Microsoft
Microsoft
Sports
1-4
11.17.01

Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding


When Microsoft announced they were making a snowboarding game for Xbox people were a bit skeptical to say the least. First shown at this years Gamestock, Amped showed promise but was bashed right off the bat when it was revealed that the screen shots of the game that Microsoft released on the net were pre rendered and not real time gameplay. There was a lot of doubt that the actual gameplay would look as good as the concept art, but all of that would be cleared up a few months later at a little show called E3. Shown in fully playable form, Amped quickly put to rest any doubt about the games graphics and the power of the Xbox for that matter. Even in its early state, Amped didn't just look as good as the concept art but many times better, proving the people over at MS knew what they were doing. Looks play a big role in a game but what really matters is how it plays and that is were everyone was surprised. Even at E3 it was fun to play and showed off some really promising gameplay ideas that no other snowboarding game had done before. Amped was not without flaws though, there was a good bit of slowdown, some big time clipping problems and a bit of pop up and some control problems. The big question was would Microsoft be able to fix these things and get it cleaned up and playing like the game they were hyping it up to be? Well after spending the last few days with the final version I can now answer that question with 3 words...Oh Hell Yea!!

Graphics

One word, Amazing!!! Not only is Amped the best looking snowboarding game ever made, it is one of the most impressive looking games ever. The level of detail in the snow alone is unbelievable, using 20+ different textures, you wont find more realistic snow in a videogame anywhere on anything PC or console. Not only does it look real but it reacts realistically too, as you are going over it, your board cuts a path through it with uncanny realism throwing it up in the air in big puffs of white which then fades out in the air and that my friend is just the beginning. The tracks themselves are filled with 100s if not 1000s of fully 3d trees, each with highly detailed bump mapped textures right down to the snow on the bark. Each tree casts its own shadows and shows off real time lighting effects which makes the tracks look almost photo realistic. The tracks design itself is really outstanding, with each track featuring lots of jumps for big air and tons of things to grind off of, from buildings to rails to downed trees just about anything is possible. Even more amazing yet, Amped has no fog or pop ups whatsoever and on many of the tracks you can see to the end of the run, which is miles away, and this is when it really shows off the true power of the Xbox, displaying 100s of highly detailed 3d trees in huge wide open environments all moving at a blazing 60 fps with no slow down at all. The boarder models sport an insane amount of detail, from their bump mapped clothes that blow in the wind to the 1000s of life like animations for the tricks. Each boarder also casts real time shadows that changes with the sun light and help to give the game a even more life like look. To sum it all up, this game is purty really really purty.

Gameplay

Even with its awesome graphics, Amped wouldn't be anything without good gameplay to back them up. Not only does the gameplay back up the amazing graphics, but it sets a new standard for snowboarding games altogether. Try to picture Tony Hawk with snowboards meets GT3 and you will be begging to get the idea of how Amped plays. Amped has 3 main modes of play, Career, Quick Race and Multiplayer. The latter two are pretty straight forward. Quick race lets you pick a boarder and a track and turns you loose and multiplayer lets you and up to 3 other friends battle it out in many different gameplay modes, but career is were you will be spending most of your time at. You start off by customizing your boarder from head to toe; at first you don't have many options but later on in the game you can pick form 1000s of clothes and gear. After that you start off on one of the games many mountains which are based off of real life resorts like Snow Summit and Stratton. Each mountain has many different runs (tracks) with the final number around 120. Each mountain has certain challenges which are broken down by track. And this is were Amped really shines, some tracks you have to beat a set high score in points by doing tricks. You also have to beat a media score which you do by doing big tricks by photographers who take your pic while you perform your tricks. The bigger the trick the more points you get and the easier it is for you to beat the high score and media score challenges. You can go back and look at your scrapbook at some pics of your bigger moves which is really cool. After you get enough exposure from the high score and media challenges, Sponsor tracks open up. Sponsor challenges allow you to do tricks to impress a sponsor. There is a bar at the top of the screen which shows how excited they are with your boarding skills. The goal is to get the sponsor "Amped" by the end of the run which in turn they will give you new gear, like boards. Most mountains have 2 or more sponsor challenges, but once you complete them they open up the PRO challenge for a mountain. Pro challenges put you up against the pro of that mountain. Both of you start down the mountain at the same time, the pro will do a trick that range from easy to hard which is indicated by the color of the path he leaves behind him for you to follow. The goal is to do a better trick the pro and if you do 3 better tricks in a row you beat him and earn more skill points, gear and exposure. You can also earn skill points in other challenges too which can be used to increase your boarders performance. Last but not least there are the Explore challenges. To complete a explore challenge you must find and run over the eight snowmen scattered throughout each level. The explore challenge is more like a bonus challenge since you don't have to complete them to unlock other runs, but they do give you special prizes for completing them. Each mountain is set up this way with these challenges and the main goal of the game is to lower your world rank by completing each of these and getting more media exposure and one day getting on the cover of Amped mag. All of these events really help make Amps gameplay addictive and tons of replay to it. The whole challenge system works like that of GT3s and gives Amped a new level of depth not yet seen in any other snowboarding game to date.

Amped features some of the best controls to date. Allowing you to steer with one joy stick and do all your tricks with the other one which makes doing tricks easy and giving you amazing control over them and allowing you to do 100s at a simple move of the joystick. There were some problems with the control in earlier versions of the game but all of that has been cleared up now. The trick system does take some time and practice to get use to, but once you understand how it works its a breeze to do complex tricks all over the place. The only problem I have found in the game is with grinding, it's not really a control problem but more of a collision detection problem. It's tricky to line up to grind on something and there are times when you will go to grind and your boarder gets knocked off and busts his ass as if you didn't jump on the rail or tree but those are few and far between and over all don't effect the gameplay much at all.

Sound

The sound effects in Amped are well done. The sound of the board cutting through the snow sounds very realistic as does the rest of the environmental sounds. All of the photographers yell out things at you when you approach them and even make fun of you if you fall and bust your ass by them. To go a long with its huge number of tracks, Amped also comes with a very impressive list of songs out of the box, 150 to be exact. They range from punk to metal to good ol' rock and really keeps the chance of you hearing the same song over again extremely low. Not only does Amped provide you with 150 songs, but it also gives you the option to rip your on songs with CD's or CDRW's which is really cool. Amped makes it quick and easy use your own custom playlists in the game. Another cool feature about this is how they pull it off in game, once you pick the mountain you want to snowboard on, you can go from track to track with no load time and your song keeps on playing. So if you finish one track and want to board on another one on the same mountain, you can select one and with no load time and be snowboarding on a new track all while your same sound is still playing with out missing a beat, awesome!!

Bottom Line:

Amped is not only the best snowboarding game to date, but is one of the better games out right now for any system. With its amazing graphics, good sound and unbelievable gameplay, Amped will keep you busy for a long long time and is a must buy for any one who likes snowboarding games or games like Tony Hawk.

-Eric Peters




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