Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 03/04/02 | Genre: Sports
ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding 2002 is the latest title featuring the ESPN license, and is one of the first such games to appear on the Xbox. The game has a tough act to follow with Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding already on the market, and of course falls in the monstrous shadow of EA Big's genre--favorite SSX Tricky.
Despite competing with the two snowboarding giants, this game manages to deliver a few extras that the others lack. The main draw to this game comes in the form of the expansive career mode (snowboarder mode). Here, you get to create your very own character and take them from the bottom of the bunch to the top of the heap. The options you have for creating your character are admittedly limited, but sufficient nonetheless. Once you've created your boarder, you can head to the shop and buy some equipment to get started. Also, at the shop, you can sign up and enter different events in order to earn cash and improve your rider's abilities. After each run, you'll gain experience points that will increase several attributes of your rider, and if you consistently perform well, a sponsor will eventually come knockin' on your door.
The other game options include the Quick Mode, the X Games Mode, and also a two player mode. The Quick Mode lets you immediately jump into the action, while the X Games mode allows you to compete in several real-life events. Above, you may have noticed that it says TWO player mode. Why in the name of all that is holy would you only include two player support when the machine allows you to have four? This is one of the game's faults that must be taken into consideration if you like to kick it with three of your pals, because obviously, you can't.
As far as graphics go, Snowboarding 2002 falls a bit flat compared to the competition. The courses in general seem fairly uninspired, and the background environments are pretty devoid of any visual splendor. Luckily, the character animation is respectable and you won't ever see a drop in frame-rate. On the sound front, the game does a good job. You can hear your board tearing through the snow, and the announcer will comment on your performance throughout your run. Also, the background music rocks, featuring bands like AFI and the Vandals. It's a good thing too because you can't make use of the Xbox's ultra-cool ability to rip CD's; BOO!
The lack of four player support and the inability to play your own tracks might be bad, but they're definitely not the game's biggest problem. That dishonor belongs solely to the overall gameplay and how the character reacts (or doesn't react) to the controller. When you first begin, you'll find yourself wondering if it's even possible to make your boarder turn to the right or left. Also, the trick system is a bit sloppy and you all too often feel as if you have no control over the character on screen. This is especially true while spinning; once you start spinning, it's pretty darn difficult to stop when you want to. This gets annoying almost immediately as your character performs the not-so-pleasant "face-plant" maneuver over and over again. With a lot of time, and several truck loads of patience, you will get over this obstacle and find a fairly enjoyable title.
The overall feeling of ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding 2002 is that it almost succeeds, but ultimately falls short. The awesome career mode is offset by frustrating gameplay that will turn most gamers away after only a few minutes. For those of you that are really into the genre, this definitely something to check out. However, the majority of you should stick with SSX for the time being.