Airblade - Review
Click here to read an interview with Criterion about Airblade.
At a time when extreme sports had began to capture both the minds and wallets of gamers worldwide Criterion decided to take the genre to the next level. Two years ago the company released a great hoverboarding game on Dreamcast (and later on the PC) called Trickstlye. With gorgeous graphics and some wonderful gameplay it ended up being one of the best titles on the system during its short life. While the Dreamcast is well and truly dead now, Criterion are going from strength to strength and have just released Airblade on Playstation 2, a spiritual successor to Trickstyle. Airblade manages to successfully combine an underground street culture feel with some absorbing gameplay and an interesting storyline while retaining the excitement of their previous hoverboarding game. In fact, Criterion have spent some time developing the storyline for this game which has as follows;
|One of the stunning levels.|
In Airblade you control a young man named Ethan, a laid-back, reluctant hero and boarding addict. His best friend, Oscar, is a scientific genius, working on his own top-secret research project for the GCP Corporation, creating limitless energy from gravitational fields. The trouble is, GCP Corporation doesn't like the idea of limitless energy - it's not good news for its oil based business interests. So when Oscar manages to quit the building complex, complete with a package tucked under his arm - a stolen prototype hoverboard he'd built with the technology, GCP kidnap him. As Ethan, it's down to you - with the help of your hacker friend, Kat - to dodge the GCP goons, find out exactly where Oscar's held, and free him from the clutches of the bad guys with the snappy suits and expense accounts.
|Getting massive air over the city.|
In reality the story has very little relevance in the bulk of the game, beside the single player story mode. This story mode is made up of six missions each separated by a cut scene which fleshes out the storyline. While six missions may not sound like a lot, each includes several tasks which must be completed and include things such as smashing billboards, grinding on cars or destroying security cameras. These tasks are pretty tough to figure out how to complete at times and you will likely need to spend quite some time, perhaps up to a day, learning how to complete each mission. In fact, one of the main problems with the game is the absurd difficulty level requiring many restarts of the levels to complete the missions. There is barely enough time to complete the tasks when you know what your doing let alone if you have no idea where to go next.
|This is one very slick game.|
Other single player game modes include a Training mode where the computer teaches you all the moves including steering, jumping, tricks and more. The Score Attack mode has trying to rack up as many points as possible while the Freeride mode allows you to cruise around a level without a time limit, and without the mission objectives (such as billboards) in place. Finally, Airblade includes a single player Trick Mode where you are challenged to complete a series of tricks.
The multi-player modes are even more impressive in their variety. The first is the Score Attack mode which, as in the single player game, sees you trying to rack up as many points as possible. The next mode is called Trick List and sees you trying to complete the tricks set by the computer. More interesting then these modes is the Ribbon Tag which has you chasing you opponent to catch the ever-lengthening ribbon attached to them. The person who holds the ribbon the longest is declared the winner. Next up it the Show Off mode which pairs the two of you off against each other to beat the opponent in combos, air and grins stats. Finally the game includes a party mode for up to eight players to try and rack up the highest trick score.
|DO YOU PREFER CARS?
While Sony have snapped up the rights to Airblade, Acclaim have secured up the rights to Criterion's other big Christmas 2001 release, Burnout. This car racing game has you dodging over 300 other vehicles on the courses and is frantic to say the least. Click here to read an interview with Acclaim about Burnout, or here for the preview.
The game isn't perfect. Obviously being a hoverboard game you can't expect physics like Tony Hawk or SSX, but this game just feels too floaty. Your rider rarely falls off his board but it usually only happens when you slam full speed into a wall. It should be quite a bit tougher. The other problem I have with the game is the lack of missions. Sure there are six in total, and they are very tough to complete, but I would have preferred a lower difficulty with more missions to complete. Having to restart a level 25 times to complete it is not my idea of fun.
One very nice, but all to brief, addition to this game is a behind the scenes making of documentary. The DVD format has been including these items on movies for years now and their inclusion onto PS2 DVD based games is more then welcome as it give gamers an opportunity to discover how much effort goes into making video games today.
|A stunt over the skyline level.|
Graphically, Criterion have outdone any of their previous games quite considerably and have really improved their Renderware technology to the point where it must be seriously considered by all developers. In fact, this is one of the best looking games on the Playstation 2, period. The graphics run at a silky smooth 50fps with very little slowdown. The game is littered with other cars and pedestrians as well as some of the most detailed backgrounds seen on the Playstation 2 to date. But it's the little things such as the billboards, posters and variety of buildings that make this game so realistic. The cut-scenes are quite well done and convey the story well enough.
When it comes to the sound Criterion really know how to make a game pump. The music is a selection of up beat hip-hop and funky tunes created specifically for this game. The tunes, while all of the same style are varied enough to remain interesting. Sound effects are solid enough with plenty of speech littered through the levels to keep you entertained and amused.
|Getting some massive air.|
Just as I felt with Trickstyle on the Dreamcast, there is something not quite right with this style of game. Perhaps it's the intentional floaty feel of the boards and the inconsistency of the collisions compared to the skateboards in Tony Hawk. Everything else in the game is pretty much spot on. Criterion have really improved their Renderware over the last couple of years to the point where the graphics are as impressive as machine specific code. The music pumps and the play modes are varied enough to keep you entertained for quite a while. Perhaps more missions in the story mode would have been nice, as well as a reduction in the frustrations of having to restart levels. Airblade is a fun title which should keep interested games happy for quite some time.
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