Review by nzgamefaqs

Reviewed: 11/24/03

Good honest snowboarding.

Thanks to the world spinning the way it does where I live in New Zealand we receive all snowboarding games right at the end of the boarding season, as we come into summer. This could well be a game publishers worst nightmare but when you have a brilliant title like Amped 2 to sell you can take it to market at any time and it will do just fine. Bringing back the successful formula of the original Amped and making it a viable new release was no easy task. The first game in this new snowboarding series was by no means perfect and was stacked full of gameplay bugs, had no online play and lacked gameplay options. However the platform was there and the title sold well even with the problems it had. So with the foundations there it was time to look to the next game in the series and the team at Microsoft have spun out one heck of a snowboard title. It improves on the original in almost area and offers gamers some of the most realistic snowboard action since 1080 Snowboarding on Nintendo 64.

Development for this game began as soon as Amped 1 came out so this sequel has been in the making for a long time as far as follow-up titles go – but it seems it was worth it. The improvements smack you in the face as soon as you begin racing with superior visuals and tighter controls - the latter makes the game ten times more playable than the original. Whilst the button configuration stays fairly much the same, a lot of the bugs have been ironed out and it's a lot easier to pull off big combo's especially if you are going from a grab into a grind or vice versa. Not only do these improvements make the game more playable it also makes the game more accessible to players. Amped had a rough learning curve but Amped 2 will see new players get right into the heart of the action from the get go. It's realistic nature will mean that some new Amped gamers may take a bit more time to get used to it than something like SSX 3. If you're expecting and arcade style game like SSX 3 then you are in for a rude shock, it leans heavily to the simulation side of things. In saying that this game is a lot more rewarding and it feels so much better nailing a huge trick in Amped 2 than it does in SSX 3.

One of the best things about Amped 2 is that you can now manual along the snow. The move known as 'butter' can be executed by pushing up and down quickly on the left analogue stick. It's taken straight out of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 and it work's in really well as you slide between rails or jumps. With this new move players can string together massive combo's together and really rack up the points. Of course there are plenty more of all the big aerial and grab moves that were so popular in the original but players can now also do a bunch of moves that were once considered skateboard only maneuvers.

Using the X-button players can break away from the board and pull off kickflips, heelflips and impossibles. On top of this players can also attempt lip tricks on the edges of half pipes, ramps and buildings giving the gamer a massive array of moves, jumps, kicks and grabs – some traditional snowboard tricks, some skate specific. The boards without strappings certainly add something new and interesting to the snowboard genre giving the chance for gamers to bust those hardcore skating moves... on ice! I suspect other development houses will be bringing this sort of thing in their next snowboarding titles. Grinding on rails has also been made easier as there is now a balance meter. How the original got away without one is beyond me but it's certainly welcomed and it will certainly be appreciated by gamers new to the title as well as old Amped fans.

The ability to go online and play the worlds best is certainly a great reason to buy this title. Once you've built up your skills in the training mode and ready to hit the slopes you can simply log on to the Xbox Live! service with your gamertag and hit the slopes. The XSNSports.com service is available with Amped 2 and players can enter tournaments and climb the world rankings. If you aren't into that sort of thing and just want a quick game against up to eight other boarders you can jump into a quickmatch or find a more specific game with the optimatch feature. Optimatch will enable gamers to search through games and choose a game that best suits there need in terms of the players skill ability and other factors like what level you want to race on and who you want to play against. These options are standard with most XSNSports.com titles and Amped 2 also gives players the chance to create and join 'packs'. Packs are essentially snowboard clans that go round the various levels challenging other 'packs' or just cruise about creating havoc. It's an interesting idea and is certainly fitting for online play with the voice communicator.

Even if you aren't up for online play Amped 2 stands on it's own two feet without Xbox Live!'s support. The one player mode is huge with plenty of stuff to do across some of the coolest levels ever seen in a snowboarding action. Unlike SSX 3, where players race down one mountain for thirty minutes, the action is broken up into smaller stages and with the load times being pretty much non-existent it doesn't really matter. In the career mode the game plays out as a cross between Top Spin tennis and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 with gamers looking to build high scores, impress sponsors and so on whilst working their way up to number 1 in the world. When you commence your career you'll start off ranked 250 in the world and as you start knocking off big scores, impressing cameramen and making big gaps that number will quickly come down. As well as improving your world ranking you can also earn attributes to improve your character and these include things like spin, big air and your ability to stay balanced on a rail.

Aesthetically Amped 2 is solid. The developers have obviously worked hard in this department as the improvements are very noticeable. For one thing the frame-rate for one stays stable throughout - even in split screen gaming - which is a definite bonus that could have been well used in the original. The levels themselves are absolutely stunning and they are all taken from real-world locations including Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. There is plenty of detail in the fauna and forna scattered across the tracks as well as the buildings, rails and other obstacles. The draw distance seems to go on forever and as you stare down the barrel of a huge slope there is no fog or draw-in and even in multiplayer the graphics stay true. The animations are a little improved on the original and the level of detail on the characters themselves is enough although nothing overwhelming.

Amped 2 features over 300 music tracks from small independent groups and artists and steers well clear of the smaller big name rosters that games like Tony Hawk go for. This works in well with the games nature and pushes the games 'realistic' no-name snowboarder style a little more. Of course you can load up your own custom soundtrack from your Xbox hard-drive and it's good to see this game using this feature as other recent Xbox releases seem to forget the the custom soundtrack setup even exists. Other than the soundtrack there isn't much to talk about with the audio package. Sure your board slicing through the snow sounds good but the photographers and other boarders on the mountain yelling taunts gets very lame, very fast.

With three big snowboard titles on the way it may be hard to decide which one to get. I'd suggest all three but if you don't have the cash to front and buy the lot then the decision is certainly a tough one. SSX 3, 1080: Avalanche and Amped 2 are all making a charge to be king of the mountain and all three have their own pro's and con's. After playing all three I can safely say that if you own an Xbox then your poison of choice should be Amped 2. With online play through Xbox Live!, a mammoth amount to do in single player, a wicked soundtrack, awesome levels and visuals it works it socks off to beat SSX 3 and in many areas it does so hands down. There are a few faults here and there but the bugs are few and far between and after playing for an extensive amount of time the game has only tripped on a few rail slides here and there. Amped 2 will certainly be the top snowboarding game of the summer on Xbox and that's a title it well and truly deserves. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9

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