Release Date: October 28, 2003
Buy 'AMPED 2': Xbox
Snowboarding games have been getting a larger and larger share of the limelight recently, with games like SSX appealing to all audiences and games like Amped carving out a more specialized chunk of the gaming populace. No matter what the game, snowboarding games have always put you at the top of the mountain and then let you choose how you want to go about getting to the bottom. The freedom of gliding across the snow as you pick and choose what ramp, what rail, and what trick you want is one of the biggest reasons why snowboarding games are fun, and it is that spirit that is behind Amped 2.
Amped 2s main draw is its career mode, in which you create a likeness of yourself and then take to the slopes on a multitude of mountains, trying to make a name for yourself. There are a good amount of mountains to choose from and each have a large handful of events you can partake in, from standard runs, to photo shoots for websites and magazines, to trying to impress sponsors. At the start the player only has access to a couple of the mountains and a couple of the runs therein, but as the player gets further in their career more of the areas become available.
Standard runs are the meat and potatoes of Amped 2 and are scored in a laid back manner, you can do any trick you want, anywhere you want, as long as it gains you points. There are a few categories you are scored in, such as overall points and points gained when performed in front of the media. Overall points are simple enough, but media points are a bit harder to come by. In certain areas of the track men and women with cameras are standing by, snapping pictures of passing snowboarders. When near one a red rangefinder overlay appears on screen, and while this is onscreen you can perform any trick to gain media points. However, if you don’t land the trick you not only lose the media points but you can’t go back up the mountain to try it again until your next run. There are also a few other goals that you can try to complete as you’re flying down the mountain, such as performing specific tricks in specific areas, clearing large gaps or jumps, and occasionally busting through snowmen that like to taunt the passing snowboarders.
The scoring system is set up into three parts for the points, with successively higher and higher point values to try and get in a single run. One medal for a run might be a easy amount, while the second might get a bit difficult and the glorious third medal comes with a super-sized point value. Every time you get a medal in any of the categories you receive a skill point to spend on improving your characters abilities, such as ollie, spin, hang time, etc. You also gain a notch on the career ladder, in which you start off in about the 255th place and work your way up.
Photo shoots are a step harder than standard runs, asking you to not only get as many points as possible but also stick to a rather specific course of rings. At first the rings could simply be a easy flight path after you jump off a large cliff, while others pit you in a course that’s full of grinds, jumps, and ramps. If you don’t miss a single ring and get enough points, photos of your run and possibly video footage make it onto unseen websites, television shows, and magazines.
Sponsor runs are the most difficult, since every sponsor has a particular trick they like. In order to please them you have to perform that trick and nothing else, since other tricks are likely to downgrade their view of your performance. To keep it lively, the sponsor has an attention bar that slowly ticks down from its position. In essence, it’s a race to the bottom of the course, all the while performing the tricks they like, avoiding the ones they don’t, and above all else making sure you don’t screw up and wind up face first in an opposing snow bank.
There is something that can be said about Amped 2 that really cannot be said about other games and it’s the relaxed zen feeling you get when you realize that it’s just you and the mountain. The lack of a time limit in the standard run is a blessing, since it allows you to focus on what you want to do in your run, regardless of how long it takes, and just do as you will until you reach the bottom. Sure, the photo shoots and sponsor events are a bit more specialized and hectic in nature, but even in those you don’t feel rushed as much as you are simply compelled to do better.
One of the first thing that grabs your attention about Amped 2 is the fact that you are, indeed, riding on snow rather than a form of white concrete. Landing at an angle ajar to a perfect landing is much more forgiving that in games such as Tony Hawk, and while you’ll still be given a lower grade for such a sloppy landing you won’t find yourself performing an impromptu head plant. However, rails and ledges in Amped 2 almost seem too forgiving sometimes, allowing the player to kind of snap onto the rail even though they’re a good half board length away. Other tricks such as spins, flips, and grabs are all consistently solid, with the right stick and triggers performing grabs and the left stick giving you the ability to add a spin to your current combo. Once those basics are learned the style system is where the real points are made, in which you spin in a slower, more controlled fashion as you soar through the air. Style is gained by simply moving the stick about halfway in the desired direction, and is drained when you let the stick go to neutral or push it all the way to the edge. Any style points you have when you land is added to your current combo, and can really add up. If you jump off a high ramp and move the stick just right so you keep the stick perfectly halfway and then land it like that, you’ll simply make bucket loads of points.
Amped 2 doesn’t disappoint in it’s visuals overall, with a variety of objects such as banners and homes, nice weather effects, and riders that actually look like they are keeping their balance rather than simply glued onto their board in an upright position. The character models themselves look good, and the customization options are fairly decent considering the genre, but the downside is when you see the same NPCs from mountain to mountain. Every media outlet in a 25-mile radius must all hire that same cameraman, and you’ll start to recognize other snowboarders as they streak down the mountainsides alongside you. Still, it’s a minor complaint when you look at the rest of the graphics. If there’s any game that makes a mountainside snowboarding course actually look the part right down to the trees, snow, and ski lift support poles, its Amped 2.
Aurally Amped 2 is much more immersive than one would expect it to be. Pull off an impressive trick and nearby bystanders will give you some nice praise, screw one up and they’re likely to taunt you pretty harshly. It gets especially stinging when you screw up in front of a cameraman, if that media guy says “Oooh, that’ll make a nice blooper” one more time I’m gonna whap him upside the head with my snowboard. Subtle sounds such as a snowboard gliding across a smooth patch of snow are accurately represented, as are the not-so-subtle sounds of say, a snowboarder hitting the padding surrounding a large pole at flank speed. In addition to the SFX Amped 2 has a diverse soundtrack selection ready and waiting to be listen to, with not only songs that everyone has heard at least once to bands and groups that you’ve never heard of. The bundled soundtracks are separated into genres such as hardcore and hip-hop, and while you can’t pick individual songs you can pick which genres you don’t want. If none of them suit your fancy you can simply load up whatever songs you have on your Xbox and take to the mountains.
Many game’s main premise is strategy, skill, time limits, and lightning fast reflexes. While Amped 2 has all of those elements concealed in its well-crafted gameplay, it also has the most important element of them all, fun. After a hard, frustrating day at school or the office, there is nothing like sitting down and hitting some tricks as you fly down the side of a mountain. For the more aggressive players there is still the harder point values to really, fully complete the game and the ability to seek out every single snowman and trick on every single course, but for the rest of us there is the top of the mountain, the bottom of the mountain, and the multitude of ways you can get down there.