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MTV Snowboarding (PSX) Review

Background Info


Which came first? The X-Games or Cool Boarders? All we know is that snowboarding games have grown in popularity over the last couple of years. Hoping to cash in on the craze, MTV Sports Snowboarding attempts to lure buyers with a big name cable sponsor. The sponsorship pays off in the audio of the game, but a great soundtrack can't save an otherwise average game.

MTV Sports Snowboarding offers a limited number of courses and riders. Like all games, you can open up a few more courses and riders, but to do so is an exercise in repetition rather than fun and challenge. And like the other snowboarding games available, this one offers up some special tricks, although in a smaller number than other titles.

Presentation/Graphics : 70
The graphics in MTV Sports Snowboarding look a little dated. While the riders are fairly detailed, the background skies come in hues I've never seen before. I would prefer a plain background sky to some of the things that pop up. But that's a minor point. The graphics do a good job laying out the course boundaries, and elevation changes over hills are subtle yet clear. You can determine the height of a hill from a distance, although on some courses it is difficult to determine what lies ahead of even some of the smaller jumps.

Rider animations are fluid, whether you are carving out snow or spinning in mid-air. The racing events have a limited field of three racers including your rider, so you can imagine the graphics keep pace with the action, which they do. There is some pop-up in the distance, although it never affects the gameplay. Jumps and rails never pop-up all of a sudden, so there is ample time to plan your approaches.

The big problem in the graphics area is the camera. In some situations, the camera, which only views the rider from behind, can't decide where it wants to point from. The problem is especially bad in half-pipe events. If you miss a jump on the half-pipe, you'll find yourself caught in the valley of the pipe. For a few seconds, the camera flips back and forth, and you lose your orientation. The same issue is found in some of the downhill courses as well, and always seem to be present when you wipe out. Needless to say, this graphics flaw significantly impacts the game's enjoyment.

Presentation/Audio : 90
Usually I'm not a fan of most of the music in video games. There are exceptions, such as the opening music of the FIFA series. Well, MTV Sports Snowboarding scores big in the soundtrack department. Any game that features a classic like "Cars" by Gary Numan must be deemed worthy. Throw in great tunes from Blink 182, H20, Ministry and a few others, and you'll see the game producers utilized the MTV endorsement well.

The sound effects are secondary. As you ride down the course, a whoosh of the snowboard over the snow is heard. There are no crowds to cheer you, but there is audio commentary to keep you company. By default, the commentary volume is set to zero, so you will have to adjust the volume setting. However, the commentary is composed of pithy little statements like "Ouch," "I'm glad I've got this helmet," or "Here comes superkid." If you don't like the music in the game, you'll quickly tire of the sound effects.

Interface/Options : 80
The in-game menus are a snap to work through. You go from the main menu to an event quickly, where the only stops along the way are for course, rider, and board selection. The only place to get a background of the fictitious riders is in the game manual. The description of each rider is short, and as such it is difficult to determine which rider is the best overall. Likewise, when selecting a board, the game neglects any performance characteristics of the various boards. This leads me to believe that all boards in the game are created equal.

Controls are uncomplicated in the game, with basic movement manipulated with the digital or analog pad. The manual did a poor job describing the speed control. Do I crouch like the Cool Boarders series by pulling back on the stick? Nope. To crouch you push forward on the stick, although the manual makes no mention of crouching whatsoever. Tricks are executed with combinations of the circle, square, triangle and X buttons in consort with or without the R2 button. There are only eight basic tricks, although there are two "special" tricks that can be executed with the L2 button and the X plus square or X plus circle button. In addition to button mashing tricks, flips and spins are initiated with the control pad. So while the back of the game's jewel case boasts of hundreds of trick combos, the combos are comprised of only a few basic tricks.

My biggest complaint with the menus was that saves are confusing. Between events in a competition, you have the option to exit or save and exit. Both options net the same response from the game, that your progress will be stopped. Well, I'm saving to save progress, right? In the end it does save your current state.

