Game Reviews

Hardcore Dirt Bike

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| Hardcore Dirt Bike
Hardcore Dirt Bike
| Hardcore Dirt Bike

When someone’s nervous about doing something they haven’t attempted for a while, a common encouragement is to say, "it’s like riding a bike."

It’s understood that the ability to ride a bike is such an instinctive, natural thing that it’s impossible to forget.

If that’s the case digitally, then iPhone developers must still be in the initial learning phase. The number of quality two-wheeler racing games can be counted on one hand.

Alas, you won’t be needing any more fingers now that Hardcore Dirt Bike is here.

From four wheels to two

Hardcore Dirt Bike is made by the team behind MonsterTruck Rally and you can immediately see the shared DNA. There’s the same (or at least a similar) fairly impressive 3D engine, the same rough-and-ready brand of semi-off-road racing, the same muddy landscapes.

The controls are also similar: you steer by tilting your handset, while acceleration and braking is assigned to touches of the right and left sides of the screen respectively.

A virtual button at the bottom-left initiates a random stunt when pressed mid-air. These aren’t always the most convincing tricks, though, since they run through a scripted routine regardless of orientation or distance from the ground.

It has to be said that the handling misses the mark. The game switches wildly from severe under-steering in normal driving conditions to severe over-steering when, for example, landing a jump while steering hard in a bid to avoid veering off-track.

It’s all about balance

Speaking of which, going off-track is even more unpredictable than the handling. One minute you might be able to cut a corner or forced to find your own way back to the track after overshooting, while the next you’re automatically reset after straying a couple of feet from the main track.

It’s an erratic system that - perversely, given the subject matter - often punishes you for going off-road.

Some of the old glitchy ways of MonsterTruck Rally show through in the form of inconsistent track furniture. Some barriers are as hard as concrete, bouncing you back into play when driven into. Others let you drive straight through as if they’re holographic.

What’s most annoying is when the two combine, allowing you to ride off-track, then blocking you from returning a little further along.

There might well be fewer game-breaking bugs and glitches here than in XLab's previous game, but there are still sloppy oversights that spoil the game.

All front, no back

Hardcore Dirt Bike is a little light on content, too, with only five tracks. The absence of a structured Career mode is disappointing, which is all the more baffling when you consider the front end, which is lifted from Codemasters's DiRT.

The aforementioned game used such an interface to immerse you in their Career mode, so it’s a little odd that this area is almost completely lacking. Rather, you simply compete in one-off races for credits to unlock more tracks and bikes.

It’s just another way in which Hardcore Dirt Bike flatters to deceive, offering a console-style racer with none of the accompanying depth, structure, sophistication, or attention to detail.

Hardcore Dirt Bike

Hardcore Dirt Bike has aspirations of being a console-standard racer, but lacks the finely honed gameplay and attention to detail to pull it off
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.