1080 Avalanche GameCube Review

1080 Avalanche is the sequel to the popular 1998 game of almost the same name, 1080 Snowboarding. It’s taken 5 years but at last Ricky Winterborn and the rest of the gang are now back for a second helping. We were all expecting a letdown, we were all expecting an average game at best but is 1080 one of the biggest surprises of 2003?

Gameplay

1080 Avalanche offers you 21 tracks under four different difficulty settings, each difficulty must be beaten before you can move onto the next. On first boot up you will notice only 3 of these tracks are available for selection and you should breeze through all 3 of them on your first or second go. Think of them as the games tutorial, the game is just letting you get the feel of everything and letting you hone your skills for the later levels, which will definitely take more than one go I can tell you that. There is a lot happening on each of the tracks, they feature various obstacles to hinder your descent down the mountain which range from wildlife, other boarders, skiers and even train wrecks. Tracks also feature various short-cuts and multiple routes, they are not of Mario Kart standard but they are still fun all the same! The tracks also are never longer than 3 minutes so they are easily memorized which will help you a lot in time trial mode.

One of 1080’s unique selling points is also one of it’s greatest features. Each difficulty finishes off with a fantastic descent down a mountain being followed by an avalanche! The screen violently shakes as the avalanche gets closer and the pad rumbles in your hand. The camera pulls slightly back so you can see the snow just clipping your heels. It’s an all out sprint to the end, you against the avalanche in a race for your life. At certain points throughout the track a cut-scene will kick in letting you see what damage the avalanche is doing to the scenery and most importantly to give you a 5 second break before your brain overheats. It is a fantastic and very well implemented feature.

For those of you wondering if they should buy this if they already have SSX3, all I can say is this is a completely different game, they may be both snowboarders but that is where the comparisons end. While SSX is more an extreme sports title with gravity defying tricks, 1080 tries to keep it roots more in realism. If you liked SSX then you should like this too, but you should expect a different sort of gameplay experience and a deeper game in places.

The trick system is also different than SSX, you have to plant your feet for a jump by holding “A” and then time it correctly to get the most height, unlike SSX you can’t have the button held down all the time and just wait for a jump you must wait till you see the jump ahead and then time it correctly. While airborne you can pull of all the spins, flips and grabs you need then all you have to do is land it. While tricking is not as important in 1080 as it is in SSX it does serve an important purpose, it makes you go faster. More tricks build up your speed meter to improve your speed, but one fall empties the meter to slow your speed back down again.

Two player racing is fun and the game holds up well, but if you get four players running the framerate takes a big hit which really does affect the fun factor of the game. As with all racing games the multiplayer can make or break a game. While two player 1080 is fun for a while it won’t last very long, but in the end that is not what the game is about. If you want great multiplayer get Mario Kart: Double Dash. 1080 Avalanche also offers four-player support over a LAN which is fun for a while, but it seems that Nintendo doesn’t want to exploit the feature to its fullest extent.

Graphics

The graphics in 1080 can be a bit of a mixed bag, it can range from “OMG that’s beautiful” to quite average looking visuals. Little touches such as the snow sticking to the riders clothes when you fall are eye-catching. The game also captures the powdery feeling of snow very well, it manages to look quite good and also looks like snow which is something Amped or any of the SSX games never achieved yet. Some of the views are spectacular, one that comes to mind right now is when you make it over a jump and you see the sun is jutting out over the hills and through some snow covered trees, this may get one of the “OMG that’s beautiful” feelings I referred to earlier as it truly is one of the most beautiful views witnessed on any of the “next-gen” consoles to date. Although the graphics are usually top notch the frame-rate does stutter, this is slightly disappointing but the frame-rate thankfully never drops too low to get very annoying.

Sound

Not much can be said about the sound, Nintendo managed to get a few licensed songs for the game, which I believe is a first for Nintendo. The soundtrack has an indie rock tint to it so if you’re a fan of that genre you are in luck. You can choose the track you want during the loading screen by a nice looking radio style interface that lets you flick though 25 songs in no time to choose the one you want. The sound effects are good but nothing spectacular. The bumps and thuds are all there if you fall or hit a tree. Overall I would say the sound is average at best.

Lifespan

The longevity of this game depends on 2 simple words: “Time Trial”. If you hate time trialling this game will last you a week at most. On the other hand if you love time trialling and you are the sort of gamer that must perfect tracks and get your time down as far as you possibly can then this game could last you forever. The tracks are designed very well to allow the expert player to shave tenths off their time on each play. You could play for months shaving millisecond after millisecond off your time until you get bored. Another feature which may appeal to the time-triallist within you is the “Gate Trail Mode” this mode sees you racing through gates which are placed slightly off the racing line, this makes it a completely different challenge than the normal time trial mode as the score you are awarded at the end is based on your speed, number of tricks done and number of gates passed through. This mode can be extremely addictive and if it gets you, you could be playing for a very long time.

Overall

Although people weren’t expecting much from this game it definitely came as a nice surprise to me and I sure it will surprise other doubters to. It offers a great racing experience. The races where the avalanches chase you are far more exciting and exhilarating than anything EA’s SSX3 can give you but sadly the game itself does not last as long as I would like it to. In about 10 hours you should have clocked all the main game has to offer and it up to the time trial to try and keep your interest. Depending on your taste I would recommend you to buy or at least give this a rent. The game is a prime example of quality over quantity and should offer some hidden depths to the player who perseveres to the end.

8.2 out of 10

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