Cool Boarders 2001 Hands-On

Cool Boarders 2001 is looking good for a game that's still almost three months away from release.

Cool Boarders 2001 is the fifth game in the popular PlayStation snowboarding series - and the last. Let's face it, if you release five games in a series over six years, you can't expect to make a great deal of changes from one to the next. As the series has progressed, small details have been added and problem areas have been tweaked - and now, the Cool Boarders franchise is one of the most solid snowboarding experiences available on any home video game console.

The new features specific to Cool Boarders 2001 are wider courses and a pro challenge mode in which you take on one of ten real world pros. If you defeat the pro, you are awarded with new boards, increased rider attributes, new apparel, or new tricks. The wider courses are a big plus, considering that in past installments of Cool Boarders, congestion on the slopes meant finishing at the bottom of the standings. In Cool Boarders 2001, the only person to blame for your poor finish is yourself.

There are six different events that fall under the career mode. Downhill points run is a test to see who can get down the hill first. CBX is a battle down the mountain to see who can finish first while you engage in hand-to-hand combat. Downhill gates run rewards you for finishing in first place while you negotiate gates and perform tricks along the way. Board park places rails and massive kickers in front of your face, which forces you to transfer from one obstacle to another. Big air gives you the chance to boost one off a large ramp for a one-trick score. Half pipe requires that you take three runs and keep your two best scores.

Cool Boarders 2001 has all the bases covered. You may even create your own rider, but the body parts are fairly limited and your experience points are distributed automatically. The only thing missing is a free ride option so that you may go at your own pace down the slope. The fact that fighting is a play element in nearly all the modes is something that 989 might want to reconsider, as it's just not realistic. But then doing a triple backflip off a small kicker isn't exactly realism either.

The courses are well designed and varied. Upon dropping in for your first run, you will notice that 989 has strategically placed obstacles about the course so that one may lead to another, which allows you to perform a constant string of tricks. In theory this sounds great, but actually executing the tricks while lining yourself up for the next one is easier said than done. Falling down presents more issues, as getting back up and heading in the right direction can be difficult at times. The collision detection seems as if it's still on 989's list of things to do, because sometimes you fly right through certain obstacles.

There are some nice details such as falling snow, trails left behind the board, knee-deep powder that slows you down, and gorgeous backgrounds. The usual problems associated with PlayStation software are here, but not to the degree of most PS games. Pixelization is kept to a minimum, minus the trees; and thanks to the white courses, polygon seams are rarely obvious. Clipping becomes an issue only while you drop over large cascades, but a strange glitch that causes your rider to shake occurs at the beginning of every event.

Cool Boarders 2001 is looking good for a game that's still almost three months away from release. While not much has changed from Cool Boarders 4, a few upgrades have certainly made Cool Boarders 2001 less frustrating and more in-depth. If 989 can snuff out a few of the problems, it could be the best Cool Boarders yet.

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