That relentless summer heat getting you down? Dreaming of those brisk winter days where the powder was perfect and you could do no wrong? Then dream no more, because Head Games' Extreme Wintersports lets you vicariously relive all those moments and many other adrenaline-packed adventures - all with a price tag that'll help you afford those new ski boots you've been eyeing for the last three months.
No, wait a minute - I just can't do it. You see, that's the way a lot of reviews were written in the bad old days, when some PC game magazines kowtowed to publishers for fear they'd pull their advertising dollars (or not advertise in the first place). So here's the truth about Extreme Wintersports, or at least my decidedly biased version of it: This game exists only because Head Games managed to talk Arctic Cat (snowmobile manufacturer) and K2 (ski manufacturer) into sticking their names on the box and allowing their products to be featured in the "game."
At first glance, Extreme Wintersports would seem to be several notches above such Head Games oddities as Top Shot (a target-range simulation) or the nauseating Extreme Paintbrawl. At least it's based on sports that have been made into fun games in the past. But about the only thing Extreme Wintersports really succeeds at is to remind you of how much better other snowing and skiing games are than this lifeless sim.
Like Extreme Tennis, Extreme Wintersports opens each session by sending you to a Pro Shop where you're supposed to pick out equipment and accessories - but none of your choices have any impact on how you perform when you hit the slopes or trails. You just look at the stuff and pretend to buy it, then choose skis, a snowboard, or snowmobile all over again when you finally play. Head Games could have added 15 or 20 minutes to this game's play life by giving you a budget to work with while in the Pro Shop, but that idea probably got nixed because it would show how boring the rest of the game is.
Once you finish with the advertising fluff, you leave the shop and try your hand at one of three sports: skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling. How "extreme" is the skiing? Well, don't be expecting any freestyle acrobatics; all you do is head down a slope in hopes of racking up the fastest time. Snowmobiling? Except for some ridiculous power-ups you can grab to cut your time or give you a speed burst, the only thing "extreme" about this event is the railroad ties someone's thoughtfully scattered in your path on the cross-country courses. That leaves snowboarding, which clocks in slightly higher on the fun level by giving you the chance to perform some acrobatics - but there's no half pipe for pulling off really outrageous maneuvers, and things get old pretty quickly here also.
Miss a flag while practicing skiing - yes, practicing - and you've got to start all over again after some "cool" guy calls you a loser. Snowboarding practice sessions end with the same jerk's voice if time expires before you reach the bottom of the run (or at least I think that's why the session ends - it might have something to do with a mysterious meter on the left side of the screen that's not mentioned in the two-page "manual"). Those fancy snowmobiles are almost impossible to control no matter what input method you choose (you can't reconfigure keyboard or joystick commands, by the way), and after a few runs you'll be ready to pack it in for good. Topping off this boring mess are the earsplitting sound effects preceding each race that you'd swear were ported directly from an Atari 2600 game - a suspicion that grows stronger when you hear the pathetic Atari whine used for the snowmobile or the grating hiss that's supposed to be the sound of someone skiing.
The best you can say about Extreme Wintersports is that HeadGames, K2, and Arctic Cat apparently got what they wanted: HeadGames was able to crank out yet another budget title, and K2 and Arctic Cat got either licensing dollars or free advertising, or both. Too bad no one ever thought to include gamers in the equation.