Konami's ESPN X-Games Snowboarding is closer to being a snowboarding simulation than any other game before. Fans of the sport will undoubtedly notice and appreciate all of the little extras, like the lounge in the lodge, ski lifts, and helicopter drops, which all add up to make the game completely realistic. Those who may be looking for another SSX will certainly be disappointed by X-Games' sim-styled approach, but those who are looking for a true-to-life snowboarding experience will be overjoyed.
The major difference between X-Games and SSX is that X-Games is based on reality. The game has real boarders, boards, goggles, pants, jackets, sponsors, music, physics, tricks, and just about anything else you can think of. In fact, you even have to earn a living in the game by making snowboarding runs while being filmed for snowboarding movies. When you're making the runs, you can play as one of or against 15 real-life boarders, including top names in the sport like Todd Richards, Jamie Lynn, Shannon Dunn, and Tina Basich. You can also make your own custom snowboarder and take him or her through a career, or you can just cut straight to the chase and tackle X-Game competitions like big air, slope style, and super pipe. The game also includes a no-frills mode where you can just simply board down an open mountain and do whatever you desire - no race, no points, no rules. The freedom and diversity of the modes included in the game easily make X-Games the most expansive and involving snowboarding game ever.
Controlling the action is easy since the game has a straightforward and fairly basic control setup. However, getting good to the point of being able to consistently land tricks and jumps is another story. The game's realistic physics make it hard to learn how to play, since you're consistently fighting your board's amazingly natural tendency to slip out from underneath your feet. Learning not to fall is, of course, extremely important, since your career depends on it. Every time you fall when you're boarding on film, your pay gets reduced.
Visually, ESPN X-Games Snowboarding is a fairly average-looking PS2 title. The models used for the boarders are more than convincing, and they come with articulated facial features, smooth animations, and extremely realistic-looking gear. The terrain and objects like rocks and walls within the levels are wonderfully textured, which gives them a realistically lush and naturally variable look. The game's graphics as a whole aren't anywhere near as flashy as SSX's, but the style does tend to fit the game well.
In the audio department, ESPN X-Games Snowboarding delivers sound effects that help make the visuals more convincing and a soundtrack that makes the game more entertaining. The game features more than 14 different bands, ranging from punk to hip-hop, including bands like Goldfinger, Pepper, Long Beach Dub All Stars, and Strung Out. The real music gives the game a realistic edge, while the diversity in musical styles keeps the soundtrack fresh long after your first race.
In the end, ESPN X-Games Snowboarding is certainly a solid game that has all the elements of a good game. It's also the closest thing to a snowboarding simulation you'll find. Whether or not that's a good thing depends entirely on whether or not you're looking for a snowboarding game that has a steep learning curve, ultrarealistic physics, and career-management elements. ESPN X-Games Snowboarding is not a typical arcade-style snowboarding game like SSX. Both types of games have their pluses and minuses, which ultimately makes the decision of whether the game is right for you a personal one. So if you're thinking of picking this one up but just aren't sure you'll like it, rent it first and see for yourself.