|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||Snowbreak Extreme|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Racing||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||July 1998||Standard Joypad|
Setting the Scene
Some people may think that rocketing down a snow covered mountain on planks of wood at over 80 km/h is fun. These same people also seem to derive demented pleasure from staying in sub-zero temperatures for long periods of time, sometimes at night. To top it all off they tend to enjoy this pastime even more when completely soaking wet while suffering excruciating pain. If you're saying, "yeah, that's me" right about now then the recent release of several Playstation games in the snowboarding/skiing genre will doubtlessly have you squirming in your latex jumpsuit. Snowbreak Extreme is going up against some pretty tough competition in the form of Eidos's brilliant 'Chill' and Ocean's classy 'Snow Race 98'. So given the tough competition, how does 'Snowbreak' stand up? Can it possibly go up against the development might of Eidos and Ocean and come out shining or is it just another pretender better left on the shelf to gather dust. Do you think I'm going to spoil the surprise and tell you now? No way! Read on and find out for yourself.
Well, you take control of some dude (or dude-ette) on Ski's or a Snowboard and then race down a giant hill on snow. That would tend to make it a Snow Racing game, don't you think?
Snowbreak's Full Motion Video intro shows us some rendered footage of the age old battle between skiers and snowboarders, as one of each race down a mountain in an effort to prove who is better. The video is reasonable, although a little blocky and unrealistic. Unfortunately, the intro is the best element of a graphically poor game. I usually rate the graphics in a game with an open mind. I tend to pick up on bad clipping, pop-up or polygon edges and am usually pretty forgiving when just one of these problems exists in a game. A game that has all three and in such abundance that it detracts from the overall enjoyment deserves to be highlighted as a good example of what developers should NOT be doing with the Playstation hardware. The gameplay and graphics are fast but when the speed comes at such a cost I really don't feel it is worth it. The Pop-up is so obvious and there are times when it looks like you are going to go over the edge of a very large cliff when suddenly a wall of snow will appear. You quickly need to make emergency evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision with this mysteriously appearing mountain. Clipping is equally bad. If you hit an obstacle, such as a tree or building, on your way down the mountain you will suddenly find yourself inside the structure. This is bad since scientists haven't quite perfected transporter technology yet. Finally, the polygon edges are so obvious and contrasting to the background and textures that as you ski down the hill it looks like a volcano has erupted and the tectonic plates have come apart right before your eyes. Shocking! The graphics do have a few good points. Viewing from behind, the skiing characters are well rendered. Especially the female skiers who have the best rendered rear ends I have seen in a game ever (that includes Lara). The background scenery may not be 3D but it is nicely painted and moves quite fluidly as your skier or boarder jerks madly around the slopes.
Sounds and Effects
The music and effects in Snowbreak certainly don't jump out and grab you but manage an adequate job of keeping this very average game from becoming too dull. The electronic music is pretty standard racing fare, so there is not really anything new here. The effects are restricted to the usual grunts and exclamations from the skiers that you would expect from anybody racing down a steep hill at breakneck speeds. The race commentator does a good job of stating the obvious, but considering that is what commentators usually do, we can't really hold that against him.
Snowbreak gives you the choice of racing as a Skier or Boarder down a variety of tracks in a number of different race formats. The race formats are: Arcade, 2 Player, Time Race and Time Trial. Nothing to really surprise you here. The Arcade mode just lets you jump right in and race against 2 computer opponents on any of the 4 available tracks with whichever racer you want to choose. Time Race is a single event down any of the 4 tracks. You have 300 seconds to complete the course and you can record your time and try and improve on it as you get better. Time Trial is the more traditional "race to the checkpoints" style, where you must reach each checkpoint in a pre-allocated time to continue the race. If you don't make it - you're out. If you do - you can continue racing. The only real disappointment here is the 2 Player mode. In the traditional sense a two Player game has you pitted against a friend in a split-screen race to the death. In Snowbreak you can play against a friend, as long as you don't mind waiting while they race, and vice versa. You race down the hill first then your opponent does the same but against your ghost. While the "take turns" approach taken by Snowbreak could be seen as an attempt to break the mould and try something different, it really doesn't work and ends up being very boring. The four racers you can choose from each have different skill levels in three areas, maximum speed, acceleration and turning power. The size and skill of each racer determines the level of these attributes but in general the choices are well balanced. So all you really have to decide on is whether you want to ski or board, oh, and if you want to look like Rosco McQueen, Whitney Houston or an Elf from Santa's workshop (that's what they looked like to me!). The options are pretty standard and allow you do do such mundane tasks as turn the Ghost racer off, change music and effects volume and set up your controller. The only cool feature here is the ability to name your character so instead of being known as "Player 1" you can name them such things as "Chunky looking block thing" or "Strange Colored Brick with arms". Once you start actually racing the action in the game is quite fast and control of your racer is pretty responsive but many annoying features hamper the gameplay. To survive each track you must safely navigate a number of jumps over bottomless pits. You usually get a warning sign and a beep before you reach the pit of despair. In general, unless you know where they are, the warning is too late and down you plunge, setting you back quite a way. In real life hitting a tree at 80km/h would probably cause you some considerable damage (just ask the Kennedy's). During Snowbreak it causes you to tumble out of control and lose valuable time. This is all right, but what isn't acceptable is the fact that if you even graze the invisible barrier surrounding the track (sometimes it appears as a fence - sometimes nothing at all) you will come to a sudden stop and have to begin raising your momentum all over again. The camera angels used throughout the game can also cause frustration. While most of the time the camera is suitably placed directly behind the racer, sometimes it gets a gets a little confused and ends up looking into the sky or directly at the side of a building or the snow. There are some nice features in the gameplay that make it an interesting experience, the best of which is the ability to fall off the edge of the track into gigantic pits and valleys, further adding to the stressful experience of racing down a huge wall of ice as excessive speeds.
Value for Money
You start the game with access to four players (2 Ski and 2 Board) and four tracks. To be honest, I couldn't stand playing it long enough to discover if extra tracks were released by winning the championships. I'm sure that there must be at least another two hiding in there somewhere. Even with a possible six downhill races and six players to choose from the variety of gameplay is pretty limited in this title. You choose a track. You race down it really fast. If you hit anything you fall over. Repeat until you finish or turn your Playstation off in sheer boredom. At least 'Chill' gives you the choice of playing free-style in a halfpipe to do some awesome board tricks.
may have been a little harsh on the game in all the categories above but
there really is not excuse for a game of this (poor) quality, in the
current environment of excellent games, being released for Playstation.
If you're a mad keen Skier or Boarder and really want to play a game based on the sport I highly recommend Eidos' Chill (for Boarders) and Oceans Snow Race 98' (for Ski and Board action). Both of these games beat Snowbreak on playability, graphics and sound (and I haven't even mentioned the equally cool, '1080 Snowboarding' on N64).
Resist the temptation to even rent this goose, give 'Snowbreak' a miss. My apologies to EIDOS and OCEAN for mentioning the names of their excellent products next to such a poor excuse for a game.