Sequels are an adamant part of our gaming culture, without them we would never get to experience continuations of our favorite franchises. Most of the time these follow-ups can be a blessing, taking the same core idea and ramping it up to the next level, however most of the time we simply get more of the same. My biggest fear when seeing a Roman numeral behind a title is when the developer changes. Take Knights of the Old Republic for example, taking the boys from BioWare out of the picture really hurt the game and caused the sequel to be a mere shadow of the first one. Thankfully this isn’t always the case, especially with our game at hand Amped 3. While the first two titles were developed internally by Microsoft the third iteration has now been handled by the boys at Indie Built, and I have to say I was skeptical at first. Now that I have taken the plunge I have discovered one of the few hidden gems amongst the sequel heavy Xbox 360 launch lineup.
For those familiar with the previous games the first thing you will notice is that Amped 3 is a bit more on the arcade side of the spectrum. While the franchise has always been known for its attention to realism most gamers found it to be drab and simply grow stale after a while. However don’t think of it as a complete departure, the controls are still very familiar and the core mechanics remain intact, what has changed though is the learning curve. Amped 3 is much more forgiving than its predecessors giving the player a more enjoyable experience from the outset. The simplified control scheme and being able to land tricks easier has really opened the game up to a new audience. Fans of the original will still find plenty to enjoy with the advanced combo system and returning “butter” moves, but newcomers will not feel overwhelmed to perfect the subtleties of snowboarding from the beginning.
I Believe I Can Fly!
Imagine Amped 3 as a giant snow covered sandbox with a seemingly endless number of ways to enjoy the game. The mountain is one giant area to explore with several unlockable areas as you progress. There are challenges spread out all over the mountain and you can play them at your discretion, no longer must you abide to a linear storyline to progress. There are story-mode challenges on the mountain as well, but sometimes you just feel like taking the snowmobile out for a stroll across the powder. Yes friends Amped 3 has added a bevy of new rides to shred the slopes on including sleds, intertubes, and of course the aforementioned snowmobile. There is even a two player co-op mode that has one player dragging the other down the mountain by a rope trying to pass through checkpoints, good stuff.
The storyline is, in a word, interesting. The cut-scenes that progress the story along seem completely out of place in the series, yet at the same time you can’t help but appreciate how damn good they are to watch. The pseudo Adult Swim mentality is extremely entertaining and you will find yourself pushing the story forward just to see the next one. The main plot starts you off in a giant pink bunny suit shredding down the mountain with your friends. Once complete you are taken to a character creation mode that lets you decide what the main protagonist will look like. The devs have done a great job of meshing this into the main storyline very similar to KOTOR where the other characters never refer to your name or gender during the cut-scenes. The rest of the story involves you earning money, uncovering mysteries, and simply learning the finer points of powder surfing while of course enjoying the crazy cut-scenes that ensue throughout the game.
There is certainly plenty to do in Amped 3 as well. Besides the main story mode you also have tons of challenges to complete at your leisure. They have also added in what is called “Awesomeness” which is basically how the people on the mountain react to your tricks and performance. Impressing a certain number of people can unlock new areas on the mountain and gain you access to certain challenges. There is also a track editor which enables you to create custom tracks that you and your friends can shred on. There are tons of obstacles such as buses, rails, and of course ramps to choose from, it would be nice if you could upload and play these custom tracks online; however Amped 3 is sans any online play whatsoever. This is probably the game’s biggest downfall and the one thing that holds it back from receiving a potentially higher score. While the lack of online is extremely disappointing there is still plenty to see and do in the game that will keep you playing for months.
Dude, back there is so totally where I started from…WHOA!
Even though the game says Xbox 360 on the front cover you would be hard pressed to convince someone this game is next-gen simply by glancing at it. While not ugly by any stretch of the imagination Amped 3 does lack a visual punch that other titles currently on the system carry. What is impressive though is just how big this mountain is, and the fact that there are absolutely no loading times when traversing across the humongous landscape. The sounds are decent, once again we are provided with a collection of obscure melodies to shred along side of, of course you can always ditch the main soundtrack and simply add in your own via PC connection or streaming off your 360 hard drive. The sparkling highlight of the audio though is the voice acting, while some of the voice overs may get annoying you have to appreciate the sheer amount of character each performer brings to the game.
With so many launch titles available for the 360 you may have overlooked Amped 3 simply because it is just another snowboarding game, or simply because there are an abundance of sports games to choose from. I truthfully cannot recommend enough that everyone give this title a whirl at least once, you will not be disappointed. The production values are high, the game play is smooth, and it is simply a joy to play. While it may not be the must-own title or system seller Microsoft is looking for, this game has style in spades, and that is something you can only dream of in this increasingly stale genre.