Aggressive Inline Preview
Acclaim and Z-axis bring their inline skater to the Xbox.
The extreme sports genre in videogames has been dutifully working its way through every available sport. The latest to be immortalized in gaming form, this time by Acclaim and Z-Axis, is inline skating. Originally released on the PlayStation 2 not too long ago, Aggressive Inline is also slated for release on the Xbox as well. We got a chance to check out a build of the game and are pleased by how the game is coming together. Featuring clean graphics, addictive gameplay and accessible control, Aggressive Inline looks as though its conversion to the Xbox is going to be a smooth one.
For those not familiar with the PlayStation 2 incarnation of Aggressive Inline, the game follows the basic model most extreme sports games have been following since Activision's Tony Hawk series. You'll choose a skater and then test your skills in several different themed areas. However, rather than just mimic the Tony Hawk games Aggressive Inline actually manages to throw quite a few fresh twists that definitely make the game stand out.
The game offers four gameplay modes, career, freeskate, timed run, and a multiplayer mode, as well as a park editor that lets you build your own skate park. Career is the meat of the game where you'll work your way through the game's levels, collecting items, keys and power ups. As you go through the game you'll unlock new levels and secret areas as well as items to use in the park editor. Freeskate lets you roam through the levels you've unlocked so far and hone your skills outside of the career mode. Timed run challenges you to make it through any open level and score as many points as possible. Aggressive Inline's multiplayer mode lets you and a friend compete in split screen competition. You'll be able to choose from five game types, most points, best trick, egg hunt, twenty one, and animal rescue. Most points and best trick are timed runs that focus on scoring as many points as possible within a time limit. Egg hunt and animal rescue require you to collect the most items before the clock runs down. Twenty one offers a variation on the collection theme by scattering playing cards throughout a level requiring you to collect and hold on to the right combo of cards to get 21 before time runs out. The game's park editor makes up a separate mode wherein you'll be able to build you own skate park. You'll start out choosing from one of four themed areas, a prop yard, trolley house, fun house, and repository, and then stock it as you see fit. Terrain and rail tools will help you structure level to suit your tricking needs. You'll be able to drop an arrange an assortment of items including wedges, quarter pipes, bowls and kickers to make the area as trick friendly as possible. As you're putting together your park, you'll be able to take a test run through what you've assembled so far whenever you like. Once you've created your ultimate park you'll be able to save it to the Xbox hard drive.
You'll initially find an assortment of twelve skaters to use in the game. The roster runs the gamut from well known athletes such as Chris Edwards, Jaren Grob, Taig Khris, Shane Yost, Franky Morales, Matt Lindemuth, Sam Fogarty, Sven Boekhurst, Matt Salerno, Eito Yasutoko, to original female characters, Chrissy and Jordan, to use in the game. As you progress through the game you'll also be able to unlock another batch of playable characters as well. As you go through to make your character selection you'll find each skater will be rated on nine criteria which affect their performance. Aside from the expected attribute ratings such as jump, speed, spin, grind, manuals, fakies, and wall rides, each skater will sport a raking based on their performance in the game as well as a description of the size of their juice meter.
Once you hop into a game you'll find that Aggressive Inline's levels offer quite a bit of variety and some challenges even the most seasoned players will have to respect. You'll start out in the game's tutorial level, which walks you through the basics of control. Once you've graduated you'll be able to explore the various locales in the game. You'll find eight areas to test your skating prowess. The catch, of course, is that only three, tutorial, movie lot and civic center are initially open. You'll unlock the industrial, boardwalk, cannery, airfield, and museum levels by completing eight challenges in each preceding area. The themed areas are massive and full of interactive objects and people that follow their respective themes. You'll also find items to collect. Juice boxes will refilll your skater's juice meter. The meter essentially replaces the timer found in most extreme sports games. How long you play on a level is determined by the status of your meter. As long as you keep the meter full, either by collecting the aforementioned boxes or successfully performing tricks, you'll be able to keep going indefinitely on the level. In addition to the standard juice boxes you'll also find boxes that permanently increase the size of your meter, an item to permanently power up one of your skater's attributes and a key that will open an unlocked areas in a level.
Control in the game follows the same basic layout found in most skaters. You'll move your skater with the left analog stick. The A button will jump, Y will grind, and the triggers will rotate your skater. The black and white face buttons will perform a "cess slide" that serves the same function as the revert in the Tony hawk games. You'll use the X button to perform tricks while the B button will serve as an all purpose "action" button. The action button lets you trigger everything from vaults over object to catching onto horizontal and vertical poles and even successfully bail from tricks when pressed at the right time. The game's robust trick system gives you quite bit more options when pulling off tricks and is one of the game's standout features. The system lets you link just about any move as well as modify them on the fly. The system is very combo friendly and easy to pick up. The challenge in fully exploiting it however, lies in making sure your skater is properly developed. Unlike other games that require you to find points to upgrade your skater's stats, Aggressive Inline actually evolves your skater based on how you play. In addition to gaining points when you successfully complete tricks you'll also receive experience points for each of your players stats involved in the trick. Your stats will then go up in points as you gain experience, much like an RPG, giving you an unprecedented level of control over your skater's development. Finally your skater's juice meter will affect their performance if you're able to max it out. When your meter is full you'll notice your skates will leave a trail of flames that denotes your skater is running at peak performance. When on fire, your skater will move faster and jump higher.
Graphically Aggressive Inline looks solid, and offers a bump up from the PlayStation 2 version. The character models don't look vastly improved over the PS2 game but look alright. The levels are a bit more solid and sport a great deal of detail, featuring a lot of little touches such as reflections, lighting, and tons of moving objects such as the robot arms in the industrial level and the ferris wheel in the boardwalk level. The game's framerate is solid and keeps the action good and quick. Animation is pretty fluid and blends together the linked moves well.
Sound in the game runs the gamut of quality so far. The sound effects in the game are a bit plain but the voices are well implemented and often pretty funny. Each level features a solid track of ambient noise that works well with its theme. The game's soundtrack is especially strong, featuring an eclectic lineup of tunes that suits the action.
So far Aggressive Inline is shaping very well on the Xbox. The game has a lot to offer and its gameplay really kept us hooked. Look for the game to ship to stores this August.
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