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Winter X Games Snowboarding 2002
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:   Konami
Publisher:   Konami
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Extreme Sports
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:   3-13-02

ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding (released shortly after the PS2ís launch) was a very solid, but flawed game. While it did a great job of accurately simulating the sport, it actually went a bit too far and presented a sport too difficult for all but the most hardcore of snowboarding fans. With this effort Konami has attempted to fix this problem and make the game a bit more accessible, but in the end the series has overall actually taken a minor step back.

Like itís predecessor, the gameplay has its roots firmly planted in reality. As a result, this game has a very steep learning curve and will present a lot of early frustration for novices of the genre. The control setup is similar to most "extreme" games, with X being the jump (ollie) button, square and circle being the grab buttons, triangle executing a grind, and the left analog stick controlling general movement. The trick system is overall much more shallow than youíll find in other games, but thatís forgivable in that in a simulation you wouldnít expect to be able to perform some of the crazy stunts other games provide. There are still plenty of tricks to keep you busy, but some of these are almost impossible to pull off regularly. In particular, in order to pull off multiple spins in one jump you must hold down the L1 and L2 buttons while tapping the left analog stick in the direction of the spin. A much simpler (and actually executable) method wouldíve been to simply allow the gamer to hold down the analog stick for more than one spin. Once you get a hang of the overall control scheme youíll be able to pull off tricks with comparable ease, but itíll take most gamers a lot of practice time to reach a competent level.

As the title would suggest, the meat of the game lies in making it to the Winter X Games via the Snowboarder Mode. In this mode the gamer creates his/her own skater, choosing from different face, body, hair and other attributes. Essentially a career mode, here itís much deeper than what youíll usually find in a game of this type due to its RPG-like attributes. Starting out with 1000g, youíll outfit your snowboarder from a good selection of real-life gear, and then start out as a nobody trying to work his way to the top. At the beginning things are very slow, as youíll see only minor increases in your boarderís stats and popularity. Every time you crash, your boarderís HP (hit points) will decrease. If they reach 0, youíll have to pay a hefty hospital bill to get back into riding shape. This combination of slow-rising stats and frequent hospital bills result in very little skill gain in the early going, but once you get over the initial "hump" the career mode progresses at a fairly rapid rate. My only real disappointment with the career mode is that each town map is made up of different blocks with words on them ("Shop", "Home", etc.). A rendered town wouldíve been great. Overall, the Snowboarder Mode is a very deep and rewarding career mode.

Other game modes are aimed at the more casual snowboarding fan, including the X Games Mode and Duel Mode. Duel Mode allows two players to compete in a variety of split-screen events, while the X Games Mode allows the player to participate in a recreation of the Winter X Games. Events in this mode include Slopestyle (highest trick points wins), Snowboarder X (race downhill), Superpipe, Big Air (try for the maximum height and distance), and Free Ride (practice). Other than the goals presented in each, they really play no differently than the events that occur in the Snowboarder Mode.

The graphics are ultra realistic, but not without some problems. Character models are animated and constructed really well, with dynamic equipment (based on what you equip your rider with) and sharp texturing. Clothes billow in the breeze, snow sprays up in a realistic manner, etc. The courses all look good, with plenty of obstacles, trees, and sideline objects. Unfortunately background textures look pretty blurry at times, and thereís a good bit of fog and pop-up to be found. It gets even worse in the split-screen mode, as the fogging can often reach N64ish levels. The framerate will occasionally skip a bit as well, although for the most part itís locked in at a solid rate. The camera is usually good enough, but occasionally it can lag behind where it should be and make navigating the course more difficult than it should be.

On the other hand, the sound is a real highlight. The music is your typical metal/techno/alternative soundtrack youíd expect to find in a game as "extreme" as this, but fortunately it isnít too grating. This is due primarily to the bands, which include The Offspring, Oleander, 311, and others. The sound effects are good as well, with realistic snow swooshes and other obstacle sounds. The announcer is just there; his commentary is fairly limited so he never gets too annoying, and occasionally he even has something funny to say (such as the interesting nicknames youíll pick up in Snowboarder Mode).

HIGHS:

  • Excellent soundtrack.
  • Snowboarder Mode is extremely deep and rewarding, once you get over the initial learning hump.
  • Good sense of speed.
  • Nice character models with plenty of animation and sharp texturing.

LOWS:

  • Average course and environment graphics.
  • Some tricks are nearly impossible to pull off consistently.

FINAL VERDICT:

Overall, ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding 2002 is too realistic for itís own good. The initial learning curve is extremely steep (even if it is easier than the last one), and pulling off some of the harder tricks (which arenít even that advanced in comparison to other games) is difficult to do on a consistent basis. Arcade it a bit more (and clean up the fogging/pop-up problems) Konami and youíll have a hit on your hands, but for now only the hardcore need apply.

Overall Score: 7.1

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