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Paradigm Entertainment



T (Teen)



Q4 2002



- Smooth arcade racing

- Easy control for the most part

- Graphics, challenge, and sound all good but not exceptional

- Modes offer variety

- Something for the under 12 crowd (damn the Teen rating)



- Challenge mode quite punishing at times

- Invisible walls should have been optional

- Diehard motocross fans will be put off by the lack of realism

- Lack of objectives in Freestyle mode



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Big Air Freestyle

Score: 6.7 / 10


I’m not sure if I was on the third or fourth barrel roll, but it was at that moment I realized Big Air Freestyle (BAF) isn’t a simulation by any stretch of the imagination.  And if you can wrap your mind around that aspect, you’ll have some fun – if not, you’ll just groan.


BAF has a selection of modes including Freestyle, Challenge, Single Race, Championship and Multiplayer.


big-air-freestyle-1.jpg (40897 bytes)          big-air-freestyle-2.jpg (34637 bytes)


Freestyle is a wide-open arena full of jumps and obstacles, much like Tony Hawk or Aggressive Inline – only you’re going a lot faster and higher.  BAF’s stunts all require your rider to be mid-flight.  Most are simple to perform and land, others can be quite difficult to execute thanks to the assigned buttons.  There’s a huge list of tricks but working some of them into your routines just isn’t practical unless you’re using your index and middle fingers to work the A, B, X, Y buttons.  As a result, some of the best looking tricks get ignored.  But the most disappointing part of the Freestyle mode is that there aren’t challenges to overcome as in Tony Hawk or Aggressive Inline.  Achieving the highest score opens up the next Freestyle arena but what’s the point when the one objective is always the same?  (Granted, the arenas get slightly more difficult to navigate and the time limit shorter but the objective is always the same.)  There are high and long jump records to set (and break) but they aren’t necessary to open the next arena.


Challenge, Single Race, and Championship modes offer more traditional fare – racing against computer AI opponents on a track -- there is a critical flaw.


BAF is up front about the invisible walls that enclose each track (and around the stands in the Freestyle arenas).  The invisible walls offer a strange mix of frustration and elation.  Sometimes, the walls can be used to critical advantage but more often it results in player profanity.  If you’re mid-trick and you touch the wall it’s crash time.  Forget shortcuts or running your opponents off the track, too.  While kids under the age of 12 will probably appreciate this feature – essentially being funneled – it drove me nuts.  The option to turn these walls off (and maybe adjust the gravity level) should have been included to provide diehards with a more realistic experience.  (If games like Smuggler’s Run: Warzones can provide wide-open environments, why couldn’t BAF do the same?)




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Where the problem with the walls is most acute is during the Challenge mode, which presents you with a list of objectives to complete. (Complete them and extra racers become unlocked.)  This kind of makes up for the lack of objectives in Freestyle mode but some goals are extremely hard to actually fulfill and all but the most ardent player will manage to meet them all.  Some goals center on completing a certain trick in a time limit but because of the nature of the tracks – 


curvy – more times than you can imagine you’ll crash into an invisible wall before you can land and complete the goal (and thereby missing your window of opportunity).


Single Race and Championship are your run of the mill racing modes.  As with most games like this, you want to spend as much time on the ground as possible – taking to the air only to zip a couple of moves to increase your available speed boost.  (Unlike Freestyle mode, the controls become quite simple as you don’t have to worry about tricking as much.)  Getting the feel for each track, 23 in all, can take a few runs – to hit the right groove.


The physics are not of this Earth so getting that groove can take some doing.  Obviously, there is a nod toward realism but you just don’t see motocross bikes hitting the stratosphere.  As I mentioned before, park your brain at the door and you’ll do fine.  Well, not totally, the AI manages to offer some good challenge so you do have to think.  “Suspend disbelief,” is a better way to say it.


big-air-freestyle-3.jpg (40003 bytes)          big-air-freestyle-4.jpg (37960 bytes)


Presentation is above average all-round, but the sense of speed is very good.  Sometimes the camera can lag, but that depends on what view you’re using. (Just try a back flip while racing in 1st Person – it’s almost vomit inducing.)  I like the small touches though, especially one I didn’t even notice until my fifth or sixth race.  As your racer flies around the track he gets progressively muddier – it’s so subtle I didn’t notice it at first.  One aspect I would single out for criticism is the homogeneity of the riders.  Almost without exception, they’re the same rider on the same bike only with different colors.


Accompanying all this is the traditional “extreme” sound track from professional musicians (accounting for the Teen rating), but what I appreciated more was the perfect sound of the bikes.


Big Air Freestyle isn’t a bad game.  In it’s favor it has a solid variety of modes and offers an arcade experience without totally slashing realism but Freestyle mode only goes ¼ of the way and the invisible walls might have you ripping your hair out.  It’s worthy of a weekend rental but not much else.


- Omni

(December 18, 2002)

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