Before it was released as a launch title, Amped was best known for the Photoshopped “in-game” pictures that Microsoft sent out to show off the Xbox. People got downright nasty as they put down everything that was wrong about the shots. Of course the game came out on launch day and it wasn’t bad…it was just overlooked in favor of SSX Tricky. Now two years later the two face off again. SSX 3 came out a couple of weeks before Amped 2. The question is can Amped 2 do enough to make people think about it over or in addition to SSX 3? Let’s find out.
The graphics are well done and this is a game I wish I had an HDTV for since it runs in 720p. The “stock” players look bad in profile when you pick them at the beginning, but once you get into the game they take on a whole new and well animated life. You can also make your own boarder, although the options are not as varied as Tiger Woods 2004 for example. The mountains are beautiful and it’s really cool to see the clouds pass by and their shadows shown on the snow. The board imprint may not be as deep as on SSX 3, but it does a good job of showing your trail. The framerate keeps constant and this is just amazing because of the length of mountain you can see when you’re high up. The only minus is that the environment in itself is not as “busy” as it probably could be. In this game you are pretty much alone in Career mode, so there’s no one to gab with like there is in SSX 3 during races.
I don’t see much that wasn’t in the first game. The moves all seem to have the same kind of animation. The tricks in this game are not as over-the-top as the ones in SSX 3, something that gives the latter game the edge in this battle. What Amped 2 does have is a more realistic look at snowboarding with more feasible tricks that might actually happen in the real world. Granted, no one is going to be railing a telephone pole in real life, but this game does a good job of simulating the actual sport.
Much like the first game, Amped 2 comes with hundreds of indie label songs. You also have the option of adding your own soundtracks to the game as well (always a plus). From the music I have heard it really sounds good. Obviously these are bands I have barely or never heard of and it is cool to hear something from someone new. It is very nice of Microsoft to give these indie bands a chance to show their mettle in a game like this.
The sound on the other hand is up and down. The snowboarding sounds themselves are great. The jump, the different terrains you travel on, the media trying to get you to do an awesome trick that they can take a picture of, etc. There is only one annoying thing and that would be the voiceover that loves to say those cool snowboarding/Keanu Reeves in full Ted form sayings. They grate on your nerves, but at least you have the option of turning him down.
Control is a bit difficult to get the hang of. I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I played Amped and I think they’ve changed some things in this sequel. The left analog controls your direction and it also controls your flips and turns while in the air. The right analog stick is used for grabs, one corresponding to each direction of the stick. A is accelerate/jump (hold/let go), B is for railing, X is for kick tricks (snowskate part only), Y is for lip tricks and the R and L triggers are for tweaks and switches. B and Y can be flipped so that there is more Tony Hawk-like railing controls. Also taking a page from Tony Hawk, Amped 2 has its own version of the manual, called the “butter”. You pull it off the same way by hitting down-up or up-down before you land on the left analog stick. This then connects tricks together so you can get a higher score and continue on completing your tasks in a mission.
Another new trick is in this one as well, the “style” tricks. In order to pull “style” tricks off you have to move your left analog stick slightly in a direction (left/right = left turn/right turn, up/down = flip forward/flip backward) and your boarder will do a slow-motion move (but the game stays at the same speed) and get “style” points which are at a higher point level than your regular tricks. Unlike the SSX series, this game will have you spending most of your time grinding over doing flips and turns. This lends to the more realistic aspects of this game.
There is a tutorial mode in this game as well. It goes through all the basics and allows you to practice them. This helped immensly for me as they have tweaked things a bit since the original game. This is an excellent tutorial…except that the Valley guy is the narrator of the tutorial mode (get ready for lots of “dude” to be heard).
When I first started to play Amped 2 I thought about how much easier it seemed to be than the original game. This game is still tough, but they seem to have brought down the difficulty level a bit. Much like the first one you have Career mode where you go through all the runs and try to complete tasks. Some of the tasks are level-based where you have to reach a certain point plateau to get all the notches. In many ways this is like the older Tony Hawk games where you had a myriad of things to do before you could unlock a track down the road for example.
Most of your time will be spent in Career mode. Many of the tasks are set up the same (do tricks in front of the media, score a certain amount of points, do a certain amount of tricks, etc.) as the original, but this game just seems more fun to be honest. It is hard to go to this game after playing SSX 3, but I see the validity of both games in the grand scheme of things. SSX 3 is for those that want a quick fix (although arguably doing a 30 minute run is not a “quick fix”) or enjoy doing races. Amped 2 is for those that just want to snowboard, see semi-realistic physics and just want to enjoy snowboarding instead of worrying about being first in the race. Amped 2 is more slow and methodical in its approach. I argue that both this and SSX should have a place in any gamer’s collection.
The big plus about Amped 2 is that it supports Xbox Live play and XSN Sports sanctioned stuff (not up yet unfortunately, supposedly coming mid-November). The Xbox Live play will keep you very entertained with the ability to play with 7 other people at the same time. The few games I went through I did the Just Ride where you basically do just that…ride. Your overall ranking is based on 4 attributes (High Score, Best Trick, Best Combo and Media Score). For each attribute you are ranked from 1 to however many boarders there are playing at the same time. Your overall ranking is decided between these 4 scores and how the rest of the people did with their 4 scores. The cool thing is that you can see your overall ranking, High Score ranking and Media Score ranking on the screen. It’s all pretty cool. I of course suck at the game currently, so I was hanging out at the bottom most of the time, although I was #1 in a game through 2 of the 3 minutes, but then I dropped to #5…d’oh!
Voices of other riders seem to come pretty clearly from the headset or your TV/speakers, much better than in Crimson Skies which sometimes has weirdness in lobbies and sound from the TV/speakers sounds very soft. Once you get in the game though, Crimson Skies seems to run without a hitch with voices. There are 3 other modes you can play through Live: Sessions, Events and Packs. Sessions is a head-to-head competition where the host decides everything about the game (drop points, length of session, etc.). Events is just what it sounds like. A host makes an event and can allow the greats or the lowlifes to play with them (based on overall ranking…something Amped 2 keeps track of a lot). Finally there is Pack mode. Pack mode allows you to make a “pack” of players you want to play with and go through competitions. It can be a friendly competition or a heated competition. This section sounds like you can pick a group of people you want to play with instead of waiting around for people to hop on…sounds pretty cool.
It is obvious that Amped 2 outdoes even the PS2 version of SSX 3 with online gaming. The latter only allows one-on-one competition, Amped 2 allows 8 people to play without any lag that I noticed. That is a pretty big triumph and makes this game one of the better Live titles out there.
This game is a long one. You will want to keep going back to do runs so you can complete that next level of tasks. Yes, the game can get frustrating, but with the “butter” things are made that much easier to get big points this time around. Along with the online play, this game is a no-brainer for people who like snowboarding games or like the more realistic side of snowboarding. It really is worth the $50 and it looks to be as long as Amped, which took well over 20 hours to complete…if then.Put SSX 3 out of your mind and give Amped 2 a chance if you own an Xbox. It is not as razzle or dazzle as SSX 3, but it brings a more realistic snowboarding feel to the table. You can even go online with 7 other people and help each other or compete against each other. Judging by the number of matches on Xbox Live, I think this game has sold pretty well. This is simply a great online game AND a great, long game in itself. Give it a try even if you’ve played SSX 3…just try not to think about how vastly different they are.