Snowboarding games are few and far between. And only a handfull are any good. Amped 3 was the last good one that springs to memory, which was released 3 years ago at the start of the Xbox 360's lifecycle. Ubisoft have decided to take the banner away from Amped using a snowboaring game with a difference; It has celebrity endorsement. Can world-champion snowboarder Shaun White help Ubisoft out in achieving their goal? In short, not all. And now I shall explain why.
The first fatal flaw is right when you boot the game up and start playing. If a game has a flaw straight from the off, I'd tend to just stop playing it entirely. First impressions are everything, after all. The game has no real tutorial. It took me 15 minutes or more to figure out what the hell I had to do to perform tricks or even get some air. The only "tutorial" comes in the form of boxes that pop-up at random points throughout the game. Seriously, I mean random points. You'd think the first few boxes would tell me how to get around and how to do the basic stuff. But no, the first box I see tells me how to throw a snowball.
When you start the game, you're given the option to customise your character. The creation system is as shallow as a puddle of water and is just not that interesting. I just selected a few random parts and was on my way. You are then introduced to the four mountains which you can explore at your own free will. There are no time limits or set goals, you can just carve your way down the mountain as you wish. You can take part in the little challenges dotted around the world, but in all honesty, they get boring fast. There is a "story" in here somewhere, but it's buried somewhere beneath the snow. You meet Shaun White and then become his lackey, so to speak, running errands for him and whatever he wants you to do. Instead of making a likeable collection of characters for you to interact with, you feel like pushing them off a cliff for being so boring and lifeless. The foreign characters, such as the European and the Japanese characters, are awful stereotypes and at times bordering on racist.
The main purpose of the "story" is to make you go and collect coins scattered around the world as if it was some sort of extreme sports platformer. Getting to the coins is a challenge and lets you learn the necessary skills to get there, but I'm playing a snowboarding game not some poorly made platformer for children. This is made even more frustrating by having a board strapped to your feet and if you happen to miss the coin, you have to trail all the way up the mountain to get another shot at the jump you missed or plank you didn't grind properly [You can set waypoint markers to warp back to -Ed]. It's highly boring and a complete waste of time. Your reward is a cutscene featuring the horrendously annoying Shaun White and then some "focus" power. These allow you to barge through walls, speed up a bit and get extra height on jumps, but they can't even be used in the challenges, so it just feels like a complete waste of space.
If you manage to get all of the coins, some super-duper exciting events open up...that get extremely monotonous after about 30 minutes. Pulling off the tricks does not feel fun at all. Pulling off tricks in EA's Skate was great fun and it actually felt like you achieved something when you did a really cool one and racked up a lot of points. Here, it just feels so average and boring. It doesn't help that almost all 4 mountains are the same, give or take a few landmarks here and there. Sure they look pretty, but why have 4 mountains when 1 would do as they are all pretty much the same.
The gameplay is about as shallow as the story is. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty simple to pull off tricks and carve down the mountain, but it just doesn't feel fun. It lacks that "umph" that Amped had when you pulled off a great string of tricks. Everything just feels really floaty like you're carving up the Moon instead of a mountain in Canada. There is no sense of speed either; the motion blur is there to show you're going fast, but you just don't feel like you are. You'd probably go faster if you sat on your arse and slid down the mountain on that. Sure, it'd be painful but you'd get a better rush out of it. Crashing is another annoying thing, because you don't ever really crash, you sort of just bounce back up instead of making the fall look a tiny bit painful at the very least.
Multiplayer does somewhat make it better, but if you're stuck in a room with a bunch of strangers screaming things down the headset or blasting music down it, the experience gets annoying fast. On the other hand, if you're with a group of friends it is bearable. Up to 16 people can head out onto the mountain and, again, you're able to go where you want with no limits or set goals. The fetch tasks are not properly here either. The multiplayer challenges get quite boring quickly also. At times, you will find yourself having to watch the rest of the players do their part of the challenge while you do nothing. If you found the challenges in the single player boring, wait until you get online!
Shaun White Snowboarding looks decent enough. The views from the mountains are pretty nice, but in essence it's just a lot of white everywhere which isn't all that great. The music is pretty nice with some good tracks from Kasabian and Modest Mouse kicking around in there.
Overall the game is bland. As bland as the colour of the snow. As shallow as a frozen puddle. As frustrating as Shaun White himself. Ubisoft tried to take the crown from the likes of Amped and SSX but tripped on the carpet leading to the crown and spiked themselves on the Royal sceptre nearby.
- The mountains look pretty
- Online can be fun
- Some good music
- Multiplayer challenges get quite boring
- No real story to keep you hooked
- No feedback when pulling off tricks