Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone




As the first snowboarding title for Xbox, Amped is a critical app for earning the console street-cred. It’s got a big task since it needs to showcase the new console’s power while also offering players a solidly entertaining gameplay experience. With so many other snowboarding titles on the market, there also needs to be some hook to keep players interested. Fortunately, Amped has an interesting twist – you need to impress the media – that make it feel original and innovative. What the game also delivers is technical brilliance – your mouth will drop at the sight of the realistic graphics which are unparalleled on any other console. Amped’s beauty isn’t just skin deep because the intuitive controls, challenging gameply and sheer fun will keep you coming back for more.

Despite the over-saturation in the genre, Microsoft has released the promising Amped for the Xbox which is a surprisingly good entry in the snow-stakes, Amped takes a more realistic approach than many other games, and emphasizes authenticity instead of over-the-top, unrealistic stunts. It’s still a fun title that offers plenty of action, though you have to work a little to land the really intense tricks. Players should find most of the conventions both familiar and yet the gameplay is still quite addicting. Amped’s appeal is largely due to the controls which are intuitive and work in concert with the unique impress the media gameplay mechanics to make Amped feel surprisingly fresh and innovative.

There are several modes of play including single runs, stunts and the impressive career mode which offers plenty of depth. Amped is a stunts title and the object is to get points by jumping, grinding, grabbing and spinning through the courses. The twist here is that players can earn extra points and rewards by performing stunts in front of media and gaining sponsorships in the process. This also gives Amped an opportunity for humor since some of the rewards are funny – such as "I saw your picture on a website." The career mode is the main meat of Amped, You start off with a young boarder and build up their abilities by beating points goals and media points goals. As you reach these levels, you can unlock new courses, gear and gain additional points to build up your abilities. There are also challenges where you can gain sponsorships and unlock professional riders. Adding to the fun, the special sponsor modes where the challenge is to keep a sponsor "Amped" by performing the kinds of tricks they enjoy the most. This mode has the added benefit of helping the player master a large variety of moves painlessly. This is the most enjoyable and challenging part of the game and requires plenty of persistence but the rewards here are plentiful. Surprisingly, the realism of the game works to its advantage in this mode because the building abilities come up naturally though a little slowly.

Visually, Amped impresses with its massive attention to detail – some points in the game feel nearly photorealistic. The courses are huge and massive and utilize the full power of the Xbox. You can see the crystals glistening in the sunlight, tracks from others in the snow and of course, the tracks you yourself leave. The environments feel quite authentic and stunning in their incredibly beautiful rendering. What’s also cool about all of this is that unlike the desolate courses in other games, you can see other skiers as they perform jumps or crash out. This is a really superb engine all the way around, with beautiful light-sourcing allowing the sunlight to seep through the trees. The visual polish of the game is quite impressive, with a smooth frame rate and virtually no pop-ins or jarring jaggies to detract from things. The mountains themselves are massive and the non-linear runs allow the player to select which runs they want and the mountains are so large that each course has multiple branches. The boarders’ animations are fluid and lifelike and give the boarders a stunningly detailed appearance lending an extremely lifelike appearance throughout.

Amped’s stunning graphics are only enhanced by the excellent control interface. Movement of the characters is smooth and fluid allowing plenty of individuality to flow. There’s a huge number of stunts that you can perform and making them is simple. The selection of grabs, turns, ollies, grinds and spins is quite impressive, there are more than 200 moves in all and these can be chained together to make some really huge points. While making some of the more difficult moves is hard, you can build up your speed and also gain momentum each time you perform a trick successfully. This is all very subtle and not as flashy as SSX Tricky, but the overall effect is one of realism mixed with flash, making the riders feel natural but also allowing for some bursts of adrenaline. What’s really cool about Amped are its complimentary pair of points systems working in concert – the standard points system tracks you wherever you are. However, there are special points awarded when you are in range of the media.

The Xbox controller is tight and intuitive, though Amped plays much better with the analog stick than the standard D-pad. Button arrangements are logical, though it’s a bit hard to get used to timing the spins, which lag for a few seconds once you leave the ground. You need to factor this in because it takes awhile before they start. This is a bit odd, but seems more authentic and the feel of the game is excellent. The mountains are vast and it will take you several runs down them to figure out where each media is encamped. This means that you’ll have to precisely time your moves in order to gain these points. Still the precision and the overall feel of the controls are quite excellent, giving Amped an authentic feel throughout.

The only other major problem is the menu design which is a bit clunky and belies the excellent production values elsewhere in the game. This doesn’t affect the actual game which is as technically excellent as they come. What’s more, the ugly menus are balanced out in other areas where the production values shine through. Adding to the overall ‘alternative’ feel of Amped is its extensive music selection. A whopping 150 music tracks are included on the disc. What’s more impressive is that these range from every genre from rap-metal to punk to electronic and all points in between. These aren’t top-40 bands either which makes the soundtrack sound fresher than some other games which use predictable bands you’re already sick of before you even break the shrink-wrap. Players can customize playlists to fit their style or favored genre, which is why the 150 tracks is so appreciated, you’re not stuck listening to something you hate because there are only a dozen tracks on the disc. If the massive selection of songs isn’t enough, players can also rip their own tracks to the Xbox hard drive to create their own custom soundtrack, It takes a while to download the tracks but its worth the effort if you want to listen to your own music while running down the mountain.

This is an addictive snowboarding game – the controls are superb and the gameplay is excellent and challenging. Its realism and authenticity is astonishing because the visuals approach flawless levels throughout, effectively showing off the new Microsoft console’s abilities. This is easily the most convincing snowboarding title ever made from an aesthetic standpoint and the cool gameplay makes it all the more exciting. While it might seem a bit sedated for players more attuned to manic extreme titles such as Tony Hawk or SSX Tricky, Amped does an excellent job of recreating the atmosphere of realistic snowboarding. While there are tons of snowboarding titles on the market, Amped stands above the crowded field and is a must-purchase Xbox game for anyone who enjoys the genre.