Shaun White Snowboarding Review: Tomato On The Slopes
When I was younger, I’m sure there was a point where I dreamed of winning an Olympic Gold Metal, and I can completely guarantee that there was a point where I dreamed of having my own video game. Unfortunately, neither has come true for me (yet) – Shaun White, on the other hand, now, he’s living out my dreams (a well as those of countless other males). He’s already won a gold metal at the 2006 Torino Olympic games, and now he has his own video game “Shawn White Snowboarding” out for just about every console. I never thought I’d be so jealous of someone with red hair … or with the middle name Roger.
“Shaun White Snowboarding” is the first game in a long time to take a more realistic look at hitting the slopes, as opposed to the over-the-top releases of the last few years. Most of the successful snowboarding games that hit the market since the PS2 launched have been very arcadey, and all about landing the biggest tricks possible – throwing the laws of physics out the window completely. “Shaun White” is more firmly rooted in reality, lending a solid nod to gravity, moreso than any snowboarding game … ever. Take that as you will… if you were hoping to go Uber-big as the Flying Tomato, you might want to stay home, but if you want to prove that you can rule the mountain without having to push the limits of reality, then “Shaun White” just might be for you.
The game goes out of its way to create a realistic snowboarding experience, however, there are a few elements that keep it from really achieving a 100% accurate simulation. First of all, when you go big up for a jump, and come down hard … on your face, there are no repercussions other than ending your points run, whereas landing like that in real life would send you straight to the hospital. I’m sure Shaun has had a few scrapes in his day, and it would have been interesting to include that in the game somehow.
However, I’m inclined to think that you might be less likely to need to go the hospital if the controls were just a little bit easier. I continually felt like I was fighting with them to pull off even the simplest of moves, especially early on in the game, before the focus modes were unlocked. Jump was placed in R1, with grabs and spins on the analog sticks – if you perfected your skills in “Skate” then you should be good to go here, but, if you spent too many hours of your life getting Zoe gold metals in “SSX” it might take some time getting used to.
At the other end of the scale, the developers have really put a lot of effort into the graphics, and created a really alive, and beautiful playground for Shaun and his friends. The mountains and the snow felt like they were really well done, and created a substantially immersive environment for any gamer to get lost in pretending they were out riding, instead of sitting in front of their flat screens. Simply put, it’s a gorgeous looking game that really highlights the graphical differences of HD compared to last gen gaming.
Similar to “Amped 3,” “Shaun White” offers an open world experience, allowing the player to choose which events on which mountain they want to participate in, and in what order. There are four mountains available from the start, that spans the globe, and, aside from tasks provided to you by Shaun (coin collecting) you can pick and choose what you want to do. You might even want to hit the slopes with 15 of your friends since the game has a crazy multiplayer mode that basically turns the whole mountain into a hangout for you and your friends. It’s ambitious, as well as fun to virtually take over a mountain. In fact, there’s a handful of challenges that can only be completed when playing against other people online – friends or strangers.
“Shaun White” does follow in the tradition of almost all other snowboarding games, and provides one of the best soundtracks to hit consoles this generation. With both a mix of new and classic alternative that range from Loverboy, to Bob Dylan, to The Ting Tings the game sounds like your cool best friend’s iPod on shuffle.
“SWS” attempts to corner the snowboarding video game market which usually only sees a new title once every few years. While it has popped up in a few different game compilations that make use of the Wii’s Balance Board, snowboarding is an extreme sport that doesn’t seen an extreme number of releases. I guess game publishers figure that you can only fly down a mountain on a bi-annual basis, instead of sticking to the standard yearly releases. At the same time, I’m almost certain there isn’t an audience out there that would run out and buy “Generic Boardin’ ’07,” “Generic Boardin’ X” and “Generic Boardin’ ’09,” every year. Remember “Cool Boarders?” Yeah, I think I’ve made my point.
There are certain franchises that have completely cornered genres of video games – particularly when it comes to sports. It just so happens that EA owns most of them, “Tiger Woods” and “Madden” just to name two, but there’s nothing at all wrong with someone new trying to give them a run for their money. While the “SSX” games still remain the best snowboarding games of the last generation, “Shaun White” only really needed to best the 360’s launch window game, “Amped 3” the claim that title for this generation, and, for the most part, it does. With no new “SSX” game on the horizon “Shaun White Snowboarding” should be a must play for anyone who likes to virtually hit the slopes with their board.