No sports series can escape and would we want it to ? It’s a sign of success if your game gets a sequel and it gives developers the possibility to get rid of flaws that made it into the original game aswell as implementing new idea’s. Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding was a nice snowboard game but a couple of minor downpoints prohibited it from becoming THE snowboard game. The graphics were very good, the soundtrack equally, but the gameplay – what counts most – pretty much sucked. The problem was mostly in the flip system; you could only flip or spin (read: salto or piroutte) if you were really off the ground what resulted in the fact that you jumped off a ramp wrong. You can of course look at it the positive way; the difficulty level is high and the game is quite a challenge this way. In my case however, games with such a high difficulty level (mostly caused by unbalanced gameplay) end in a song of abusive words rather than one of praise.
The überquestion for me was clear: have the makers learnt their lesson or will they stubbornly keep with their initial point of view ? Probably most of the gamers agreed that the gameplay was nicely challenging and not plain bad. In other words: the makers remained stubborn.
It still takes quite some time and practice to nicely jump off a ramp and land with a cool trick. Good news is that the new phenomenon “Snowkate” has been added. Here you don’t find yourself stuck on the board with your feet in thick boots but you can move your board however you want and your feet accordingly. Kickflips in the snow, loads of fun and in that way a Tony Hawk on snow and ice. Also the manual system of Tony Hawk has somewhat been taken over. It’s possible to link tricks by moving your right stick up and down and trying to keep your balance that way to grind or jump. If the gameplay would have been a bit more balanced, this manualsystem would have rolled out of your wrists a bit more smoothly. But anyway, look at it as a challenge instead of bad. Don’t get me wrong, the game is interesting nonetheless.
The main thing in Amped 2 is that you as amateur snowboarder have to make your way through different mountains and missions to finally be crowned pro snowboarder. This way is of grief is long, very long and with the high difficulty level it could last for ever for some not-so-die-hard gamers. During your career there’s enough variation to keep things cool (it’s winter, what did you think ?). On each mountain there’s several different missions going from pushing over snowmen to doing certain tricks. There’s two highscores you need to break, first the usual highscore and secondly the foto highscore. All over the mountain there’s photographers who take pictures of your tricks so it’s your task to do as difficult possible tricks in the presence of these guys so you can beat this highscore.
Another part are the photoshoots and sponsor runs. In the first case there are rings on the track and you need to gather enough points while passing these rings. These are the moments where the “restart” function gets used a lot. Also the sponsors aren’t easy ! They are very picky and want to see only one type of trick. You’ve got one asshole who only wants to see grabs so don’t dare to do a grind or his thumbs will clearly aim down. If you get to convince him of your abilities, nice gadgets will await you going from a sponsor movie to free access to the luxury hotel of some Tiroler hotel (read: it doesn’t do anything to your performance but it’s funny, right ?). All in all you’ll have your hands full with the different contests, sponsor runs and photo shoots and as previously mentioned it will be an eternal experience for some as it can hardly be called easy.
Remember the console wars a while ago ? Three systems were fighting for the first place and to be honest, it’s not quite clear to me who won. One thing is clear however, Xbox is the most powerful and we’ve got the games to proove it. Unfortunately Amped 2 isn’t good evidence. It look’s Ok, but it’s that “Ok” that worries me. The snow could have used a bumpmap and the trees could be looking a bit less pixellated in the snow. Still there are some nice effects like the clothing of your character which looks mighty detailed and the lensflares (read: sun in the camera) which is eye blinding. Some more about the clothing: alle the big brands are present and you can decide which pants you like to wear best. Before your adventure starts you have to create your own guy and in the beginning he’s a real nerd who can hardly stand on a board but throughout the game you can improve him to become the real pro you always wanted to be.
I don’t have to say much about the soundtrack: it’s very good. A lot of songs from all thinkable genres and if you can’t find your pick even then, there’s something like your own soundtrack in the game. No complaints in this area.
As you can conclude I’m not really in favor of Amped 2. I consciously made the comparison with SSX 3. The latter is more in the arcade scene than Amped 2 which leans more towards simulation. If you want to go on a head to head battle between these titles I would have to say that SSX 3 beats Amped 2 on all grounds (while SSX 3 is developed for PS2 which is the least powerful of all three next-gen console platforms).
People who only have an Xbox do have a reason to get Amped 2 instead of SSX 3, namely Xbox Live. Amped 2 completely supports it and uses Microsoft’s pride, the XSN Sports Network. You can play against up to 8 players at the same time and there Amped 2 has a small advantage over SSX 3 where you can only play head-to-head. It is also this online option that increases the score somewhat, God knows what type of soccer score I would have to give this game.
Of course Amped 2 isn’t a bad game, but just disappointing because you constantly get the feeling it could have been a lot better. Still, Amped 2 will score well, I don’t doubt that for a second. Gamers who played the first game to death while definitely love Microsoft’s latest snowboarder.