun naughtiness, but the rewards have to be more frequent and better. With the exception of a couple of scenes, you'll see more skin in an issue of Cosmopolitan than you will in BMX XXX. If you're looking for a model of how a game like this might work, think of a game of real life strip poker (and forget about the multiplayer strip mode on offer in the game). There's no way to add nudity to a card game in a way that isn't gratuitous. But that's beside the point. The game is an excuse to indulge your prurient interest without having to say that that's your real goal. The card game part also adds a little more pleasant tension to the experience than just sitting at a table and saying, "Let's all take off our clothes now." That knowing, indulgent sexiness is what BMX XXX could have and ought to have delivered.

In terms of the biking portion of the game, there are some genuine highlights to be mentioned alongside some serious complaints. The character models are sharp-looking, and you have good latitude to customize your rider's appearance from the serious to the absurd. Here you also get flashes of the XXX-that-might-have been. Choose a female rider, put her in a pleated skirt, and you'll end up with a visible slip of panty as she rides and does tricks. It's stupid and gratuitous, but, relative to other game elements, has the virtue of subtlety. At least you can appreciate it as an unexpected detail. The map areas are also attractive, colorful and filled with structures to trick off of. Most maps do a good job using all three axes to provide plenty of variety in what are otherwise moderately sized areas. Where the graphics break down is in the rendition of the non-player characters and in-game cut-scenes (i.e. not the stripper scenes, which are crystal clear video). Those characters are extremely blocky, jarringly so. And they repeat their 2 or 3 lines of dialogue far too often. Still, to the extent it came down to a trade off between a quality rider and pretty maps against quality non-player characters, it's hard to argue with Acclaim's choice.

BMX XXX generally draws a nice line between "real" physics and "fun" physics. Your ability to grind up a railing is totally unrealistic but entertaining. On the other hand, there's enough resemblance to real-world physics that you'll still have to think about how ambitious to be with a trick and still be able to land it. In fact, you'll think about it early and often. Even the very first few missions of the game are quite difficult. There's no tutorial and no real warm-up missions. What's more, much of the difficulty stems not from doing successful tricks but from finding your mission objective in the time limit and then finding it again when you inevitably fail to execute the mission. In some games of this genre, you're guided to your goal and allowed to pick up where you left off if you fail. Here, you'll have to revisit whoever gave you the mission, re-cycle through the cut-scene dialogue and then hope you remember where the objective was.

Fortunately, you don't have to do every mission in a particular order or beat all of them to open a new map. In fact, but for the need to beat the really difficult missions to open up the nudity, you might be perfectly content to let some missions lie for those who need a super challenge. The only real sticking points in your progression are likely to be the competition levels where you are required to finish in one of the top places – one goal, one failure and you're done. In any event, most of the fun lies in the random tricks you pull off along the way to your actual goal. Although it's possible just to bike around the levels pulling tricks, subject only to a health bar that drops as you crash, you'll be forced into the nasty missions if you want to open new areas.

In short, BMX XXX is neither as bad as many expect (or want it to be) nor as good as its designers probably hoped. As a BMX game, it's a solid and generally attractive effort marred by some punishingly (and sometimes artificially) difficult mission design. In the absence of any real "grace period" for those new to the genre, BMX XXX is probably best enjoyed by experienced gamers... who are also most likely to nitpick its failings. Amazingly, after all the hoopla, what's missing is the adult content. The humor never rises above the sophistication of flicking a booger at a classmate, and all the actual nudity is locked away behind those difficult missions. BMX XXX would have done better to be as gratuitous as it actually claimed – end the pretense of joining the cultural dialogue and focus on delivering fast action and naked women. Sales to frat boys are better than no sales at all.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 30, 2002 7:25 PM.

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