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In Memory
Sean Pettibone



Microsoft's hit snowboarding franchise for the Xbox is back and better than ever. Amped 2 builds on the main elements of the original with smoother controls, a deeper tricks system and, vastly improved graphics. Amped 2's career mode is also much deeper and more challenging with many new challenges for players to beat and much more unlockable content. However, the most exciting news is inclusion of the new online XSN mode that allows players to compete against thousands of other players. This is definitely a bigger better snowboarding title, and one that fans of the genre will definitely want to play.

Amped 2 is an addictive snowboarding title that offers more depth than flash. While the series' takes a more realistic approach to the genre than other titles, such as EA's SSX, the intuitive controls, freestyle play, massive riding environments, and unique career mode made for an addictive, challenging and entertaining game. Amped's unique elements, such as building up your character's reputation through camera shoots and media exposure remain but Amped 2 increases the number and types of challenges to make for a deeper, more satisfying experience. However, the basic structure of Amped remains intact. While Amped's career mode was original, this part of the game seemed a little shallow. Amped 2 addresses this problem effectively by allowing players more opportunities to make splashes, and giving them more customization options when they do. Success in this mode makes your player move up in the rankings, and the game included more rewards such as appearances in videos, new abilities and more plus new customization options including individual hairstyles, gear and customized board.

You start with easier courses and ride down the slopes, at first to master the basic layout and later, to master the many jumps and rails. Each mountain presents a few different challenges such as media and tricks high score. Other challenges include knocking over the snowmen icons, completing all the tricks and completing all five of the tricks in your rider's book. Players can also complete Sponsor challenges, where they have to impress sponsors performing a specific type of trick without boring them. Doing so increases the excitement on their meter, and if you leave them "Amped" at the highest level, you win the challenge. Several new types of challenges include Racing Events, where you compete against other racers in real-time, and are ranked on trick combos, media and overall high scores. This real-time competitive element is an exciting new addition to the series and makes Amped 2 that much more addictive. Another new challenge is the Photo Shoot, where your rider has to achieve a high score by moving through a set of rings before the timer runs out. Completing all of these challenges unlocks the Pro Mode, where you can learn new tricks and unlock these riders by following them and performing their moves. There are 14 pro-riders such as Travis Parker, Jeremy Jones, Jenna Meyen and, Mikey Leblanc. Additionally, players ca There's quite a lot of variety in these single player modes, but the game also includes several multiplayer options as well.

Amped 2's trick system has been vastly improved with new moves and more intuitive controls that make performing tricks easier. You now use the right thumbstick to perform grabs, and can 'butter' your board by pushing up and down quickly on the left stick. This is a much more intuitive system that increases the players' control over their riders. Mainstay moves such as spins, jumps and rails are included along with many new aerial tricks, better control which allows for more varied and stylish rail slides. There are also different types of tweaks, plus new hand and foot plants to give you're a broader move set. The increased flexibility fixes the original Amped's limited trick system, making players feel far less constrained. As in the original game, players can increase their score by chaining moves together and creating combos. However, Amped 2's rail-sliding system has been completely overhauled. Instead of automatically grinding until you reach the end of the rail, you can now turn and change position during a grind, but now have to keep your rider balanced as well. It's a much better system that gives this area the attention it deserves. Amped 2's combo system is also more flexible, allowing you to chain rails, spins and grabs together to earn big scores. However, the game now penalizes players for sketchy landings, which significantly reduce the score. Another significant addition to the Amped series is the Buttering technique. This lets you make a quick tail or nose grab on the ground, while you don't earn a lot of points for doing this alone, chaining butters with regular moves allows you to chain longer moves for bigger scores. However, you also have to keep yourself balanced when buttering, which isn't quite as simple as it seems. Overall, these new techniques add a lot to the game, adding depth and challenge to create a more authentic feeling snowboarding game.

