Amped 2 Review (Xbox)
Much has been written and said about the virtual battle of wills that Microsoft and EA have engaged in over the past few years. As one of the biggest dogs on the block barking over servers, online services, and all things sports, Microsoft Game Studios has taken on what many would call the unenviable task of going head-to-head and title for title with EA Sports.
“Madden” and “NFL Fever”.
“NBA Live” and “NBA Inside Drive”.
“Tiger Woods PGA” and “Links”.
The list goes on and on. When EA Big introduced the “SSX” franchise to the extreme gaming world, Microsoft took notice and counterpunched with “Amped”. Now, hot on the heels of the third “SSX” installment, ““Amped 2”” arrives for the Xbox. The battle of heavyweights continues. Can ““Amped 2”” win this round?
As in all sports games, there seems to be two main styles, and subsequently, two types of fans that buy sports video games. There are those who love the over-the-top, arcade style that was the near trademark of EA Sports titles. The EA Big team, who created “SSX”, is all about arcade fun. On the other hand, ““Amped 2”” tends to lean the complete opposite direction - towards the simulation side of things - like many of the Microsoft sports offerings do. “Sim” sports gamers like their games to resemble their real-life counterpart to the most exacting detail as possible. That’s what ““Amped 2”” tried to do.
“Amped 2” really tries to make a realistic snowboarding game. Of course, if they made a true simulation of snowboarding, I’m not sure anyone would buy it. Even the best “sim” needs to exaggerate the air involved and the number of flips possible to move games. “Amped 2” is a mostly solid “sim” snowboarding title that exaggerates where it has to, but mostly delivers a realistic experience. Media members are scattered along the slopes trying to catch your next great trick on celluloid. Big trick scores, big media love, and squashed snowmen lead to bigger and better things in your career. Sponsors will even swing by, hoping to see your best tricks and reward you with fabulous cash and prizes.
That said; it’s not all good. The controls and feel of “Amped 2” are sluggish at times. The riders sometimes feel like they’re knee-deep in the powder; struggling to pick up speed. I can’t help but think that this was intentional to give “Amped 2” that “sim” feel, but I think it does take away from the overall gameplay. The tricking also seems a little clumsy on the Xbox controller and pulling off big style tricks can be an exercise in frustration.
All in all, the gameplay is mostly good. It’s deep, but unfortunately, in a rather repetitive way. Once you’ve seen all the mountains, I’m not sure you will spend much more time in the single player mode.
One thing I can say for sure is that “Amped 2” is a nice looking game. The mountains and environment are nicely rendered and really give you a since of size and magnitude of each locale. The riders themselves are not only highly customizable, but also have a really nice high-poly look that’s far less “cartoony” then their EA counterpart. The look and feel certainly fits the simulation style of the game, as opposed to the over-the-top look of the competitors. Microsoft Game Studios has a knack for making nice looking games. While some may prefer a sharper look then you’ll find in “Amped 2”, it really makes nice use of the Xbox’s power.
The sounds of “Amped 2” are exactly what you want them to be. MGS was smart enough to realize that the shush of snow and groans of crashing riders were not enough to fill the speakers. Instead, the main sound of “Amped 2” is the large library of tunes that play while you board. Now, if you’re not a music savant or really into the indie music scene, you won’t find many artists that you will recognize. However, with the Xbox’s customizable soundtrack, “Amped 2” can be exactly what you want it to be. Imagine hitting the slopes blasting “You Blinded Me With Science”…good times!
As this review is being written, the XSN components of “Amped 2” are not available for public use. However, the Xbox Live features are up and running, and in a word - addictive! I’ve really, really enjoyed taking it to the slopes with a group of friends on XBL. With game types like “King of the Mountain”, “Best Trick”, and “High Score”, I’ve lost hours at a time boarding with buddies in a near lag-free online world. I’m intrigued to see how the “Pack” feature, which arrives with XSN functionality, will be implemented. This could very well be the sleeper XBL game of the year!
I’ve got to be honest. When this game showed up at my door, I didn’t expect to like it. When Microsoft announced their XBL titles during the week of E3, I actually laughed at the idea of “Amped 2” being an online and XSN compatible game. I sit here now taking full ownership of my error. This is a good game. This is a good online game. This is a great online experience! Even with the review complete, this game will steal valuable Xbox time in my house for some time to come. If you enjoy extreme sports titles, I would recommend it. If you enjoy Xbox Live, I would require it!