XBOX REVIEW: AMERICAN CHOPPER

Did you ever bite into a plate full of ice cream only to discover that it was mashed potatoes instead? What do you mean, "no?" Perhaps the roast beef and carrots beside the steaming white mound should have given it away but I had my mind set on ice cream. Now that I think about it, the gravy covering it should have been a dead giveaway also. Anyway, the point is, when you're expecting one thing, and get another, it can be quite a shock. As the dinner guests will concur when I spit the mixture right into the overhead ceiling fan.

I like watching American Chopper. I enjoy watching someone else get yelled at for a change, and I also like watching someone that gets more irritated than I do. In case you don't watch the Discover Channel, American Chopper is a reality show that documents the day-to-day activity of the Teutel family and staff as they customize a bike each week within some self-imposed deadline. The business is called Orange County Chopper and is located in the state of New York. Paul Sr. is the cranky, short-tempered dad and Paul Jr. is the laid back son that appears to be the most talented at customizing. The fun part of the show is when Paul Sr. freaks out.

To say I was disappointed in this game would be an understatement. While the TV show is all about customizing, (and a study in human interactivity) this game only features it in the shallowest of contexts. Instead of a game that takes its inspiration from the show that it's based on, it appear to have been more inspired by GTA than anything else. And if you can imagine how bad a budget title of GTA would be, you can imagine how bad American Chopper is.

I decided to choke back a beer and give this game a chance. I am a professional after all and I should not be prejudiced by my own expectations. I must be open to new directions. However the beer made me violent and I found myself looking for that fat, brother, Mikey to push around. I just wanted to push his face into that man-shaped punching bag they use on the show.

I gave the game a chance and it still didn't do anything for me. If I were the Teutels, I would not only be embarrassed over this game, I would be horrified as it involves running pedestrians down as well as other indiscretions. Using every biker cliché, this game manages to take the industry back to the dark days before the Hells Angels became a corporation. Are they trading on the markets yet?

You begin the game by entering into the Orange County Chopper universe as a new employee. You won't be customizing any bikes, instead you'll play the gopher as you perform a series of fetch-quest missions as dictated by Paul Sr. Some of the missions involve getting some spark plugs but there is an ominous tone to the game that makes it seem like Paul Sr. has ties to the mob or some underground biker network. Some of the missions involve escaping from rival gangs and trying to force them off their bikes. You will ride through town constantly dodging traffic as though everyone is out to kill you. You must prove your worth to Paul Sr. if you want to progress. I know this is a fantasy premise but it really sends out the wrong message. I would say that even if this game were good.

Most of the customizing is purely esthetic. You can only get into the shop in between chapters which consist of six or seven missions. Instead of actually customizing, you will be able to choose from various bikes from the show including the POW, Black Widow and Jet bike. They feel a little bit too light and it's easy to drive off he highway if you're not paying attention. Not that there's much to look at since the environments lack pizzazz.

As you might expect from a budget title, the game looks very low-res. The characters do speak but their lips aren't in synch and what they have to say is somewhat out of the character. The animation is stiff and clipping occurs constantly. Sometimes you'll be able to pass right through other vehicles on the road as though you were a ghost. The bikes don't even roar. They sound like anemic Volkswagens.

I have come to identify with the Teutels through their show and find them to be decent, caring, talented and occasionally volatile, human beings. It's a shame that this game does not commemorate their contributions to both the motorcycle industry as well as the entertainment industry. Anybody for ice cream?

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System: XBOX
Dev: Creat Studios
Pub: Activision
Released: Dec 2004
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2
GRAPHICS
2.5
CONTROL
3
MUSIC/FX
2
VALUE
1