Gameplay : 40
Some gamers complained about the deep snow in Cool Boarders 4. Well, if you want shallow snow, and shallow gameplay, here's your opportunity. When you start MTV Sports Snowboarding, you have the option of training or qualifying. To participate in the MTV Challenge, you must score enough points over four courses in the qualifying rounds. The game keeps track of your best scores for each course, so your points total is not over four consecutive tracks. That is, you can continue to race a particular course until you are happy with your score and then move on to the next qualifying event. The qualifying events are all trick-based, so you might as well skip the training mode and use the qualifying mode as a training environment.

To score enough points to qualify for the MTV Challenge, you execute in-air tricks off of ramps, hills, half-pipes, and rails. Once you get the hang of the game, you'll notice that you can rack up points with one basic move: jump, start a flip/spin, press R1 to increase the rotation speed, and release with enough time to land correctly. That move is guaranteed to score more points than pretty much every other move. Thus, there is little skill involved with the game. Furthermore, preparing for a trick is as simple as pressing the jump button. With no jump meter, the game is completely devoid of a challenge. I think I may have pressed the X button in mid-air as well out of instinct. So instead of just a quick spin and flip, I performed a quick spin and flip with a tail grab. I could do that ad nauseam in every qualifying event and score enough to make it into the MTV Challenge.

So was it a challenge? Not really. The MTV challenge is a five-event tournament with two downhill racing events and three trick events. The racing events have exactly the same format. Times from two heats are added, and the top three riders race a final race to determine the winner. The loser's bracket, comprised of the bottom three, offers fourth place as its prize. Since the object is to get down the courses quickly, you won't want to perform tricks. The courses themselves have wide lanes and few obstructions. With such uninspiring courses, the excitement factor during the events reads off-scale low. And to think that two of the five events are racing events and that you get to race each course three times.

The trick events are not that much better. Recall the sure-fire method of scoring points in the qualifying sessions. Using the same strategy in the trick events, you are virtually guaranteed victory in those events. The exception is the Big Air event, where you have three jumps on a short course. Miss one of those jumps and your score will plummet. But wait, there are two runs for this event, and only the best score is used. The half-pipe event nets three tries to score big, and the slopestyle event allows two runs. If you know your score won't be enough to place you first, you can always restart the event before you cross the finish line.

There are a couple of bonus items to pick up along the way. For example, if you place first in the MTV Challenge, you get to snowboard Alaska. Scoring a certain number of points on that course is rewarded with a new rider. Now I don't know if there are more bonus items available because the game started getting boring. I imagine you can get more bonus items by winning the MTV Challenge with another rider, but personally, I did not want to spend my time on the same five courses and events. Each MTV Challenge is the same sequence, the same courses, the same events. Absolutely no variety. Couple that with a guaranteed method of success on the trick events, and you are left with a game that boils down to two mediocre racing events. And don't forget about the position-happy camera that gets lost at some times.

There is a course-create mode, so if you like to build things, I guess you'll be happy.

Replay Value : 40
None, unless you like doing the same thing over and over. There is no variety in the game, and in the end, this kills it. With the same events and courses in each MTV Challenge event, once you make it through the first competition in first place, there is little need to continue. I put several hours into this game hoping to find a challenge, but in the end, what I found was some advice for the gamer: stay away. I haven't had this little fun since Nagano Olympics on the PSX.

Overall : 56
It's ironic how the main game mode in MTV Sports Snowboarding is named. I challenge you to find music (and original music at that) that is not repeated on MTV. Like the music channel, the game repeats itself and offers nothing original. Along the way, you are mistreated to some rather unimaginative tracks. The only positive in this game is the excellent soundtrack. But unless you want an overpriced CD that won't even play in your home CD player, skip this one. Even the Numanoids couldn't save this game.

By: James Smith 12/8/99

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