Excitebike 64 Review

For Nintendo 64

Rating: Average
   I don't think I've ever been as shocked as I was when I realized that 
Excitebike 64 is nothing more than an average game.  Given the absolutely 
spotless reputation of motocross games of being beacons of hope in a market 
full of cookie-cutter games, I expected more out of Excitebike 64.  How can 
you possibly go wrong with the classic motocross gameplay formula?  I don't 
think I could ever pick the better game between Jeremy McGrath Supercross 
2000 and Championship Motocross Featuring Ricky Carmichael.  I love both of
them so much that I can't possibly pick one over the other.
   In addition to the fact that Excitebike 64 fails to live up to the 
incredibly high standards set by motocross games, it also fails to live up 
to the high standards set by Nintendo 64 racing games.  I never thought the 
day would came when I would play a Nintendo 64 racing game that I didn't 
fall in love with immediately, but alas, that day is here.  Who needs more 
than two RPGs on a system with dozens of racing games, especially when 
they're all non-stop fun?  Not one of the N64's racing game is a generic, 
mediocre piece of crap put out by companies like Midway and Titus who have 
nothing better to do with their game development time than make average 
racing games.  Oh no, not the N64.  Every single racing game on the N64 
puts Gran Turismo to shame- except Excitebike 64, that is.
   All right, enough with the sarcasm.  I really did have high hopes for 
Excitebike 64 thanks entirely to its classic predecessor, Excitebike for 
the NES.  I can't remember how many nights I spent sitting in my basement 
designing courses with Excitebike's track editor and then racing on them.  
No really, I can't remember.  Most of my childhood is an indistinguishable 
blur.  But I do remember that the original Excitebike was a great game, and 
that made me look forward to Excitebike 64 even though it didn't look 
particularly promising in any previews over the past couple years.  Based 
on the previews, it looked like it was going to be just another generic 
racing game with nothing major to separate it from the crowd.  After 
playing the game extensively, I'm disappointed to report that it's exactly 
   The character models look good, but everything else looks average (get 
used to seeing a lot of brown).  It's disappointing to see so much fog in 
the outdoor courses given that the game isn't particularly detailed or 
fast.  There's not much sense of speed in the game at all.  As for the 
sound, it's ruined by the annoying, un-necessary, and repetitive announcer.
   The physics engine is both unrealistic and inconsistent.  Sometimes 
you'll fly through hills with ease, and other times (when you're going the 
same speed and all the conditions are the same), you'll struggle through 
those very same hills like Diamond Dallas Page struggling to get through a 
promo without talking about himself for more than ten minutes at a time. 
   The turbo button is way too erratic in that it causes you to spin out of 
control and crash your bike more often than it actually helps you.  The 
crashes themselves are animated fairly well, and they would be even better 
if they were more realistic.  It would also be nice if you could do 
repeated instant replays of particular crashes (and in slow motion) rather 
than just replays of entire races.  One of the only things that's ever any 
fun in the game is some of the big jumps, and even they wear thin after a 
while.  The track editor isn't much more advanced than it was on the NES, 
but it's still great fun just to mess around with it.
   One of the biggest problems with Excitebike 64 is that it has been 
dumbed-down so that absolutely anyone can play it.  That's great for casual 
gamers who might not be able to grasp the game if it were more complicated, 
but it's bad for hardcore gamers who are looking for a deep game experience.  
In particular, the control has been drastically over-simplified.  All you 
have to do is hold down the drift button and the direction you want to 
turn, and you'll do it flawlessly almost every single time.
   The Artificial Intelligence of the racers has also been dumbed-down.  
The computer racers speed up or slow down to ensure close races.  Most 
racing games do this to some extent, but it's over-done to the point of 
absurdity in Excitebike 64.  You could race flawlessly and still not be too 
far ahead of the pack, or you could get in 15 crashes during the course of 
a race and still catch up easily.  This method of AI doesn't make sense 
because it punishes good players and rewards bad ones.
   Excitebike 64 is still worth renting for the track editor alone, but the 
rest of the game is disappointing because of its dumbed-down gameplay and 
its lack of a decent physics engine or sense of speed.

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