Gamestyle Archive intro: Alex reviews Big Air Freestyle which is apparently crap. Perfectly example of the Gamestyle honesty that won so many fans.
Published: November 2002
Super Monkey Ball, Super Mario Sunshine, Star Fox Adventures, Resident Evil, Eternal Darkness, Metroid Prime, Big Air Freestyle. All exclusive to Nintendo, all brilliantly playable, graphically attractive and filled to the very top with fun and enjoyment. Except, of course, Big Air Freestyle, which is truly rubbish in every single way. So, if you’re reading this review hoping that Big Air Freestyle might be worth the cash, you can stop reading now.
No matter how desperate you are for a motorcross racing game (which, to be honest, have been largely poor across the board for ages now) you do not want to splash out the 40 notes on this one, and unfortunately I’ve been chosen to tell you why, which means I actually had to play the game for some time, desperately hoping that the initial shock of the appalling graphics would make way for a decent game. It didn’t come. Once.
Big Air Freestyle is basically the same game as those other motorcross games from Acclaim and THQ. They’ve all big a bit rubbish, and all pretty much identical. There’s your freestyle mode that involved racing around a large arena doing tricks, and there’s your race mode that involves 5 different bike disciplines (and engine sizes) but is essentially the same experience regardless, and there’s a bit of a 2 player game bolted on that’s even worse than the 1 player game, in which you can play either of the above modes. There’s also a challenge mode, but I’ll leave that particular treat for later. But the first thing that hits you is the dire graphics. If you’ve played V Rally 3 on the Gameboy Advance you’ll have no doubt been highly impressed with the smooth framerate and the true 3d polygonal graphics. Well, it would appear that Paradigm have used the exact same graphics engine, which on a big TV running on a Gamecube is frankly disgusting – the frame rate sits at around a frightening 15-20 frames a second (which makes it impossible to get any sense of motion at all) and the environment, like the aforementioned GBA game, is made of just a few hundred polygons, half of them with the same textures. It’s also incredibly low resolution, blurry, washed out and void of any sort of graphical effects – this isn’t a Gamecube fault, look at any of the other games in the first line of this review – this is just pathetic, inexcusable and a downright insult.
The animation is also shocking – fall off your bike (which you’ll do even if you’re nowhere near anything else such is the collision-detection) and your ride will stutter terrifyingly towards the ground as you catapult in the other direction in about 3 repeated frames, until either of the falling objects melts into the ground like it’s suddenly transformed into quicksand. So, with that out of the way, what’s left? Well, there’s the sound effects, of course, surely they’re better? Er, no. There’s one engine sound and one ‘oh I’ve crashed’ sound, and they’re muffled so much that every bike seems to merge into one huge indistinguisable hive of angry bees, and that’s only if you turn the music down first. I say music, but I don’t really mean it – it’s 17 identical slices of horrible trashy noise from the likes of MxPx, Jolt 45 and Five and Dime. Exactly.
And it gets worse. Partly due to the game using about 5% of the Gamecube’s graphics processor and partly because Paradigm seem to have written the actual game engine in BASIC, the game moves horrendously sluggishly and without any sense of handling to the controls at all. It’s not fun, and that applies to both the freestyle and the race modes – mainly because it becomes impossible to judge turns and you just try getting up a ramp with any sort of speed. Or rather, don’t. There are tricks, too, and the manual proudly puts them into categories of difficulty. The hardest ones involve you holding L and tapping A three times, and takes a split second to execute because the animation is so poor. Hardly challenging, then, unless of course you’re trying to do them after jumping a big ramp, because there are nasty signs everywhere that knock you off as you jump – and then it’s back to watching your bike shamble spasmodically back towards (and through) the ground. Excellent fun, those tricks.
Even the much trumpeted Championship mode doesn’t offer anything remotely exciting apart from having to win cash and pay to enter tournaments which needs a little bit of thought, but the tuning offered is limited to 3 on-off toggles (yes, really) and the challenge mode (which offers Hawk-like tasks) only really expands as far as stuff you would normally manage in the other two modes anyway, such as placing 4th or better in a race, or getting a fast lap time. It’s this lack of imagination, polish and fun that hurts Big Air Freestyle more than the other parts of the game – you might be able to look past the graphics (and I wish you luck) and switch off the sound, but the game’s still crap.
Gamestyle Score: 2/10