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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Ubisoft

 

Developer

Ubisoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

November 16, 2008

 

 

- Online play is fun, simple access and adds hours to the gameplay
- Map allows for easy movement amongst and inside the mountains themselves
- Throwing snowballs during races add a new edge to the competition

 

 

- Limited tricks selection and variety in levels gets old quickly
- If my character can get superpowers, why canít he perform more than one grind?
- With almost all locations open from the start, winning challenges offers little sense of accomplishment

 

 

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Shaun White Snowboarding

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

shaun-white-snowboarding-1.jpg (58431 bytes)          shaun-white-snowboarding-2.jpg (59979 bytes)

 

For the first thirty minutes, Ubisoftís Shaun White Snowboarding might be the most realistic snowboarding game ever. When you are first dropped onto the mountain, your character canít land a trick to save his life and spends most of his time off his board. After the gameís short learning curve however, your abilities will be maxed out. The real challenge is then if the game can manage to keep your attention after that.

 

With all four mountains, Park City, Alaska, Japan and Europe (Europe Mountain, thatís in Europe, right?), open from the start and various challenges spread out among them, SWS is a sandbox snowboarding game. As soon as you strap on your board for the first time, you can transport yourself all around the world in the blink of an eye. Completing challenges earns you cash to buy new boards/stats, and eventually unlocks Ďfocus powersí such as power boarding and super speed, which opens new areas and lets you bust larger tricks.

 

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Completing the game and its challenges are a lot more enjoyable when you play online. Being able to have up to 16 other riders scattered throughout the mountain, even if you are only unstrapping your board to walk around and collect coins, having other players randomly challenge you for cash or waiting to hit you with a snowball adds extra joy and a sense of community 

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while riding around the mountain. After you hit an opponent in the back of the head with a snowball five feet from the finish line, going back to offline play just doesnít feel right.

 

For better or worse, this is about as laidback a game experience as you could get. For the first few hours that it takes to master the game and explore each mountain, SWS can be a lot of fun. The mountains can be authentically breathtaking at times and the great soundtrack (MGMT, Modest Mouse along with other great selections) help you get into the groove quickly. Although having access to all mountains at the start creates a sense of variety at first, it takes away the desire to complete the many challenges scattered throughout the game. Itís true that more mountain sections open up as you progress through the challenges and unlock your inner super-boarder, if you were to blindfold me and place me on a random mountain I wouldnít be able to guess where I was.

 

For a game that tries so hard to be a hybrid sports/platform title, the radar system used to find challenges is really weak. Objects only get closer when you are within 100 meters of the goal, making searching for targets and missions tiring. You spend too much time off your board running up the mountain when you realized two minutes too late that you zigged when you should have zagged.

 

My problem is that there is no way to restart a challenge until itís over. While it may seem like a small flaw, when you miss that one guitar at the top of the run and are forced to ride down the rest of the run thinking about how you barely missed the jump button, itís pretty easy for your anger level to rise quickly. Mine did. And that was before I lost my speed while still going down an incline, got stuck in a tree and had to teleport back to the top of the mountain.

 

I donít know what SWS is trying to do. Starting off as a realistic snowboard experience, it then branches off its chosen path to add super powers without going so far as to add unbelievable tricks or innovative level designs. Iím not asking to pull off my board and spin it like a helicopter on my head while jumping over a giant crevice on a run carved out of an iceberg, but I would be a lot happier if I could pull off more than the same grab and spin combo or more than one grind. Play it for a few hours, play it with your friends, after that, go to sleep and dream of SSX 5.

 

- Karol Kudyba

January 18, 2009

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