With winter fast arriving, the thought of shoveling out a couple feet of snow from around my car does not sit well with me. As I type this a winter storm watch is in effect here in Minnesota. For me, that means a lot of shoveling; for others, it is time to tune up their snowmobiles and get out their snow boards. I think I will just stick to snowmobiling in Modern Warfare 2 and a snowboarding video game like Stoked: Big Air Edition. I will stay much warmer that way. There have been numerous games in this genre over the years likes SSX 3 and Shaun White Snowboarding. The first Stoked came out earlier this year and this game is basically just expanding and polishing on what they did with the first one. How does this game stand up to other games of its genre?
This is my first time with a snowboarding game so I didn’t know what to expect getting into this. As far as story goes, there is not much. With Stoked: Big Air Edition you start by designing your character’s appearance and outfit, then you just get thrown right into the game. If you are like me and unfamiliar with this game you want to start with the tutorial. It gives you a pretty good handle on the controls. After you’re done with that, you find this game is full multiple different types of modes. However, it doesn’t give you a lot of direction on where to go. There are seven different mountains for you to compete on, which is two more than the first Stoked game. Each mountain features a different professional snowboarder for you to compete with. I started with the race mode as it gives you a good feel for the game and shows how big these mountains are. There are several different modes that involve performing different tricks. Some of the modes let you just take jump, grab your board, and do a spin or a flip, while others will have you grabbing your board in a very specific way. These grabs are defined in the grab bible. The grab bible is in the pause menu or they have one that comes as an insert with the game.
When I first started, I had no idea what to do but eventually I figured out the goal. In this game you will earn influence points for every competition you win. After you earn a little over 60 of these you become a professional rider and the game begins to become a little more defined. You start the game with three mountains available to ride on. Eventually as you gain influence you gain sponsorships and with sponsorships you can change the articles of clothing your boarder is wearing. This will also allow more events to open up and even more mountains. There are also some pretty cool photo op competitions where you perform a trick in a designated area and strike a pose for the camera. My pose was usually a swan dive face first into a rock. Speaking of which, this games needs some kind of recognition for brutal spills. There were so many times where I crashed and I said “Ooh that’s gotta hurt”Â, but I received no recognition for my suckitude. I often found myself sometimes trying for some ugly bone crunching crashes. I only wish they would have awesome screams like the guy in the game Pain.
Once you have completed everything on a certain mountain, you are allowed to pilot the helicopter and drop from any point on the mountain you would like. This gives you a pretty good idea of how open this game is. My only problem with all of the modes in this game is trying to find the one you need. The menus are difficult to navigate and the game doesn’t really provide you a whole lot of direction on how to achieve certain career milestones.
Story/Modes Rating: Good
Stoked: Big Air Edition is a beautiful game. The mountains are big and there are no borders limiting where you can go on that mountain. The game claims to have over 500 square miles of snow filled mountains for your enjoyment. You can go wherever you want and perform tricks off any bump. There are trees and rocks everywhere and they look realistic. The mountains look amazingly realistic in the background. However, when you stop to look around they add this weird filter that blurs the background. What differentiates this game from the first Stoked is that there are now groomed trails and more man-made objects to perform tricks off of. There are still plenty of areas that are void of this new element for those who love riding through powder in the forest.
The character models for the main character are pretty limited, but this isn’t a Sims game and there are not a huge amount of cut scenes for your character. There are fans at certain points on the mountain that will conveniently phase out of your way when you approach them. This actually looks quite silly, but it is not enough to take away from everything else. A neat thing that the game does is cover your character in snow when you biff on a jump so that the next time performing said jump you are covered from head to toe in snow.
Graphics Rating: Great
The soundtrack for Stoked: Big Air Edition is quite diverse. I really enjoyed a lot of the tracks even though I was unfamiliar with most of the artists. You are able to cut out the song s you don’t like by selecting that genre to be removed. I never really did this as none of the songs really annoyed me that much. There is also enough song selection that it does seem to repetitive when playing for a few hours. All of the artists and their websites are listed in the back of the manual for those that really get into the songs.
There is some voice acting in the game. All of the pro boarders in the game are voiced by their real life counterparts. Most of them just insulted me on how bad I suck. The other voice acting present is your different helicopter pilots for each mountain. The one from Chile actually had such a strong accent that most of the time I barely understood him. That didn’t bother me as I am used to not understanding people in foreign countries. It actually added to the realism. The other voice work is your photographers who also tell me that I suck and complain about losing daylight when I can’t do the grab they want.
