IGN Review of American Chopper 2: Full Throttle
As a gaming society, we have come to expect more and more from games as generations go by. The need for constant progression in our games is top priority. For example, when the original Need for Speed series began, they had a few real licensed cars and a few tracks for each. As the franchise expanded, however, the use of outside elements were included, adding police chases in the Hot Pursuit series and full customization in Underground. Gameplay has remained true to the experience, but the world that encompasses that gameplay continues to grow as the years go on. American Chopper 2: Full Throttle doesn't have the luxury of progressing over generations and generations, rather it attempts to take the American Chopper name (which has become popular only recently) and capitalize on an all-in-one design. The result, however, is a package that offers more on the customization and presentation side than it does in true gameplay.
Let's clear a few things up right from the start. American Throttle 2 is a far better game than most will expect. That is due largely in part to the amazing presentation that is offered. The entire game, based around the four main characters of the American Chopper television show, offers a different experience for each cast member and will treat players to full cinemas between almost every mission. The sheer amount of attention to detail is an accomplishment on its own, using real character voice acting, montage-style shooting with the camera (to make mini music videos for character introductions), and an extremely high sense of interactive TV. In fact, characters in the videos actually talk into the camera, as if the gamer is simply watching an episode of the show rather than playing the game. The amount of cinemas and the overall quality of the production simply blew us away.
In fact, there really isn't much that we can't rave about in the presentation area. The bike customization is pretty impressive, allowing players to tweak the color, shape, and style of virtually every part of the choppers. If customizing choppers isn't your cup-o-tea, forget about this one. In fact, if it isn't your cup-o-tea, why watch the show? Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of the television show, or even into choppers to begin with, the game walks players though the set-up quite nicely. I don't know the first thing about actual bike tuning (I'm an Underground kind of guy), but the "auto-build" feature set me up with a bike instantly and let me go from there. Creat Studio did a great job of introducing the world of custom choppers. There could have been a bit more depth in customization, though it is hard to really capture the show's magic since they literally customize every bike on the fly. While there are a ton of ways to set bikes apart through shape, color, and theme, players will eventually run out of options, and it happens a bit too fast. The actual amount of customization is on par with the first Underground game, so while it isn't endless by any means, it still allows for fans to create a bike with their own personality.
Unfortunately, while the game does a great job with presentation, it is pulled down with weak gameplay. The best way to describe the feeling of in-game control is to relate American Chopper 2 to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It really is about the same, allowing control that looks and feels too basic, nullifying the experience. When moving left and right, the bike and player move as one object, and rather than getting the feeling of weight movement, it is rigid and unrealistic. When interacting with the environment, certain objects (such as poles and trees) can be driven through with no trouble, while other random pieces of the playfield will send the driver over the handlebars in a second's notice. When resetting after a crash, the game often puts the player far too close to the item crashed into, so if you run straight into a wall, you will reappear mere inches from that wall after the crash animation, forcing you to back up very, very slowly until getting back on track. In fact, some of the objects that break or are pushed aside won't even move at times, showing the driver actually pass through a dumpster or crate without interacting with it. It is these oddities that make American Chopper a great customization game and a terrible driving game. If only the gameplay could have held up.
In fact, aside from gameplay, the rest of the package is pretty strong. The production can hold its own graphically, thought there are some frame rate issues while driving. The cinemas are surprisingly strong, and the actions of characters really capture the feeling of the show. In fact, as a general rule for looking at the game's production, anything done by artists (such as animations, bike design, and character models) is strength, and anything that was programming intensive (such as gameplay and object interaction) is a painfully obvious weakness. The audio quality is also a bit of a toss up, providing great voice-overs for the characters, but uninspired musical tracks that sound like generic arcade cuts. Throw in a few guitar riffs, a bit of drums, and bingo.
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