Who hasn't dreamed, at one point or another, of being a professional athlete? As common as it must be for people to wish they had the talent, celebrity, and salary of pro football, basketball, and hockey players, for example, there's something particularly appealing about being the master of a freestyle solo sport. Say, for instance, snowboarding. It'd sure be nice to get paid and showered in sponsored equipment just for pulling off incredible stunts in the cool, crisp mountain air. In reality, very few are anywhere near cut out to be pro boarders. So, Amped 2, like its 2001 predecessor, lets you experience an abstract version of the rags-to-riches process of going from an enthusiast snowboarder to a seasoned pro. In addition to this unique approach, the game features more than a dozen real-life pro riders, various locations modeled after popular real-life snowboarding venues, a huge and diverse soundtrack, and online play for up to eight players at a time. Also like its predecessor, Amped 2's main area of weakness, unfortunately, is in the gameplay itself. Though there are some interesting new additions, Amped 2 remains rather cumbersome and is simply not as enjoyable as other alternative sports games. Certainly, fans of the original Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding may beg to differ, but these are the same people who'll be fans of Amped 2.
Start as an amateur and work up to becoming a legend in Amped 2's career mode.
Amped 2 is not the only snowboarding game to be released in the past several weeks, but, for better or worse, it's a very different game than the superb SSX 3. SSX 3 has no real pretensions of realism, and its over-the-top, arcadelike gameplay is easier to grasp and probably easier to master than Amped 2's system. SSX 3 is also primarily a racing game in which you compete against other riders to get to the finish line first, whereas Amped 2 is focused squarely on tricking. The Xbox version of SSX 3 also doesn't offer any online play, whereas Amped 2 does, and the online play is probably this game's most compelling feature. Ultimately, Amped 2 provides somewhat of a more true-to-life snowboarding experience than SSX 3, but that's a relative comparison. It would be highly dubious to describe Amped 2 as "realistic," on its own merits, for a number of reasons.
Though the gameplay of Amped 2 will be familiar to those who played the original game, as well as to those who've played other alternative sports games, its unique use of analog control is something that takes considerable getting used to. Fortunately, a step-by-step tutorial is available to walk you through and let you practice the basics. It must go on the record that the instructor of this tutorial is just painfully uncool. He makes condescending kindergarten-style phrases, like "Great job!" when you perform rudimentary tasks and makes hopelessly failed attempts to be hip by using such words as "sick," "tight," and the ever-popular "rip dog." It's a remote possibility that the madness coming out of this guy's mouth was intended to be funny. At any rate, he does ultimately help teach you the ropes, so he deserves a little credit.
As in the previous Amped game, the left analog stick is used for turning, accelerating, and braking, as well as for spinning and flipping in midair. Additionally, it's also now used for pulling off butters, the snowboarding equivalent of the skateboarding manual, which, just like in the Tony Hawk series, is used for linking tricks together into combos. All this is really too much functionality to dump onto just one analog stick. It's difficult to wind up for a spin since doing so causes you to turn. It's difficult to wind up for a backflip since doing so causes you to slow down. With practice, you'll learn to compensate for the sensitive control and overlapping functionality of the left analog stick. That won't change the fact that this is a rather clunky and limiting control scheme, even if it does force you to keep a steady hand.
Meanwhile, the right analog stick is used primarily for grab tricks. You get a different midair trick by pointing the right stick in one of eight directions, and these tricks may be tweaked by using the shoulder buttons. Since the A button is used for accelerating and jumping, you'll need to quickly slide your hand over from the A button to the right stick, which seems clunky, but actually is a reasonable simulation of how a real-life snowboarder must go out of his or her way to grab the board. Other than that, the B button is used for sliding on rails, and the Y button is used for lip tricks--when you balance on your board at the edge of a half-pipe or quarter-pipe. In addition to snowboards, Amped 2 features snowskates, which are like snowboards only without bindings to keep your feet in place. When riding on these, you may also execute kickflips in midair with the X button.
The dual-analog control is a good idea that just doesn't feel very good in practice.
In addition to using butters to link together railslides, grab tricks, and such, Amped 2 also lets you earn extra points by pulling off moves with "style," as the game puts it. Rather than try to spin as hard and as fast as possible while in midair, you may gently apply the analog sticks, which causes a style meter to fill up as your trick is being executed. The idea is to alternatively reward the player for using finesse rather than grinding out the most insane trick possible, and it's a good idea. Too bad there's no real visible difference between a trick done with "style" and a plain-looking trick.
Unfortunately, the "style" system doesn't change the fact that the physics in Amped 2 leave a lot to be desired. The game's realistic aspects apply primarily in ways that make the game less enjoyable to play. Landings are still quite unforgiving, which was also an issue in the first Amped. If you land sideways or a few degrees off of parallel from the snow, you bail, obviously lose the points for your trick, and somewhat slowly get back on your feet. Even if you do manage to land upright, unless you line up your landing perfectly or almost perfectly, you'll take a hit to your trick score. Transitioning straight into a butter requires some very stringent timing, too. On the other hand, you almost magically stick to rails with the B button, and rails are pretty common, so you'll frequently aim yourself at these to keep from botching a landing. This is kind of strange, since one would expect that it must be harder to land stably on a thin rail than it would be to do so onto relatively solid footing. Also, the action in the game just feels too "floaty" overall. There's very little sense of speed or acceleration, either while on the powder or in the air. Amped 2 also has some pretty glaring issues with clipping and collision detection. On the occasions when you do miss a rail, you'll often pass clear on through it, and sometimes you'll pass through other obstacles. The back button on the controller resets you back on track, should you get stuck.