Ultimately, this trek into uncharted territory produces a fun experience that will constantly keep you trying to complete challenges.
Thanks to games like SSX, developers have taken an invigorated interest in snowboarding games, exploring ways to take the basic snowboarding recipe in new and interesting directions. THQ and the development team at Radical Entertainment have attempted exactly that with Dark Summit, a snowboarding game that still relies heavily on the basic snowboarding trick system for the purpose of unlocking additional items but also incorporates a storyline and an objective-oriented system similar to the one found in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series. Ultimately, this trek into uncharted territory produces a fun experience that will constantly keep you trying to complete challenges. However, the Xbox version of Dark Summit suffers from a few problems--including some intermittent slowdown--that will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary bouts of frustration.
The most apparent difference between past snowboarding games and Dark Summit is the existence of a storyline, and while it's certainly shallow in comparison with most other narratives, the storyline is still successful in driving the gameplay. Essentially, Mount Garrick is the Area 51 of the snowboarding world, and the military has taken over the mountain for a reason explained later in the game. However, the mountain is still regularly used as a ski resort, so the security force--headed by Chief O'Leary--has to keep skiers and snowboarders from entering any parts of Mount Garrick that are off limits. Of course, you have to infiltrate these areas and uncover any secrets that may lie within them. Again, it's pretty shallow, but it serves its purpose of explaining why this particular mountain looks so odd and why security forces are constantly hounding you.
The storyline also provides ample justification for Dark Summit's objective system. During your run down any of the four enormous tracks, you'll see a series of phone-booth-like structures with large satellites beaming a stream of light. It's in these structures that you'll make contact with a mole inside Chief O'Leary's security force, and he'll give you a challenge that you can either decline or accept. If you accept the challenge, then you cannot undertake another challenge until the present one is failed or completed. These challenges range in difficulty and, for the most part, are all quite different from each other. One challenge requires you to simply avoid making contact with the ski patrol, which will give chase down the mountain. In another challenge, you might have to follow another snowboarding operative to the location of a bomb and destroy it before it detonates. Other missions, particularly earlier ones, are more trick-oriented and require you to do various types of grinds, flips, or grabs. Unquestionably, some of these challenges can be frustrating, and there are some challenges that require more than a few attempts to complete, but thankfully, Dark Summit includes a feature that lets you restart a specific challenge without traveling back down the mountain to the same challenge structure. When you complete a challenge, you earn points that are accumulated toward opening another track on Mount Garrick.
There are a few problems with Dark Summit's challenge system, some of which are caused by Dark Summit's large branching tracks. The objectives themselves are occasionally problematic because, at times, it's not entirely obvious where the objective is. An example of this occurs early on when the mole asks you to leap over a large snowplow, but you won't find the plow unless you do a little exploring--which isn't as easy as it sounds since there are so many hidden areas in Dark Summit's tracks. Another problem is the location of the challenge points. Obviously, the location of some challenge points have been deliberately selected to provide a challenge in itself, but there are some challenge points that are so hidden that it'll seem like you've exhausted every possible avenue before you actually find it by accident. That's not to say Dark Summit's track design is poor, but you can't help but think that portions of them were thrown together haphazardly.