PS2 REVIEW: AMERICAN CHOPPER 2: FULL THROTTLE

There was once a great adventure game made by LucasArts called Full Throttle which featured a biker on a motorcycle. Needless to say, this game ain't it. by Cole Smith

February 24, 2006 - I really liked American Chopper (the TV series) when it was fresh. The fights, the customizations of the bikes, and did I mention the fights? Then along came Mikey and I lost interest in the show. I don't really blame him for the show but he is lame and just happened to coincide with my disinterest. American Chopper 2 is a fair game but it also has some "Mikey" in it that keeps it from being good. Feel free to substitute the word "Mikey" for anything that means crap.

I know that Mikey has been around since the beginning of the show but in the last two seasons he's been getting too much air time. I'm not tuning in to watch a loser. I see enough of that in the mirror. I'm not a fan of Mikey and I'm not a fan of those that are a fan of Mikey. As far as I'm concerned there are two stars of this show and that's the Pauls - junior and senior. The fat dolt doesn't, and shouldn't, count even if he is a family member. The Mythbusters are also going through a similar crisis. Jamie and Adam are the stars of the show and are responsible for making it one of the best shows on TV. Why do they have to share airtime with those three annoying kids? Does a show like that really have to kowtow to the younger generation by including "hip" and relevant (in terms of age) role models? Maybe the producers can add a cute talking dog or a crime-solving possum and target the pre-school market. Or perhaps they corner the seniors market with special appearances by Bob Barker entering the bowels of an active volcano swaddled in flame-retardant adult diapers.

Perhaps you know nothing of the American Chopper series. Fortunately the game does a decent job of introducing you to the concept in addition to the characters. But here's an overview just in case. Orange County Chopper is a motorcycle shop that specializes in customizing bikes. As a reality series, a camera crew chronicles the customizing of a theme bike each week. Paul Sr., is the imposing owner of the shop that has pipes on him the size of some guy's waists - not to mention a short fuse that can be ignited at the most innocuous of times. Paul Jr., is his son. He's the one that can turn a bike into a jet, a spider or a memorial for prisoners of war or those that lost their lives during 911. He's incredibly imaginative and his slightly subdued pace always seems to aggravate big daddy. The whole scene is a volatile one and while some of it may be put on, it's still entertaining, at least for a spell.

Customizing bikes in American Chopper 2 is fairly easy. We don't get to be as inventive as Paul Jr., since the parts are limited. You can change the color, the shape and size of some parts but you can't start combining pieces to create hybrids and you can't start fabricating parts in the machine shop. Maybe that will come later in the series but for now you're just going to have to use what's available. There are tons of parts to be sure, from customized tanks and rims to lights and exhaust pipes.

Even at the real OCC, the boys choose from prefabricated parts such as engines, tires, transmissions, carbs, frames, tanks and fenders. They don't so much as make bikes as they assemble them, with various parts that have been manufactured by other companies. They don't even do their own custom paint jobs. But they can take some of these parts and alter them drastically to fit the theme of the bike. You will have a lot of choices, even with the various themes, but there are a lot of themed parts that are basically useless for use on any other bike, cosmetically speaking.

The fun of customizing your own chopper is short-lived. It's just too easy and basically irrelevant for the majority of the gameplay which involves riding the bikes and performing various objectives and missions. It's would be great if the additions acted like a sim racing game and actually made a noticeable difference in speed and handling. As it is, the bikes suffer from a weak control system that just doesn't have the proper feel. The bikes don't have much weight to them and feels too top heavy; not allowing your character to lean in and out of turns. It's a shame the bikes are so rigid since riding them is the major part of the gameplay.

In America Chopper 2 most of the gameplay revolves around various styles of riding including different variations on racing competitions and objection-based goals such as scaring pedestrians, driving for a predetermined time without an accident and avoiding getting caught by the cops. These goals are like a poor-man's version of GTA 3 as you run errands for the OCC boys and try to please Paul Sr. Some of these objectives are necessary to complete if you want to get to the next level and unlock some of the show's more famous bikes such as the PoW, Jet, Black Widow and Mikey's asinine Blues Bike.

Races run the gamut from drag to timed events, and from motoball to poker derbies. Motoball is like a cross between polo and soccer but it's played on motorcycles. A poker derby involves reaching various checkpoints where you receive one card from a regular playing deck. After reaching five checkpoints, the player with the best poker hand is the winner.

All of the races and objectives are fun to explore but leave no lasting impression. They don't compel you to want to replay them for any reason. Think of this game as nothing more than a series of half-hearted mini-games involving the Teutul family, who by the sounds of things, don't seem to be particularly interested in this game either. Although the boys are featured in lots of cutscenes, their delivery is uninspired. Maybe they aren't really acting on the show, because if these voiceovers are any indication, there are no thespians in this family.

Graphically the game is decent but it never reaches the presentation or spirit of the television show. Clipping occurs as you drive right through obstacles in the environment such as trees and signs. Slowdown occurs as reach high speeds and you will also see pop up and seams from time to time. It's sloppy. The lack of a multi-player mode forces me to recommend this only as a rental.

If I were Paul Sr. I would be heading down to the developer's office intent on kicking some nerd-ass.

Features:

  • Ride seven custom choppers from the hit TV series: P.O.W./MIA Bike, Jet Bike Black Widow Bike plus more
  • Build and customize your own design
  • Earn style points, unlock new bikes, parts and accessories as you successfully complete your missions and assignments
  • Life-like physics and handling
  • Experience the dangers of the road: road construction, truckers, traffic and more
  • Fun, interactive storyline: as a new hire at the Teutul's bike shop you will be at their mercy until you can prove your worth

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
American Chopper 2: Full Throttle (PS2)
3.5
Graphics
The bikes look good and the character models are instantly recognizable but the animation can be stiff and there are some technical issues such as clipping and slowdown.
2.0
Control
Controls are pretty awful. The bikes are rigid and there's no sense of weight or realism to them. I would have been content to just customize them, but that feature could also use an overhaul.
2.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceacting is dull. The music is dull. The engine sounds are dull. 'Nuff said?
2.0
Play Value
Unless you're the type that would go out of your way to watch repeats of this show on television, you can expect the novelty to wear off in a matter of a few hours.
2.4
Overall Rating - Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PS2 (Shown), X, GC
Dev: Creat Studio
Pub: Activision Value
Release: Nov 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best