1080 Avalanche Updated Impressions

We check out an updated build of Nintendo's upcoming snowboarding game.

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At Nintendo's recent press event we had the chance to check out a new version of 1080 Avalanche, the upcoming snowboarding game for the GameCube that is the follow-up to the popular 1080 Snowboarding for the Nintendo 64. The game updates the N64 game with enhanced graphics, refined gameplay, and a host of new features. While there have been some concerns surrounding the game, since its release date has been rather fluid over the past year, the version on display proved to be a solid offering that showed definite signs of improvement that bode well for the final release.

The version of the game on display let us check out most of the modes the game has to offer. The central mode in the game is the match race, which requires you to progress through a series of races. As you clear the various races you'll unlock more courses as well as snowboards to use. The gate challenge mode is a straightforward test of your boarding abilities that requires you to jump through a series of gates as you head down a hill. The placement of the gates changes radically as you go through them, significantly increasing the level of difficulty as you progress. The trick attack mode is a timed run through very trick-friendly surroundings. The obvious goal in the mode is to achieve the highest score by performing as many tricks as you can. The time trial mode is a standard race to the finish line that requires you to beat a set time for a particular course. The multiplayer mode lets you take on up to four friends in split-screen competition. Finally, the game will offer LAN support for up to four players. Although the LAN mode option was visible on the mode select screen, it wasn't playable due to the lack of a LAN in the demo area.

You'll be able to select one of five different riders to use in the aforementioned modes. The mix of old and new characters includes familiar faces Akari Hayami and Ricky Winterborn from the original 1080 Snowboarding and Wave Race: Blue Storm, as well as newcomers Kemen, Rob, and Tara. As always, each rider will have his or her own unique attributes that will give them unique handling.

The game's controls are simple and nicely laid out for anyone, regardless of skill level, to pick up. You'll move your rider with the analog stick. The A button will let you jump. The B, X, or Y buttons will let you grab your board when you're in the air. The left trigger will let you grind on rails or tuck in while landing from a jump, which lets you get a boost of speed. The right trigger will let you perform various spins when used in conjunction with the analog stick. Finally, the C stick will let you adjust the camera.

The graphics in the game are coming together quite nicely and certainly boast some nice improvements over the game's last appearance at this year's E3. The most dramatic improvement lies in the sense of speed, which is good and brisk. The riders are looking good and feature improvements to their animation ranging from the animation of their clothing blowing in the wind to the assorted tricks you can perform. As before, the game also boasts little touches of detail on the characters, such as snow getting on the clothing, which is nice to see. The environments we raced on featured an impressive amount of detail that was comparable to the effort made with regard to giving the riders their polished look. You'll see other skiers and squirrels skittering across the courses as you blaze by. However, the most impressive element of the environments has to be the avalanches. The levels feature assorted interactive elements, such as the avalanches, that affect gameplay to varying degrees and keep races fresh as you make your way to the finish line

The audio in the game is shaping up nicely thanks to a variety of options. You'll hear a solid assortment of ambient sound in the game that gives the various courses and their environments distinctive personalities. To complement the high-speed action onscreen, 1080 Avalanche will feature a broad range of music from assorted artists that you can play on a virtual MP3 player in the game. If none of the tunes catch your fancy, you'll also be able to turn off the music and just enjoy the ambience during a race. The audio in 1080 Avalanche benefits from Dolby Pro Logic II support, which should please those with stereo receivers.

Based on what we played, 1080 Avalanche is shaping up nicely. While we'd be remiss if we didn't make some mention of how it stacks up to SSX3--the game offers a more modest experience than EA's slick snowboarding game--we have to say that 1080 Avalanche seems poised to offer a unique experience that should be engaging in its own right. While the combo system is easy to pick up, there's still a fair amount of depth there. The match race mode should offer an impressive amount of content to unlock, and the various multiplayer options should ensure that the game is kept in heavy rotation on GameCubes. 1080 Avalanche is currently slated to ship in December. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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