Some games try to break free from the norm and offer something a little different, but never before has a series been turned on its head quite like Amped. The first two games were published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox and offered a sim alternative to the arcade style SSX series from EA. Now under 2K Games, Amped has thrown the idea of being a sim out the window, picked up the crazy ball and run with it. The result is an often hilarious, fun to play extreme sports title that will surprise a lot of people.
As the game opens to 'Blinded by the light' by Manfred Mann and you're introduced to the game's characters, it's obvious that you're in for a fun time. Your crew is made up of J-Dawg, Hunter, Sebastian, Wiener Boy and you, and after you take to the slopes in a bright pink bunny costume, you and your buddies talk about how you're going to raise the money needed to fund a trip to Chile. The slopes are about to close where you are and you simply must make the money so you can get to Chile and board all year long. Things obviously don't go exactly to plan and over the course of the game's five acts you'll move from resort to resort, taking in the crazy story as you go.
The game throws a ton of challenges at you, with each falling under a category. These range from score challenges to bone crushing damage challenges, but the most important are the Story challenges. These move you through the game and are accompanied by hilarious short movies that could well be the most bizarre ever seen in a videogame. You'll get everything from cheap animations made using old toys, to stunning animated scribbles in notebooks, and everything you can imagine in-between. Each of these is backed up by some truly funny voice over work, and you'll be keen to keep progressing just to see what else the developers are going to throw at you. It's hard to explain just how crazy these movies are; you'll just have to experience their wonder for yourself.
The gameplay is less out-there, but the game's new easy to play style feels great. It's an obvious, and perhaps lazy, comparison to make, but Amped 3 feels a lot like the Tony Hawk games, except on snow. There's a big focus on pulling off big tricks and getting a lot of air time, and moves like the Butter, which is essentially the Revert and Manual from Tony Hawk combined, help things no end. Pressing up, then down, on the left stick will continue a trick on landing, and then allow you to go into a further trick. All the expected spins, grabs and grinds are here, and a new slow-motion spin and powder carving move has been added to the mix.
'At times you'll wonder what the hell was going through the minds of the developers who created Amped 3...'
With the way the challenges are laid out on the game's zoomed out view of the slopes, you always know what you can do next, and if you become bored with the challenges you can just hop onto a snowmobile and go for a joyride, or get out your builder's kit and customise the slopes with jumps, rails and whatnot. The whole game is just a thoroughly enjoyable experience. There are loads of things to unlock, ways to customise your character, online league tables to compete against and more.
Once you've seen a few of the hilarious story movies nothing else can really hold a candle to that area of the game, but the overall presentation is top notch too. The mountains are huge, with some awesome sights to be seen when pulling off big jumps, and the slopes are littered with people, giving the impression of a working resort. Character models look great, with some nicely detailed clothing and each of the main characters has a unique style. Detail isn't quite as great as what can be seen in a few of the other sports titles available for the 360, but it's still impressive. There's the odd bit of pop-up now and again, and ramps often gain detail very late, but it doesn't really hurt the game's presentation.
Amped was applauded for its use of indie music, and Amped 3 is no different, this time featuring over 300 tracks. It's a collection that is truly immense in size, and they all fit with the game's laid back style. Voice work for the main and bit-part characters is really good, with some great performances in and out of the bizarre movies. You'll also hear the other people on the slopes talking if you get close enough and if you're impressing them with your "Awesomeness" a load of crazy 2D art will fly out of your character. In another game it would be totally unexpected, but after a while with Amped 3 you'll be prepared for just about anything.
Everything isn't totally "Awesome" though, with a few little problems that might irritate some of you. Amped 3 doesn't put up much of a challenge, which definitely won't please fans of the original games; you can screw up pretty badly in many of the early challenges and still gain enough points to pass, and while later slopes provide more challenge, it never becomes too tricky. There's also absolutely no online play. You can view high scores for all the challenges, and this is integrated very well, but as a next-gen game and a sequel to a game that featured online play, its omission here is disappointing. There's the odd co-op challenge, but sliding down slopes and pulling off insane tricks with a few buddies could have provided some great entertainment.
At times you'll wonder what the hell was going through the minds of the developers who created Amped 3, with what you're seeing stretching beyond the strange into the utterly obscure and mental. The story will at one time or another feature a boy band, a yeti, ninjas, an evil video game manufacturer and a whole lot more. The fact that the game gives you a whole lot of other stuff to do, aside from moving through the story, just adds to the package. Amped 3 isn't a terribly challenging game, but it's the most entertaining game I've played in a long time and overlooking it would be a crime the evil FreezÃ¶rg, god of lightning and ice, wouldn't be happy with.