Shaun White SnowboardingESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
System Link: 2-16
1 MB to Save Game
Online Multiplayer: 2-16
Virtual snowboarding games have always taken one of two paths: over the top crazy or simulation like realism. Each of these types has always had their staunch supporters and it really comes down to what you like in a videogame as a whole. Ubisoft has recently released their latest entry into the world of Snowboarding games. Shaun White Snowboarding has hit the slopes across a vast number of consoles. We here at GameBoyz received the Xbox 360 version to review. So after a few runs down the virtual mountain how do I feel? Read on.
Visually speaking Shaun White Snowboarding is a solid title. From the huge vistas, the character animations, down to the virtual snow itself, everything is well represented.
When you actually get to the peak of any of the four mountains you can see as far as you eye should see. I was almost breathless at how good the view really was from the top. Once you look down the mountain the view is just as impressive as you can also see quite far in to the distance of where you have to venture. All the details are there too like other snowboarders, chairlifts, trees, and even chalets. Something that was also noticeable was that when you were at the top of the peak, there were only a few AI snowboarders around and the powder was fresh and untouched. As you made your way down the mountain it became somewhat more populated and the snow was more ‘used, and once you did get to the bottom there were man-made snowboarding areas (e.g. halfpipes) and a lot more AI snowboarders. It was little touches like this that displayed the work that went into this game.
In terms of the characters and their animations, they were pretty smooth and reflected what you would hope snowboarders actually move like. From cutting through powder, grinding on rails or trees, to leaping off of a jump and grabbing your board, all of it looks pretty good. You also get a large number of customization options to make your on-screen snowboarder look as gnarly as you can. You’ll find a wide range of name brand gear (e.g. Burton or Oakley) to choose from and as you get deeper into the game more gear becomes available.
Technically speaking the game runs well. Shaun White Snowboarding utilizes special effects such as lighting or particle effects. For example, the way the powder swirls through the air as you cut through untouched and pristine real estate to how your shadow changes with your movements or with the angle of the mountain. The game also runs at a solid framerate even when you head online. As I write my thoughts I cannot think of anything that really stood out given that the game ran without a hitch. All in all the this snowboarding title looks pretty darn good.
The music in the Shaun White Snowboarding is very reflective of the genre it represents. Now I have to say that I am not a snowboarder myself, nor am I a fan of the music the game has, however that is not to say that it is not appropriate to the action it is paired up with. With music such as “Counting the Days” (Goldfinger) to “The Revolution will Not Be Televised” (Gil Scott-Heron) there is a lot here to please snowboarding fanatics. Should you not like any of the music included on the disc there is support for custom soundtracks, so any other music you may want to listen to can be done so right off your own HDD.
As for the rest of the sounds, I would have to say that there are somewhat average. I did not find a lot of ambient sounds in my adventures, but the main action itself is well represented from cutting through powder, flying off a half-pipe, grinding on rails to bailing out in the snow. Everything you’d expect in these situations is present and accounted for.
The story in Shaun White Snowboarding is quite thin, but then again for a game whose focus on strapping a board to your feet what should you expect. Mr. White thinks that you, well your created character at least, have enough talent to make it in the professional sport of Snowboarding. During the story you are tasked with discovering coins spread out across four mountains, as well as competing in a variety of challenges. Should you collect enough coins, and of course do well in the various events, you will get a shot at challenging Shaun White himself, and by beating him you take your place in Snowboarding history. At the end of the day the story is secondary and the main theme of the game is to just ride down the mountain and have some fun.
Shaun White Snowboarding takes a more realistic approach to playing as the controls and physics are not as ‘wild’ as other games that have preceded it. You wont find yourself being able to just fly through the air while pulling of crazy tricks, as you need to learn the nuances, find the right things to help you get big air (jumps and cliffs), and even earn bonus powers (called focus powers) to pull off the bigger and more grandeur tricks.
In terms of controlling your on-screen persona, you use the analog sticks and the triggers for the majority of your moves. The right analog stick is used to pull of various grabs while the right trigger is used to ‘work’ your jumps and tweaks. To pull off your aerial moves you only need to push your analog stick in one of eight directions to pull of such things as a grab. Click on the right analog stick to open up even more. I found that this system was definitely not overly complicated and within no time I was pulling of some pretty rad tricks. When my moves got more complex, and I was doing some flips and spins, the only hard part was to land, but it was not nearly has hard as in other games that I have experienced in the past. Bottomline, the controls are accessible and it allows for many levels of gamers to enjoy this title.
As mentioned in my summation of the story, your main goals in Shaun White Snowboarding are to collect coins and complete various challenges.
The addition of coin collecting in a snowboarding game puzzles me somewhat. Many people, myself included, associate coin collecting with platform games, so to see this mechanic in an extreme sports game was confusing. You will have to find a large number of coins that are scattered all over the four mountains. Once you collect a specific number of coins you open more coins to find on different mountains. Some of these coins will actually take some figuring out of things in order to obtain them. For example, you may find yourself trying to discover an area or object that will enable you to pull off insane jump to reach just one coin. It almost seems that Ubisoft wanted to try to do something different here, and with the coin search mechanic this was their attempt at something new in this genre. All in all I would say that this was a valiant effort, but I just can’t help but think this was somewhat out of place, but then again this is my opinion and some people may actually find this addition kind of neat.
You also have the various challenges that you do on each mountain. For you to progress your character you will have four medal ranks in each challenge to earn and these are determined by your score in each, and of course the better your score the better your medal rank. Seems simple enough right? Well it is, partially, as there is another competition that also is the same event. Yep, you heard me right. You will also do these challenges against AI or online friends which means that one challenge is actually two. Funny thing, you don’t have to beat your opponents either. As long as you meet the specified goals of the initial challenge you can meet the medal ranking needed to earn your bonuses (e.g. other equipment or the aforementioned focus powers).
So in theory, should you place last against your AI or online opponents bit you can still get a high medal rank.
Shaun White Snowboarding offers up some multiplayer mayhem. Up to 16 players can hit the slopes at once. The interesting thing about this is that these online players can venture anywhere they want to in the open world as the forced exploration of the single player mode has been chucked aside. Interestingly enough, and as briefly mentioned in the preceding paragraph, you can complete the game’s story challenges online with a friend. So in many ways, this becomes a cooperative game, and it is where the game shows more strength. To do this you only need to go to a challenge marker, invite the friend you wish to play the challenge with, and voila, you are good to go. Sharing these experiences with another person online is better then doing it yourself. For those looking for a further incentive to play some online multiplayer, you can throw virtual snowballs at your online friends too. There is nothing more rewarding then watching a buddy pull of a rad trick, only to hit him smack in the head while he is trying to pull of a perfect landing. This small play mechanic offered up some fun and I was surprised at how something so small could prove to be so pleasing.
Overall my time with Shaun White Snowboarding was relatively enjoyable. Although I was puzzled by the inclusion of coin collecting, I liked just being able to go around the various mountains trying to do bigger and radder tricks. What made the game more enjoyable then I thought it would be was the fact that the control scheme was very easy to pick up and learn, and it is this strength that can also be a weakness as many diehards may find it too easy or too forgiving. As well, I think some people may get bored with the play of the game as it may just not be exciting enough, however that being said some will find it just right, which is where I fall into.
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