So living in MinneSNOWta gives me some knowledge when it comes to the sounds of a winter wonderland. This game has pretty much nailed everything from the sound of the wind to the sound that your board makes cutting a turn on a groomed track.
Sound Rating: Great
Stoked: Big Air Edition is not made for casual gamers who have no experience with the extreme sports genre of skateboarding and snowboarding games. This is why I epically failed early on in this game. The learning curve is pretty steep for casual gamers. The controls on paper seem easy enough. You use your left stick to move your character and the right stick for jumps and some of the tricks you perform. When performing a grab trick you will use different combinations of your left and right triggers and different directions on both sticks. It took a while for me to get used to and I am definitely not a pro yet as I still refer to my grab bible when challenges call for specific tricks.
If you are experienced in this type of game then this will still be a fun challenge for you. There are hundreds of challenges each requiring some different type of trick or combinations of tricks. These combinations were difficult for me at first and at times nearly pushed to throw my controller across the room. Too bad XBox controllers don’t have straps like the Wii. Eventually I would succeed and celebrate with a drink! This would lead to more poor performances, but it’s still lots of fun none the less.
Stoked: Big Air Edition has a multiplayer mode, but when a multiplayer mode is dead like this one is it makes for a very lonely mountain. I tried searching for games, creating games, and even checked message boards on xbox.com to network with other players. I had no luck. I did end up adding some players as friends so I may still get this in yet. It does have leader boards where you can see how others are scoring in their single player sessions. On one mountain the other night I was ranked 3rd out of 16. There is no way with my level of skill in this game that I should be 3rd at anything.
What this game is lacking is marketing, and from what I have heard this game is going to have a lot more marketing coming up at snowboarding events. Hopefully this will fill the lonely mountain, but for now this is pretty much a single player game. This loneliness I feel could have been avoided with split screen so I could play with a friend on my local console. Crashing into trees with friends is better than doing it alone.
Replayability: Above Average
There is some good news about Stoked: Big Air Edition and that is the price. It released with a retail price of $40. It definitely is worth that price and more. If you can get past the steep learning curve or you are already an expert at this type game you will find challenges at all different levels of difficulty. Sometimes I would get stuck on a challenge and end up doing over and over again, but then the next one I would nail on it the first try.
Balance Rating: Great
I never played the first Stoked so I can only go by the obvious differences with Stoked: Big Air Edition. As this is basically an expansion of the first title, there is only a few new things that it offers, like the additional mountains, groomed tracks, and man-made objects to trick off of. What the original game had to offer was very original in terms of depth within a snowboarding game. This game really just expands and improves on it so I can’t say it is too original.
Originality Rating: Good
I can’t say that I was ever really addicted to Stoked: Big Air Edition. It is not that the game is bad; it is just not my favorite type of game. For those whole love this style of game, there is plenty to keep you coming back for more. For me I might give it whirl again down the road because even though I live in a snowy state this time of year it is not like I am going to do any real snowboarding anytime soon. So this will make a good wintertime substitute for me. One of these days I will get my photo on the cover of that snowboarding magazine.
Addictiveness Rating: Above Average
The game with its $40 price tag is an easy purchase for any fan off SSX or Shaun White’s Snowboarding. Also, for any parent out there looking for a game for their teenage snowboarding son or daughter, this would be perfect. With so many $60 games out there this holiday season it’s nice to know some newer games are not so high priced. If you are not familiar with this type of game, I recommend a rent to give it a little play through because if the multiplayer community doesn’t pick up then there is really no need to own it.
Appeal Factor Rating: Great
One thing I really enjoyed about Stoked: Big Air Edition is that it came loaded with two half hour episodes of a snowboarding show featuring the seven pro boarders in the game. It kind of felt like when you get a DVD packed with special features. I love special features! It was actually pretty entertaining to watch them perform the tricks that I suck at in their game.
Miscellaneous Rating: Classic
Replayability: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Great
Final Score: VERY GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
If you want one of the best snowboarding games for this generation of consoles, Stoked: Big Air Edition is what you are looking for. This game is packed with pro boarders, real brand name sponsors, stylized tricks, real world locations, and plenty of challenges to keep you going. With its steep learning curve, amateurs beware, because this game may even challenge seasoned extreme sports gamers. With a price of $40 this makes this an easy game to purchase with all that’s packed in it. The additional extra videos featuring the pro boarders in the game is an added bonus. This game lacks in multiplayer and has no split screen but hopefully this will improve as snowboarding season kicks in. With eight inches about to arrive here in MinneSNOWta, I think it is safe to assume the season is on.