Aggressive Inline Review (Xbox)
While the current crop of “extreme” sports titles have often been little more than Tony Hawk clones, Acclaim’s Aggressive Inline provides a much-needed shot in the arm for the genre, and a genuine contender to Hawk’s throne.
Aggressive Inline’s controller setup is similar to Tony Hawk’s, so players familiar with that setup should have no problem picking up Inline and playing immediately. There’s an excellent tutorial included to help the uninitiated learn the new and fun moves available to them. Slides, grinds and grabs are all there, but the new twist is in “vertical” play – the ability to swing on poles and grab overhead objects to vault your skater into new areas of play.
You’ll need to use them, too – Aggressive Inline’s levels are vast, with much to unlock and explore. This is probably the best feature of Inline; the level design is nothing short of spectacular. There are secret areas, multiple floors in buildings, and even multiple levels outdoors. You’ll spend hours exploring them, finding something new and entertaining every time.
As a result of these expansive levels, you may be wondering how you could possibly explore it in such a limited time per session. If so, you’ve been thinking on Tony Hawk again. Unlike that game, in Aggressive Inline, there’s no clock – not really, at least. Instead, there are juice boxes planted all around the levels, and you have a “juice meter” in the corner of your screen. As long as you pick a juice box up before your meter runs out, you can skate for as long as your heart desires. It’s a novel approach, and it works very well here.
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, it’s off to Career Mode, where the real meat of Inline is located. While you can’t create a skater, there are many real male skaters to choose from, as well as two imaginary female skaters – one of which looks (coincidentally, I’m sure…) exactly like Britney Spears – schoolgirl outfit and all. I have a comment or two about that, but I’ll get to it a bit later…
In Career Mode, you have multiple goals to meet to unlock new goals and levels. This is where the genius of the “juice boxes” comes into play. As you’re not bound by time, you’re not limited in the amount of attempts needed to achieve certain goals – you can stay in the flow and rhythm of the game until you either accomplish your goals across these massive levels, or you pass out from lack of food and water…
In addition to the Career Mode, there are some clever and amusing multiplayer games available, and a park editor, to boot. Unfortunately, the park editor is somewhat disappointing – not due to any lack of functionality – it’s just that Inline’s levels are so complex and beautiful that there’s no way anyone could truly make something comparable with the editor.
The graphics in Aggressive Inline are, by and large, excellent. The colors and textures are bright and bold, and the animation is smooth and seamless. The environments are vibrant and alive with motion, with good lighting effects, lending to a very pleasing overall appearance.
There are some peculiarities, however. Oftentimes, your skater will spew strange-looking blocks of blood in mid-air, many times before you even make contact with the ground. Sometimes, you’ll even wipe out and “land” in mid-air, as well. It’s a bit distracting, but it’s shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most people.
The most jarring thing visible in the overall graphical package is the patently ridiculous animation of the female skater’s breasts. Quite frankly, they’re horrible – and I actually found them rather offensive. Why the skaters have the digital equivalent of two half-filled water balloons hanging in front of them is completely beyond me. It’s neither realistic nor necessary. The closest I can figure is that this was some sort of sophomoric attempt at humor by the programmers at Z-Axis. If that’s the case, they failed horribly. Z-Axis and Acclaim are neither the first nor the only groups to blatantly use female characters as overly exaggerated sex objects, but in this case, it’s crossed the line.
(RANT BEGINNING)While I’m on the subject, why haven’t video games gotten any better at portraying women fairly? The rest of our culture has seemingly improved in this regard, but the gaming subculture seems to be getting worse and worse. I realize that, at the moment, males comprise the overwhelming majority of gamers, but does that make this callousness towards women justified?
Most every woman portrayed in a video game today is portrayed with at least some element of sexuality prevalent. Fighting games are rife with barely-clad Barbie dolls, and the upcoming Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball seems to exist only to titillate those who find these digital fantasies compelling. Disagree? Than please feel free to enlighten me by letting me know the last volleyball game that was a top selling title. Apparently, this is because game designers feel it sells the game – after all, this is an industry, with all the good and bad that comes with it.
The disturbing thing is that they’re probably right.
This wouldn’t be nearly as unseemly if male characters were treated the same way – at least the game developers could simply be accused of being over the top.
However, it’s not that way – and it hasn’t been for some time.
Perhaps it’s time to finally call this what it is – sexism.
Perhaps it’s time for the game designers to consider that, and perhaps it’s time for gamers to think about what they’re purchasing, and why.
After all, there are real women out there in this world, with real feelings – and I’ll bet they don’t enjoy being objectified and minimized any more than you do.
Perhaps some of these folks should try to actually meet some, and discover this for themselves.
Aggressive Inline comes packaged with a lot of music that fits the game to a tee. Custom soundtracks can be used as well, either in place of, or in conjunction with the bundled songs. It’s a nice feature – one that many other XBox games would be wise to include themselves.
The rest of the ambient sounds tend to get lost in shuffle of the music, but what’s there sounds good and adds ambience to the already superb levels.
My rant aside (which is not so much an indictment of Z-Axis and Acclaim as it is to the gaming industry in general), Aggressive Inline is a very impressive game – in most ways, on par with the Tony Hawk series, which is in its third iteration. This is an outstanding first effort in what will undoubtedly become a franchise for Acclaim.
Comparisons with Tony Hawk are inevitable, and Inline stands up quite well against it. While I find the control of Inline somewhat less precise in comparison, the ability to play “vertically” and the extraordinary and grand level design exceeds that of it’s more famed competitor. If only there was an Elissa Steamer available for the ladies to skate with without feeling exploited…
If you enjoy this kind of game – this decision is a no-brainer. Get it.