Thankfully, the two-player multiplayer modes are quite robust, the most addictive of which is the countdown mode. Here, two players race head-to-head--each with a point total that is rapidly dwindling. As you land tricks, the point total is deducted from your opponent's score, and the first player to have his or her points hit zero is the loser. While the mode may seem simple on the surface, it requires all the skills in the game to succeed and is an excellent gauge of your skill. In addition to head-to-head racing on any of the unlocked tracks, the multiplayer options are rounded out on the game's three freestyle environments. Much like in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, you can play games of tag on any of the three freestyle courses, where landing a trick paints the obstacle that the trick was performed on in your color. The object is to paint as much of the course in your hue as possible. In all, the multiplayer modes in Freekstyle are excellent and provide a nice diversion from the overly difficult circuit mode.
Freekstyle's graphics are running on an entirely new engine, and it shows. The slowdown that plagued SSX Tricky is now gone, and after just a few moments of seeing the game in action, it's easy to reach the conclusion that it's perhaps the fastest racing game on the console. This is especially impressive when you realize that you can see the gargantuan tracks in their entirety at times. The art for the game is also quite refreshing, and it's the result of the developers bringing in talent from the motion picture industry. One course takes place in Las Vegas, complete with an enormous neon woman with a flaming hoop that can be jumped through where her pelvis should be. Real-time cinemas are played before races and feature plenty of trash talking and impressive facial animations for the bikers. But the trick animations really steal the show. Real-life riders may never be able to pull off some of Freekstyle's outrageous tricks, but the animations are so convincing that it certainly appears to be possible.
For good measure, transparencies, particle effects for dirt being kicked up, and real-time shadows are all put to use to make the environments look better, and overall, Freekstyle's graphics manage to keep pace with the SSX series on most counts and eclipse it in others. The textures are probably the game's lone graphical flaw. They tend to shimmer a bit and give the game a grainy, flickering look at times. But in all, Freekstyle is the best-looking motocross game to ever grace a console, and its impressive sense of speed will keep you coming back for more.
Freekstyle has a lot of personality.
Sound has always been one of the strong suits of EA Sports Big products, and Freekstyle is no exception. While there are no licensed tracks in the game, this is remedied by dynamic music that changes on the fly to reflect the action taking place onscreen. The Los Angeles producers, The Humble Brothers, have supplied the soundtrack for the game--it features a variety of hip-hop-flavored beats and wrenching bar chords. While voice actors were pulled in to represent some of the lesser-known riders in the game, several others took the time to lend their real voices for that authentic touch. There are literally dozens of taunts and other vocal snippets for each rider, and they are triggered upon each pass. The sound effects are right on par with the rest of the sound elements. While it's hard to do anything particularly groundbreaking with the telltale whine of dirt bikes, ambient environmental sounds have been added for that extra bit of immersion.
Sporting an excellent sense of speed and tight controls, Freekstyle is undeniably fun. But its awkward learning curve and sinister AI will test the mettle of even the most ardent players. For those who buy Freekstyle, its daunting challenge will certainly increase its staying power, but those looking for quick-hit fun from a rental will find the surprisingly addictive multiplayer modes to be their best bet. While it's not the motocross equivalent of SSX, EA Sports Big's first excursion on dirt is worth a look for those who enjoy a stiff challenge.