|Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-8 system link or XBox Live
The press blurb says that Amped 2 is the ultimate freestyle snowboarding experience, offering the largest, most varied trick library of any snowboarding game, in which you can explore vast areas of wide-open, spectacularly rendered mountains packed with terrain parks designed by world-famous snow park architect, Chris Gunnarson. You can play head-to-head with friends in the various multiplayer modes, or when you're ready to take it to the next level, connect to Xbox Live to check rankings and challenge the world's best virtual riders…
Sounds good doesn't it? - And it is, straight to the point, Amped 2 is the best snowboarding game yet, eclipsing its impressive predecessor and EA's nice but over-hyped SSX3 by some way in our humble opinions. Amped 2 lets you "live the life of a real professional snowboarder, travel the globe, and pull sick (or even ill) tricks in front of sponsors, photographers, and fans. As your fame builds you get photos and demo reels in the latest snowboard magazines or videos. Along the way you can listen to the sounds of your own soundtracks or Amped 2's own that has more than 300 indie tracks - some of which aren't ear-abusingly bad…
Amped was certainly a looker and Amped 2 is too, but oddly there's no real leap in the quality of the visuals. There seems to be little or no pop-up, and the editable boarders, boards and gear are beautifully animated, and have loads of detail (we naturally went for the babe with highlights and a bikini top, if only to make the replays more interesting). You get even more tricks to perfect and as you progress you up your attribute points in true RPG style, and as your results improve and your fame builds sponsors award you with new gear and boards, and banners will appear on the slopes showing the new endorsements that you won. Amped 2 has an excellent tutorial mode, and whether it's a refresher/familiariser for veterans or an introduction for those new to the sport (who may be a bit put off by the unfathomable nature of certain extreme sports games), it's a truly brilliant feature and nurses you in and teaches you some spectacular tricks with surprising speed and skill - if only all games had training modes as good as this instruction manuals would be a thing of the past.
A selection of new mountains includes Mts. Breckenridge and Hood in the U.S., Mt. Laax, Switzerland, Mt. Buller in Australia, and Harris Mountain in New Zealand. The big improvement for me is the design of the courses - good in Amped, they 'boarder' (ahem) on greatness in Amped 2 with professional design that includes varied layouts that seem to all have speed sections and technical bits, and of course there are multiple runs on each mountain. The beauty of Amped 2 is of course the freedom - you can start the run on one slope, track sideways onto another run and then angle back across to another before finishing - the slopes are HUGE, and terrain and the feel of the various types of snow comes across wonderfully well.
Snowboarding games have always had a big fat (or should that be 'phat'?) question mark against their lifespan and Amped 2 loses that with 200 new challenges (featuring top pros like Jeremy Jones, Mikey LeBlanc, Travis Parker and Janna Meyen who will "teach" you new tricks if you beat them) and Xbox Live compatibility (up to eight boarders on a slope and XSN [I](Xbox Sports Network)[/I] competitions). The inclusion of Snowskates also opens up all kinds of new tricks and a new feel to the game. Also 'Buttering' (like a 'manual' in skateboarding) allows you to link tricks for high-scoring combos. Improved analog control means that you can accurately control the attitude and speed of your boarder on the ground and in the air, and do a nice smooth flip or spin to earn more style points, or hurry it up if you need to in order to make a landing. Although 'buttering' could have been easier, it's the intuitive control system that elevates Amped 2 to near greatness and above the arcadey but samey-feeling SSX3 in my personal list (and whether you like the genre or not, it's impossible to not enjoy slithering down the slopes), and the only thing I'd have liked to see included are a few straight races down the slopes. Amped 2 is must for Xbox snowboard fans and might even convert a few snow-doubters.
- Slick, snowy graphics give some stunning views.
- Excellent control system puts you completely in control of the boarder.
- Superb tutorial and a lasting challenge.
- Xbox Live.
- We're greedy, so we'd have liked even more slopes.
- "Reward" videos that feature sulky, spoiled kids whining about how tough the life of the Pro Snowboarder is.
- The camera could have been friendlier.