Review of Airblade
Trickstyle was without doubt one of the best games ever released on the Dreamcast system and was probably the title responsible for shifting the most units of Sega’s now dwindling console last year. The good news for PS2 owners is that the very same developers Criterion have recently completed a similar style of game for Sony.
Airblade is basically a next generation boarding game with a twist. Rather than glide down snowy landscapes (SSX) or burn rubber through downtown back streets (Tony Hawke) you get the chance to pilot a Back To The Future style Hoverboard across a selection of varied city landscapes.
The main crux of the game is Story Mode where the player takes on the role of Ethan, a street wise skate kid who has been entrusted with the top secret Airblade after it’s inventor was kidnapped by the sinister GCP Corporation. While the story will fail to hold your attention is does serve it’s purpose by linking together the six levels.
“Only Six Levels…?” I hear you scream in astonishment. Afraid so… but each subsequent location grows in size and is also fully interactive. It will take ages for you completely investigate an area where you can smash through windows, swing around lamp posts, ‘loop the loop’ over hanging bars, grind on virtually every edge, staircase, billboard and passing vehicle in the game. Then there’s the railings, overhead cables, walls, ledges, tracks… I swear there are occasions where your character will not touch the ground for almost a minute. Imagine how many stunt combos you could cram into that amount of time?
Each level offers a series of tasks of which most can be carried out in any order. For example six bad guys are roaming around a busy city and it’s up to you to thwack them across the face with your floating board as quickly as possible. Once an objective has been met a helpful direction indicator points towards the next target. This could involve catching a series of constantly moving vehicles or maybe grinding over a set number of stationary objects situated high up in the multi-story level. You can often see where you need to reach but working out how the heck to access them takes more than a few attempts to work out. To some this may simply raise the frustration factor of the game but personally I though the developers got the balance just right. It’s amazing how many time seemingly ‘unreachable’ places can be accessed by a series of timely swings, acrobatic grinds, careful balance and booster jumps. In summary, if you can see a wire leading to the top of a building then you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a way of getting up there.
Each level begins with the game clock running down, however, bonus seconds may be gained for each successful objective carried out. One thing I can guarantee is that the first few times you play each level the clock will always beat you. Once a newly opened level is revealed it may help to quit the Story Mode and spend a little time investigating the area in Freeride mode. Once all objectives have been met the player is awarded a grade decided on time, points, falls and trick combos. The higher your grade, the more secrets will be revealed. Other single player modes include a brief training session, which is all that is needed to feel comfortable on the Hoverboard. There’s also a Score Attack mode.
Multiplayer games are also catered for with the best being a game of Ribbon Tag. At the start of a level both players race to be the first to cross the ‘Police Line’ (a yellow “Do not cross” ribbon). Once in possession the yellow ribbon trails behind becoming longer and longer, therefore making it easier for your opponent to snatch it back.
Visually Airblade is gorgeous. In fact Criterion could easily use this game as a demo to promote the use of their own Renderware graphics engine. It runs at a cracking constant frame rate (60 fps I guess), while the depth of detail in each environment is truly amazing. Even if you don’t fancy this title then I suggest a weekend rental would be in order just to dribble over the visual splendor. There’s also a neat 15-minute DVD where the Criterion team get the chance to describe how the game idea came about and an insight into the development process.
Finally the whole package is tied up with a selection of hip-hop “here we go, here we go!” tunes that are guaranteed to keep your heart pumping to the same frantic pace of the game.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Airblade' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Martin © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 24 Airblade in-game screenshot slideshow
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