ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding 2002 Review (PS2)
Submitted on: Feb 09, 2002 by Jim Kelly
SIM-ARCADE OR ARCADE-SIM?
Last year Konami made its way on to the PS2 with its first extreme snowboarding game. The game was hailed by the hardcore fans of the sport, but provided minimal enjoyment for the casual gamer. Konami took those complaints to heart and promised a game with realistic physics mixed with an element of arcade style fun. The question is if they actually delivered on that promise. While this game is incredibly deep in a lot of areas, it falls just short in delivering an addictive must have snowboarding title as I will explain it’s shortcomings in this review.
Two words: “Tutorial Mode”. If you are new to the series or are a casual fan of the genre, you will need to spend some time in tutorial mode. This is simply not a game that you can expect to pick up and excel on the slopes right away. Just like in real snowboarding the learning curve in this game is a bit steep. Thankfully, tutorial mode will at least get you well acquainted with the basics. The basics themselves although a bit unforgiving on double moves are fairly similar to those in other snowboarding games. To get air or Ollie, you merely press and release the X button. From there you can perform a plethora of moves in combination with the left analog stick and shoulder buttons. Basic tricks themselves are fine but when you start attempting to pull off more advanced combos is where this game becomes frustrating. The main problem is landing out of spins or executing a different move out of a spin. The transition just isn’t smooth as the rotations are too often exaggerated resulting in numerous crashes.
That’s not to say this game is impossible to learn, it just takes oodles of patience. It can be a great deal of fun pulling off an awesome combo in the pipe or pulling off some sweet grinds on the slopes. There are an incredible amount of spins, grinds, and grabs that are quite enjoyable once you get the hang of things. Konami definitely nailed custom details like stance width and binding angle settings. There are tons of different boards, jackets, goggles, bindings, etc. It’s virtual buffet of brands and models from which to choose. The problem is that you have to start off as a scrub in Snowboarder mode and earn money to buy all this great gear. That mode in itself takes a while a long time just to build up your player’s attributes up to even be effective in competition. It’s a very deep and detailed career mode, but again it’s extremely time consuming and its rewards come after much scratching and clawing to achieve a decent boarder rating. It might be prudent for those who lack the patience in snowboarder mode to stick to using the 13 professionals that are provided in X games mode. At least that way you’ll be able to control a boarder with better attributes and abilities. Any way that you slice it, you’ll either find the gameplay to be incredibly challenging or not worth the effort. My guess is for most it will be the latter of the two.
Graphically ESPN Winter X Games snowboarding isn’t anything breathtaking but it does provide a decent setting. Courses although not sparsely different from each geographical location are populated with various jumps, rails, and obstacles. The courses themselves are spacious and many offer more than one path to the finish. It’s a lot of fun boarding down a course that has a definitive split and trying out both routes in succession. There are some nice particle effects shown with rock and rail grinds, but the snow effects are fairly generic. The professional boarders (Peter Line, Todd Richards, Shannon Dunn, and 10 others) themselves are nicely modeled right down to the clothes, goggles, and gear that they wear. They also animate smoothly and each show off nice signature moves at times. The camera used for replays is very good and also does an adequate job of making your runs look better than you thought when you first executed them. In the end the graphics are solid but nothing in comparison to the flashy arcade world of SSX.
PRESENTATION AND FEATURES
While watching an actual ESPN telecast of the Winter X-Games I noticed something sorely missing in this game: Play-by-play commentary. The game does have a PA announcer, but a lot of excitement that accentuates the actual sport is in the play by play. Obviously there is a trade off as that would preclude the use of soundtracks during runs, but it would be cool if it were available. Speaking of soundtracks, this game offers 13 different tracks from the likes of Powerman 5000, 311, Jurassic 5, and so on. The music on this DVD sounds great especially if you’re using surround sound for your PS2. Another sweet option is being able to save your favorite videos via the Replay Theater option.
Although I have vaguely referred to the Snowboarder Mode in this review, I want to point out that Konami did an outstanding job in delivering depth in this area. There are multitude of things to do and goals to strive for within this mode. First off, you have to create a boarded based on a number of physical attributes. Next you are tasked with pumping up the attributes of your boarder by entering competitions, training, practicing and entering competitions. This in turn leads to improving your status, landing film gigs, and obtaining passes for travel. At the same time you have the challenges of injuries and the expense of gear and training. Hats off to Konami for providing such a diverse RPG element within this title.
Of course those of you who aren’t interested in the RPG facet can stick to the X-Games segment that is offered. There you will find five events from wish to choose. Slopestyle is basically filled with stuff to grind and trick off of. Snowboarder X is where you race against other boarders. In Superpipe you use your speed to launch into multiple tricks. Big Air lets you get sky high with some awesome jumps. Free Ride is basically a place to explore and hone your skills without the pressure of competition. Whether you’re more the hardcore sim-boarder or the fun arcade type, Konami offers plenty to keep you interested here.
ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding 2002 is a decent game that is suffering from an identity crisis in one key area: Gameplay. While it is incredibly deep and offers realism in a lot of areas, it misses the mark as being a must have title. It simply lacks the fun and addictive gameplay that competing products like SSX possess. Obviously this game is a sim first and quite a different product than EA BIG’S snowboarder. Konami has the simulation down pat, but somewhere lost the fun factor incorporating the arcade feel of things. Perhaps next year Konami can find the right balance between simulation and arcade.