Splashdown Preview

Infogrames and Rainbow bring their water racing game to the Xbox.

When Splashdown was released last year for the PlayStation 2, it garnered raves from critics and the public for its simple yet addictive gameplay, realistic physics, and gorgeous water. Developed by Rainbow Studios, the game made good use of the PlayStation 2 hardware and became one of a growing number of games that began to show off what the PS2 was capable of. Nearly a year later, Rainbow and publisher Infogrames are bringing the game to the Xbox with a few new additions to the graphics and gameplay. We checked out a build of the game, and we were pleased by what we saw.

Ruminer Point features cool lighting and huge waves.

For those who missed Splashdown on the PS2 last year, it was a racing game that had you competing on water tracks set throughout the globe. Gameplay was spiced up by the use of stunts to enhance your Sea Doo's abilities. By performing stunts off ramps placed throughout the tracks, you would fill an onscreen performance meter that temporarily boosted your craft's speed. As a result, success in the game was based almost as much on skillful piloting as on performing enough stunts to keep your meter maxed out. The game's appeal was heightened by the presence of a variety of unlockable elements that drove you to hone your skills.

For the Xbox version of the game, Rainbow has brought over all the content from its PlayStation 2 cousin, given it a face-lift, added some new stages, and tweaked the gameplay. You'll find arcade, career, training, and multiplayer modes to play through, as well as the same assortment of characters. In addition to all the tracks found in the PS2 version of the game, you'll find two new tracks: Ruminer Point and the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys will have you racing through palm trees for a part of the track.

Graphically, the game makes good use of the Xbox hardware and looks better than the PlayStation 2 version to varying degrees. In terms of the tracks found in the PS2 game, Splashdown on the Xbox does look better, though the differences are mostly subtle. The water moves a bit more naturally, the waves are a little crazier, and the frame rate is a bit more solid. Also, the watercraft leaves behind a more noticeable wake and gives off quite a bit of foam as you race. However, the two new levels in the Xbox version are the most eye-catching of the bunch. Ruminer Point is especially appealing, with its huge crashing waves and the reflection of the low-hanging sun from the water.

The control setup has been faithfully brought over and mapped to the Xbox controller. You'll steer your craft with the left analog stick and accelerate with the A button. The left and right triggers and the B button serve as the three stunt buttons. The X button lets you look behind your craft during a race. The white face button cycles through camera presets, and the right analog stick lets you rotate the camera. Finally, the black face button triggers the "thrill cam," which switches to a head-on camera angle. The setup handles nicely, especially with the new S controller.

Making it on the right side of the buoys will help enhance your Sea Doo's performance.

The Sea Doos sound as good as ever, and the chatter from racers from the PS2 game is also present. The soundtrack still fits the action well, although some of the songs are starting to show their age--we could definitely live without hearing Smash Mouth's "All-Star" again. Fortunately, you're given the option to import your own music into the game, just like with Project Gotham and Amped, by selecting tracks stored on the Xbox's hard drive.

Splashdown seems to be coming together quite nicely. The graphical upgrades to the old levels and the impressive new levels offer a nice amount of eye candy, while the gameplay tweaks keep the action as addictive as it was on the PS2. The option to import your own music is also a nice touch. Xbox owners anxious for some water racing action should keep an eye out for Splashdown when it ships next week.

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