- Downhill Domination (PS2)
Some years ago there was a PlayStation game called No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking. Nice idea, but unfortunately the game wasn’t all that good. It was particularly let down by the choices of bikes and components – if memory serves you started out with steel wheels and could upgrade to aluminium if you won enough races, a somewhat laughable scenario if you knew even the first thing about bikes. And if you didn’t, well, it still wasn’t much cop.No Fear was by Codemasters too, but it’s got so little in common with Downhill Domination that we almost hesitate to mention them in the same sentence. On paper DD has everything going for it – real bikes from the likes of GT, Specialized, Karpiel and Intense; real riders including Brian Lopes and Richie Schley; real component upgrades; and most importantly, totally unreal courses…
There are 27 courses spread across nine countries, each country having a downhill, mountain cross and freeride course. The courses vary in the sorts of ways you’d expect, with the downhills being narrow, fast and technical, the mountain cross being packed with jumps and berms and the freeride courses not really being courses at all – you get a start line and a finish line and where you go between the two is largely up to you.The controls are simple enough to get your head around fairly quickly but sophisticated enough to let you shift your weight around in the air, bunnyhop, stick a foot out in corners and so on. As well as the basic controls there’s an entertaining trick system so you can nail that X-up superman backflip that you just can’t quite pull in real life, plus combat buttons so you can take out anyone who has the temerity to try and overtake. The combat system is upgradeable with on-course power-ups, so you can progress from throwing punches to kicks, through lethal endos and on to chucking splendid exploding water bottles…
Despite the very obvious unreality of the courses – featuring roving polar bears, lava streams, wandering uranium miners and drops that would have Bender looking for his mum – there’s a pretty realistic feel to the bikes. People who know mountain biking have been heavily involved in this game, and it shows. You get the same kick out of landing a big drop, getting sideways off a jump or manualling a landing as you do in real life (er, we assume…) and when you get into the tree-lined singletrack you really have to concentrate.
You get a bunch of career modes, either specialising in DH, 4X or freeride or doing the lot – success means more money for bikes and parts, sponsorship deals and various other stuff. There’s quite a few cool bikes to choose from, although to be honest it’s tough to discern much difference between them in action. They look great, though. And of course there’s a two-player game which is essential post-pub entertainment.
It’s super-fast – although we did experience a bit of glitching if there’s a lot going on like eight riders all riding through a waterfall at the same time – and there are so many line choices in the courses that it’ll keep you entertained for ages. We’ve been waiting a long time for a great MTB video game – Downhill Domination is it.
Positives: Simply hilarious fun, frighteningly addictive.
Negatives: Different bikes not all that different, makes your thumbs ache
Verdict: The world of MTB video games is a small one, but Downhill Domination stacks up well against the wider spectrum of PS2 games. It’s by no stretch of the imagination a simulation but it’s got its own strangely compelling sort of realism. Most importantly, though, it’s just a lot of fun. Recommended.