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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Microsoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2003

 

 

- Long, realistic courses
- Great animation
- Classic extreme sports game play

 

 

- Mapping of too many functions to left analog stick
- Adds nothing of significance to the Amped franchise

 

 

Review: SSX Tricky (Xbox)

Review: Transworld Snowboarding (Xbox)

Review: Wakeboarding Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray (Xbox)

Review: Transworld Snowboarding (XB)

 

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Amped 2

Score: 8.8 / 10

 

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Fans of extreme sports games are truly blessed. Developers canít seem to perfect basketball games or baseball games, but the extreme sports genre has three franchises (at least) that are simply on top of their game. The two most prominent of these, the Tony Hawk series from Activision and the SSX series from EA, are available on all systems, but the final series in the holy trinity of extreme sports games, Amped, is an Xbox exclusive. Now, only the fact that, like SSX, Amped is a snowboarding game keeps Amped 2 from being reason enough to by an Xbox.

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Amped 2 is good, but those without an Xbox can likely make do with using the brilliant SSX 3 to satiate their snowboarding needs. Still, anyone with an Xbox needs to run out and buy Amped 2, regardless of whether they already own SSX 3. It is a very different kind of game and is absolutely brilliant in its own right.

To be honest, though I recognized its positive qualities, I wasnít a huge fan of the original

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Amped. The game was beautiful, but the controls were a bit sluggish and the action was a few notches below what I had come to love in the SSX games. Amped took a slightly more sim-like approach to the genre, which just felt a little boring to me. I wasnít compelled to work my way through sponsorship and I hated the find-a-snowman challenges. I played the game for about a week before trading it off for something more to my liking. Still, Iíve been looking forward to Amped 2. I figured Microsoft would speed the game up, tweak the trick engine, and expand the options. I was right. Amped 2 is a faster, prettier, more dynamic version of Amped, and it is one of the best extreme sports games on the market.

The extreme sports formula is, by now, pretty familiar. Amped 2 really doesnít depart from said formula one iota. The game begins with a limited amount of areas to board and more are opened up as players complete challenges. Tony Hawk Pro Skater introduced the formula and nothing much is changed here. Still, there is a reason for thatóthe formula works. There is nothing better to offer a player as a reward for completing challenges than more levels with more challenges. It was effective when THPS was released and it is effective now.

The challenges in Amped 2 are varied. Players compete for a multi-tiered high score challenge straight out of THPS. They also must work through a separate high score challenge based on scoring points while the mediaís cameras are upon them. There are Pro challenges that force the player to out perform a pro snowboarder while taking his same line through part of a level (right out of the new Tony Hawk games). There is the aforementioned, annoying, snowman challenges that have the player seeking out snowmen in the level and smashing into them. I found that all the snowmen challenge did is force me to play levels over and over in the most boring, trick-less way in order to seek out the hidden snowmen. It was, for me, absolutely no fun.

 

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The Sponsor challenges were a bit more fun, but still repetitive. Sponsors apparently all favor a certain style and the Sponsor challenges force players to ski down the mountain using only tricks within that narrow styleósay using grabs or spins or grinds. Any trick of the right kind increased the ďAmpedĒ meter and players must have their meter amped out to complete the challenge. The problem is any trick that isnít of the prescribed kind lowers the ďampedĒ meter, which means players must avoid ramps and makes a straight line from rail to rail if grinding is favored by the sponsor. I would have enjoyed these challenges a lot more if tricks outside the prescribed type simply had no effect on the meter. I didnít like having to do a level over and over using only one kind of trick, especially when it involved simply skiing past huge chunks of the level to get to the next place where the appropriate trick was possible.

Otherwise, the challenges and the game play of Amped are very good and highly polished. Spins are a good deal quicker than in the original and tricks are easier to link. Grabs are still a bit sluggish which might be linked to the developerís attempt to make the animation as realistic as possible. By the time the boarder gets his hands down to the board, it seems like there is little time to hold a grab before the trick has to be ended for safe landing. Likely, the developer wanted Amped 2 to seem separate from the successful, but very arcade-like SSX series, but I would have like to seen something in between the quasi-realism of Amped and the over-the-top antics of SSX. Instead, Amped 2 settled for simply speeding up most of the moves from Amped, which still makes this game quite an improvement over the original.

The graphics are nothing to get worked up over, but they are solid. The levels look great, a good deal more realistic than the SSX games, though a bit boring in comparison. The boarders are well-modeled and attractive, though they lack the personality of the SSX series. The animation is very, very realistic and there is nary a missing frame while tricks are linked which is quite impressive considering that, although more realistic than SSX, the boarders here still do things no real snow boarder could ever do.

Doing those amazing tricks, however, can be a real problem. Many of the moves are mapped to the left analog stick. This sometimes makes it difficult to do exactly what you are trying to do. Often, when I wanted to spin, my boarder would begin to do a back or front flip, which would make completing the trick impossible and landing safely difficult. It wasn't too long before the moves became easier to pull off, but the controls never felt as comfortable as they should considering this is the second incarnation of the game.

Control issues aside, Amped 2 is a solid game. It lacks the sheer exhilaration of the SSX series, but scores high marks for a deep career mode and solid level design. If anyone out there plans on only buying one extreme snowboarding game, I'd recommend sticking with EA's franchise, but Amped 2 is a great purchase for people who can't get enough extreme sports games or for those who only own the Xbox.

- Tolen Dante
(January 13, 2003)

 

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