ESPN Winter X-Games
Review of ESPN Winter X-Games
To the uninitiated snowboarding is very much a sport for the new millennium. Participants are often portrayed as wild and unruly characters mainly because of their bizarre sense of dress and the crazy off-course rave-ups. The truth is that snowboarding is an extremely skillful sport that requires nerves of steel, rubber bones and elastic joints. Of course a slightly loose screw can sometimes be advantageous due to the nature of the event - hurtling down a steep snowy mountainside balanced on what in effect is a miniaturized surfboard.
There is much to be admired visually within X-Games from the live action intro to the impressive after event action replays. Dependent on mode selected you can choose one of the 15 pro riders or create a character within the edit screen. The pro riders look ultra-realistic with photographs of their real faces neatly wrapped around the head of their motion captured bodies. However, the create-a-character is extremely limited and concentrates more on slapping advertising logos across the heavily sponsored clothing. Surely this goes to prove how the games industry now runs along a similar track to the movie world. Whatever next... pay per view boxing games?
Sandwiched neatly in between all the gloss and glamour is an awesome pre-ride journey across the slopes of the upcoming circuit. Once the run begins theres a really cool effect as the wind ripples the riders clothing and the lens flare technique has been put to some rather nice use against the smooth snowy backdrop. On the downside all these pretty graphics have drastically affected the frame rate and you really never get much feeling of traveling at speed throughout the game. Although the scenery looks continuous I also found that my rider occasionally crashed through a few nasty glitches and became hopelessly stuck.
The background tunes are okay, but its the sound effects that really stand out. Try switching off the music and take in the ambience that is created by the combined effects of the cold wind whistling through the snow laden pine branches and the crunching loose layer of frozen ice as it is blended and spliced by the base of your snowboard.
One thing that Winter X-Games Snowboarding has in abundance is variation of game modes (listed in features). Each can be played in an exhibition style (X-Games mode), as a turn-based multiplayer event (Session mode) or as a sort of RPG shopping expedition (Snowboarder mode). Its the latter that raises more than a passing interest. First create a character and then its off to the lounge to take part in a sort of mini-rpg. By talking to different characters you get the chance to earn some extra money from winning competitions, acquiring lift passes and making movies of your events. Just like real economics this is then used to better your equipment and thus stand a chance to make even more lovely cash.
While I admire an attempt to provide something slightly different I generally found the gameplay to be flawed with too many frustrations. Take the free ride for instance. Five miles by five miles of snowy terrain sounds awesome, but there are so many flat sections you quickly come to a complete stop… and eventually give up trying to get moving again. Then theres the time attack mode that involves descending down a slope into a blinding blizzard. To further complicate matters the only way to rack up sufficient points is to discover and use short cuts. Only finding them involves blindly leaping over the edge of a mountain into the unknown…. and usually certain death. Of course you cannot simply restart at the summit and try again. Oh no, you must return to the mode selection screen and trawl through all the loading screens once more. Even when racing against CPU competitors one slight mistake or accidental collision makes it virtually impossible to catch up with the leader, so you may as well quit and restart… over and over again. With virtually no learning curve this quickly becomes an almighty frustration, especially when the over-sensitive analog stick is once again to blame.
Now I understand that these things often happen in real life when out snowboarding, but dont you think this takes realism a bit too far? I mean I wouldnt want to take a bath after every single match in FIFA or MADDEN, now would I?
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'ESPN Winter X-Games' 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 25 ESPN Winter X-Games in-game screenshot slideshow
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