Living in Stoke-on-Trent, I could be forgiven for thinking Stoked is about the Happy Slapping culture of the inbred scum in this city. Alas, it isn’t. Thankfully though if you like snowboarding and Skate, you’ll love Stoked.
Turn the clock back a little bit to 2005 and the launch of the Xbox 360 console. There was a surprise hit for me personally in the form of Amped 3. The visuals at the time were pretty special and the humour and art style of the games menus was pretty unique. Some would argue that Amped 2 on Xbox remains the definitive snowboarding title for us Xbox fans, but I’d go as far as saying, the most enjoyment I had was from Amped 3.
I had high expectations then for Stoked and in some parts I’m a little disappointed. Perhaps I’m being a little shallow and selfish, but the game rips the fun factor out and in its place is a comprehensive snowboarding game. Not all bad then is it?
The controls are the key element to Stoked and are shamelessly ripped from Skate. That of course isn’t a bad thing, but for players like me who prefer the button bashing elements of these types of games, it can prove a frustrating format to get to grips with. Most of the jumps and spins can be controlled using the analogue sticks. Flick the right hand stick and you can Ollie – a key move which leads into a more series of complex tricks and spins.
Holding the right trigger down will allow you to grab the board and you can then flick the sticks to try and spin and perform those more complicated movements. Getting to grips with the control system is one of the most important things to provide you with the fully immersive experience.
If you are a Skate veteran then you’ll probably be picking this up in no time. You can tap the sticks halfway down (harder than it sounds) to Butter and Nose tail on the slopes. This can chain combos together, useful to keep the score continually flowing between jumps and grinding objects.
Each mountain has a different set of challenges to undertake. You can combine these with the standard ‘jump out of the ‘copter’ and get to the bottom’ high score challenge, which racks up the points quicker. Challenges vary from performing a set trick in the allocated time, to performing and beating a high score against a fellow competitor.
Challenges are frustrating at the beginning; despite the easy-to-grip tutorial the rest isn’t so kind to you. Performing a set trick faultlessly first time is not usually the easiest thing to do. You can’t fault the level of difficulty to try and complete each one to give you value for money.
The customization on offer is not quite as in-depth as other sports titles; you’ve got the option to dress the character in what you want as well as some minor alterations to the visual look. You can also pick the colour of your board and tinker with the settings to provide you with the best performance from it.
At the heart thought Stoked is about back-country boarding. You won’t find the metal poles and jumps from a snow park; this is terrain that changes with each play through. The big deal is the changing weather effects. It’ll be sunny one day and provide you with some nice smooth slopes with exposed rock around, but the next you’ll be playing in knee deep snow which is much tougher to ride in as you would expect. This opens up a whole new array of jumps and challenges for the player, ensuring no one play through is the same.
The helicopter will drop you at certain points during the initial sections of the game, but later on you can pick where it drops you off. You can literally ride to your hearts contents on the hills and this is where the graphics shine. Take a tumble and you’ll be covered in the powdered stuff. Each time you play, you’ll carve a path in the mountain which you can track next time you play, allowing you to vary and alternate which routes you take.
Every now and again though the game will throw its faults into the mix – you’ll be taking a jump and be about to land in what looks to be quite a simple drop, but end up breaking a few bones at the bottom. This is annoying because you’ll end up restarting what you initially thought was a simple jump and trying to rack your points tally up again. Other problems include restarts that are simply too close to an object that cannot be passed without falling constantly which means you’ll have to completely restart the mountain.
Dedication is the key though. At the beginning there at 66 challenges on offer which although basic aren’t as, I mentioned earlier, the easiest things to do even for the more experienced players of games like Skate. Stick with it though and you’ll open up more mountains, the real tough terrains and huge jumps as well as being sponsored by different companies. The problem is finding the patience to complete everything – though the near instantaneous restarts will help.
The audio is punchy and upbeat with a variety of tracks right through from Rock and Rap to Dance. You probably won’t recognise much of the music used however as it is all from smaller artists. You’ll either love it or hate it, but the genres can be turned on and off depending on the musical tastes.
Online modes in Stoked are excellent. You can choose to take photos of other players and stalk them round the mountains if you so wish. Grab the camera out and you’re sure to find one or two players posing with a variety of fancy tricks. You can ride around the mountains with other boarders and compete in an 8-player challenge to prove who the best on the slopes is.
For the more personal touch you can send people individual challenges which include a variety of different game types, some of which are quite unique including ‘Ground is lava’ where your board can’t touch the ground or it sets on fire. Grinding between jumps helps keep the fire at bay. Along with a mode where you need to perform an even better trick than the first you perform and a race mode where you have to hit all the gates on the mountain; the level of thought going into online is certainly welcome.
Stoked is a welcoming addition to the extreme sports genre. It isn’t easy, it isn’t perfect but it’s as good as you’ll get without paying the extortionate prices to do the real thing. At just under thirty-quid at most retail stores; this is a bargain price for a game that’ll keep you going until the sequel (out next month in the USA!).