SX Superstar is an overall decent supercross game, but a few minor problems really prevent it from standing out as a must-have game, even for fans of the sport. It has a fairly in-depth championship mode, where you have to literally work your way from the gutters up into the spotlight by winning races and signing contracts with sponsors. There are different types of racing events, ranging from stunt tracks, where the ultimate goal is to perform as many stunts as possible, to Baja racing, which is essentially an open-track-style race that requires you to get to various checkpoints spread out over the environment. There's plenty to do in SX Superstar, but the problems lie in the gameplay mechanics--such as the trick system and camera--which could've used a little more tweaking.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/xbox/sxsuperstar/0630/0001.jpgVisually, both the GameCube and Xbox versions of SX Superstar look quite good.
There are essentially three modes to choose from in SX Superstar--arcade, championship, and multiplayer. The arcade mode lets you jump right into a race, but unfortunately you're limited to the tracks that are initially unlocked--you can unlock more by going through the championship mode--so it's really not all that entertaining when you're just starting a game. However, it does succeed as somewhat of a practice mode where you can get a general feel for the game and learn how certain tracks are laid out, especially the Baja runs.
The championship mode offers much more depth than the arcade mode. This mode places you in the role of a completely unknown supercross rider with little to no money. Fortunately, you get a chance to change all of this by competing in a series of races over the course of a season. When you perform well in a race, you'll pull the attention of advertisers, who will offer money in exchange for being able to put sponsorship patches on various portions of your racing clothes. Interestingly, sponsors will offer a variety of different deals--some will give you a one-year contract for a sponsorship patch on your back, while others might give you a two-year deal with winning bonuses and only require a small patch on your sleeve.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/xbox/sxsuperstar/0630/0002.jpgSX Superstar can be an enjoyable game if you're willing to work through some of its flaws.
You can turn down or accept offers as you see fit, and while it's important to hold out for a good deal, you don't want to turn too many sponsors away, because you don't know when the next deal might come along. Of course, it's not entirely necessary to get a sponsor in the first season, since you can compete with the bike that you have with no problems, but as you progress further into this mode, you'll find that the default bike is woefully inadequate--you'll have to fork out some cash for a new one, and they're not exactly cheap. That's why sponsorships can be useful. Another cool little feature of the championship mode is that the interface (which essentially shows your living conditions) will change depending on how well you're doing.
The nagging issue with the championship mode isn't the way it's structured, but rather, it's the races. Obviously, there has to be some learning involved when racing on a track for the first time, since you won't know what the general layout is going to be. This is particularly true for the more-open Baja-style courses, in which the checkpoints are indicated by a green arrow at the top of the screen. But this green arrow isn't particularly effective a lot of the time, especially when the track starts branching into multiple directions and it's not entirely clear which path you're supposed to take. Oftentimes, you will go the wrong way and lose any chance of placing in a reasonable spot by the end of the race, and unfortunately, you can't restart the race either unless you want to forfeit entirely.
This is made worse by the fact that the camera often doesn't take a useful position, or at a least position that actually helps you see down the track. The near camera causes the rider's back to get in the way, making it difficult to see. The far camera alleviates this problem a little, but since the rider is still the focal point on the track, it can still be difficult to see what path you're supposed to take or if the path ahead is even safe. The third camera option, the helmet camera, would work well if it didn't respond to the slightest twitch or bump in the ground. On the flip side, this does increase the challenge level, but it would be nicer if the challenge level were connected to the AI as opposed to a perplexing green arrow.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/xbox/sxsuperstar/0630/0003.jpgIt's not entirely necessary to get a sponsor right off the bat, but those bike upgrades aren't cheap.
The AI, unfortunately, just isn't all that great. In the early portions of the championship mode, you'll notice that riders will crash quite often, so you shouldn't have any problem performing well on regular circuit tracks. But after the first season, some serious rubber-band AI starts to kick in, and opponents will appear out of nowhere and pass you. You can combat this by using some of your turbo meter, which can be filled by performing tricks, but it seems as though the computer opponents always have a little more turbo than you do.
Unfortunately, filling the turbo meter can be a bit of a problem because the trick system is a little too clunky. In order to get enough air off of jumps, you have to hold a specific button, and then once you're in the air you can perform a series of tricks by pressing different directional and button combinations. However, the animation on the tricks can be a little jumpy at times, making it difficult to judge how close you are to finishing the trick or how long you can actually hold it before hitting the ground--it takes some time to get used to, but once you get accustomed to the timing of performing a trick, it's not quite as bad. In addition, it's worth noting that the general controls in the game are fairly common for this type of game, so you shouldn't have any trouble learning the basics, such as how to make sharp turns by putting extra weight to one side of the bike.
Visually, both the GameCube and Xbox versions of SX Superstar look quite good. The frame rate stays at a really brisk pace even when in split-screen multiplayer, and the environments can be quite large with little to no noticeable draw-in. The textures on the track are also especially crisp, and there are some really nice water effects generated by rivers and rain. There are also plenty of objects in the environments and some nicer, more-subtle details such as flocks of birds flying out of the way of a group of bikes in the larger outdoor levels. However, the rider models aren't all that detailed, and, for the most part, they all look identical aside from their gear.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/xbox/sxsuperstar/0630/0004.jpgThere's plenty to do in SX Superstar, but the gameplay mechanics could've used a little more tweaking.
The sound effects in the game are good. All of the bike sounds are faithfully re-created, and you'll hear a variety of sounds when driving over different surfaces. The soundtrack, which is made up of a variety of hard-rock extreme-style tunes, fits the genre pretty well, and anyone into motocross or supercross probably will enjoy it.
SX Superstar can be an enjoyable game if you're willing to work through some of its flaws. The trick system isn't all that great, but it gets the job done, and while the camera will be a major source of frustration, you'll eventually learn to deal with it once you start to memorize the general layout of certain tracks. In any case, once you get past these flaws, the championship mode provides suitable motivation for continually playing SX Superstar, and the split-screen multiplayer option adds a little more longevity to the game. It's certainly worth renting if you're into the sport, but the small problems it has make it a game that won't entertain an audience much wider than that.