In addition to those significant improvements, Amped 2's approach to snowboarding is more open-ended which improves the flow of each run substantially. An improved control system opens up a free-style approach that makes playing more intuitive. This openness rewards different styles of riding. For example, you can choose to attack the mountains by performing a succession of spins, grabs, and flips to create huge combos for bigger scores and higher rider rankings. However, this isn't the only approach your rider can take. In Amped 2, you can earn style points by timing tweaks, slowing rotations, and better control over rails to give yourself a smoother ride. This makes riding feel more natural, and better reflects the techniques and styles of real world snowboarding pros. This increased freedom is immediately apparent in the new game, making you feel like you're leaving your own style on the course. This should expand the gameplay while adding more textured moves to make each run feel like a unique experience.

As was the case in the first game, after you create your own rider, it's time to hit the slopes and trick your way to fame and fortune. As you perform tricks on the slopes, you gain notice as you perform tricks for photographers at specific points on the course. However, there is more variety to it this time around. Instead of performing for just still shots, you can now gain photo sequences and video demo roles. This makes for three types of challenges instead of one, adding to the depth of the career mode. There will be many more opportunities to impress the local fans, media and sponsors in the game as well, which should make it easier to go up the ladder. As you progress through the game, and your pictures appear in virtual board magazines and even on skate videos, your rider will pick up more sponsors. Gaining sponsors means you win more money, which you can use to upgrade your rider, buy gear and more. Amped 2's career mode is definitely more elaborate than the first game, and its deeper set of challenges should make for a more exciting mode with less repetition.

Using either a LAN port, or a multiple controllers, up to eight Players can choose a challenge and compete against each other in real time. In these Session Modes, each player is ranked in various categories such as media, tricks, combos and others, and the one with the highest overall score ranking wins the Session mode. In addition to these LAN play and split-screen modes, Amped 2 supports online play. With Xbox Live and the new XSN service, You can meet up with other players and compete in championships from the XSN hub site. Using the Xbox Voice Communicator, players can chat with members of their team, taunt rivals and, build relationships. You can also trade replays online or download online-exclusive content such as new mountains, challenges, clothing and other gear, challenges and even new music tracks. Once you've set up your game type, you can play in numerous multiplayer modes with versions of the Session, plus Horse and King of the Mountain game variations. Once you've completed your run, you can then see how you rank against other players regionally or worldwide, compete in online contests and much more. We found the interface for this mode seamless and intuitive. Navigating the menus and setting up the games was easy, and the new online competition definitely adds a new level of excitement to Amped 2.

From a visual standpoint, Amped 2 improves on the first game, but only incrementally. Players will immediately notice the better character animation, which gives the riders an increased realism. The courses themselves seem to be more detailed with better draw in and slightly larger courses overall. Amped 2 implements both day and night courses with fantastic light sourcing. The environments feel more alive with stunning particle effects that let you see crystals glistening in the sun, much better shadows and more weather effects such as blowing snow with realistic wind dynamics that make you feel like you're actually on the course. The first game's somewhat clunky menus have been improved somewhat, but the menus still don't have the polish that they could. While the aesthetics are improved, the course designs are more exciting this time around. Players will find more ramps and rails on each course, which gives you more opportunities to create combos and score higher points. The game's soundtrack is also quite impressive, with more than 300 tracks from dozens of indie bands that stretches from pop-punk to electronica to alt-rock with ease. If these aren't enough, you can download and customize your own soundtrack as well. The improvements seem minor, but the first game was still a fantastic achievement and, Amped 2's production values remain quite impressive and make it one of the best-looking Xbox titles to date.

While many of the aesthetic changes are subtle, the game's biggest changes aren't evident in screenshots. It's deeper tricks system offers players a lot more flexibility with many new moves and techniques available that allow players more freedom. Amped 2's game flow has been significantly improved and the more intuitive gameplay leads to a more addictive and, yes, more enjoyable game. There are also many new challenge modes, and the vastly improved multiplayer mode adds to the competitive action. This is further enhanced with extensive online support that makes this a far more robust and challenging game. Amped 2's biggest changes come in the areas that count the most - gameplay and control. While it lacks the arcade-style action of SSX or other recent action-sports titles, it's far from a dry experience. So, if you're looking for a snowboarding title with a lot of flash and gimmicks, Amped 2's realistic approach may be disappointing. However, if you want a game with great graphics, depth, challenging gameplay and smooth controls, Amped 2 offers a solidly entertaining gaming experience that Xbox owners shouldn't miss.

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