SX Superstar is an arcade motocross racing game from Acclaim that will take you to Egypt, the UK, Italy, Jamaica and the USA. Through the course of the game’s championship mode, you’ll work your way from rags to riches, beginning as an amateur rider and finishing your career as a pro rider with all the glitz and glamor from start to finish. On your path to fame and stardom, your wannabe apartment will transform into a super cool condo, decked out with only the best entertainment system and hottest girlfriend. Yes, girlfriend. The more races you win, the hotter girlfriend you get. If you start losing during a season, she’ll dump you and you’ll go crawling back to your ex. All sounds like a great basis for a racing game, doesn’t it? Not entirely.
The back of the case claims that SX Superstar is “Jam-packed with ultra-realistic arcade racing action!” I suppose Acclaim and myself have different definitions of ultra-realistic arcade racing action. I didn’t know realistic and arcade went together before experiencing them together as one in SX Superstar. Unfortunately, it has too many glaring flaws to be fun-filled, full of action, or even close to realistic. SX Superstar has plenty of original ideas I mentioned in the opening, but they do not come together as well as you would want them to. The ideas that the championship mode are based upon are novel; getting a new apartment, buying new bikes, accepting or rejecting sponsorships, upgrading your girlfriend, and finally becoming a pro. But the execution of these ideas fail to please.
There are three basic modes to choose from: Arcade, Championship, and Multiplayer. In arcade mode you can pick out any bike and go to any of the tracks you have unlocked. If you haven’t played through Championship mode yet, there will only be a few to choose from. Multiplayer is essentially that.. Play through any track with another buddy, challenge him to a high score in a stunt arena, or race him uphill. Championship mode is the heart of SX Superstar. It’s actually fairly deep, with lots to do, but feels rushed and sloppy.
You start out as an unknown amateur rider with a dream, a low-end bike, and no money. You have an agent though, and he sees something in you and gets you a spot racing in the amateur circuit. Now it’s up to you to win races, buy new bikes, and work your way to the top. If you haven’t practiced the tracks in arcade mode, you’ll find yourself crashing a lot in the Baja races, which are basically open-ended races through checkpoints of which you are guided through by a green arrow at the top of the screen. Most of the time it’s difficult to judge which way to go, because of the branching paths on the tracks. The arrow isn’t that great at letting you know which path to take, and even though one might look like a shortcut, it probably isn’t, and if you take it and have to turn around you’ll lose way too much time to finish in a reasonable position. Too many mess ups, and you won’t have enough points at the end of the season to advance to the semi-pro or pro circuit.
Throughout the season you’ll be faxed sponsorship contracts offering you a contract for one season or multiple seasons. Some have bonuses for coming in first place and finishing the season in first. You’ll need to accept the offers when they come in, because as you move up to the pro circuit, the AI takes on a more rubber band type feel, as before they crashed often and it was easy to win races. Upgrading your ride costs lost of money, and by accepting contracts and winning races you’ll soon be able to buy a faster 250cc or 500cc bike to compete.
Controls aren’t mapped to the Xbox controller well at all. You accelerate with A, brake with X, do tricks with Y and B, turbo with black, preload with L and powerslide with R. Controls feel very unresponsive most of the time, especially while trying to perform tricks to boost your turbo meter. It’s unexplainable why they wouldn’t let you accelerate with R and brake with L like any other racing game. Trying to make use of your turbo is a chore in and of itself. You have to use your thumb to keep the gas on, and twist your hand around the controller to get a finger on the black button. Poor, poor layout.
The camera needs a lot of tweaking. The default view is practically on the ground, behind your rider’s back. It makes for a hard time to see what obstacles are in your path and where to go next sometimes. The other option is a fly cam zoomed out behind your rider. It’s a little better but not by much. There is a helmet cam, but since any flinch or rock will send it jittering out of control, it’s useless and too difficult to bother with.
The hub of the game is your apartment, condo, or wherever you find yourself living during the season. This all depends on your performance and if you are winning or not. You can view user records, view the calender of upcoming events and race, select your bike or buy a new one, look at your girlfriend’s picture on the coffee table and see how much money you’ve accumulated. Sometimes after a race friends and family will leave messages on your fax machine praising you and saying they saw you on TV. You’ll look at your faxes here also when they come in. It doesn’t take long though for the messages to begin repeating themselves after you’ve won several races or been through the same girlfriend a few times. It’s a nice idea, but when you start racing and realize you’re not having that much fun the interface really becomes insignificant.
SX Superstar’s graphics aren’t that bad. There are nice water effects when you drive through water or when it’s raining. There is no popup, even on the tracks which you can see far into the distance. The game never slows down, even while playing multiplayer. Of course, some tracks look better than others. Sometimes you’ll be racing through a drab forest, and the next race will be in an awesome tomb weaving through Egypt. Track design and layout varies from really good and fun, to uninspired crap. All the riders look virtually identical except for their clothing. They aren’t very detailed, nor are the bikes. The animations sometimes look good, and other times they are overly jittery. This really hurts the game’s stunt system. It’s often too hard to judge whether you can chain another stunt together before you land or not. It makes the game’s otherwise fun stunt system a chore. But if you don’t do stunts, you won’t get any turbo to use during races.
Sound is very average. All the engines sound the same, and they aren’t very loud at all. The other riders don’t say anything to you during the race, so all you have is the engine and your bike crashing into things. If you haven’t already turned off the soundtrack, you’ll be listening to hard rock punk music, of which sounds horrible save a couple songs. There is no custom soundtrack support to speak of, which is a travesty in this genre. A huge flaw here, once again, is that the same song plays over and over until you finish the race! That means you might hear the same crappy song three or four times in the longer races! It truly sucks. Custom soundtracks would’ve helped this title quite a bit.
SX Superstar isn’t a horrible motocross game. It isn’t a great one either, or even above average. It will find itself forever in the middle, a so-so effort from Acclaim. At times you’ll find that you’re actually having fun with it, then you’ll go onto the next race and loathe the game once again. It’s up and down all the time. For $29.99 it’s not too bad for the price, if you feel you need a motocross game and can’t wait for a good one be released, by all means get it. But don’t expect an awesome game within the snazzy boxart. Otherwise, stick to Excitebike 64.
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