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Score:8.8 / 10
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.
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
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.
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.