Downhill Domination Preview

We check out Incog's upcoming downhill-mountain-biking game.

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The extreme sports genre has been one of the most frequently tapped in the past few years. The latest extreme sports game to hit consoles is Downhill Domination, a downhill-mountain-biking game for the PlayStation 2. The title has emerged from the minds of Incog, the Utah-based developer whose eclectic resume includes the Twisted Metal series and War of the Monsters. We recently had a chance to check out an early build of the game that offered us a taste of what the final release will offer. With its solid graphics engine and gameplay, Downhill Domination is shaping up to be a speedy and engaging experience.

You'll find real-life pro riders in Downhill Domination.
You'll find real-life pro riders in Downhill Domination.

For those who've missed out on the downhill-mountain-biking craze, the sport revolves around three key elements: racing down steep hills at high speeds, not crashing, and looking cool while doing the previous two things. Downhill Domination, in development for roughly 16 months so far, attempts to capture the key elements of the sport and distill them into an accessible experience. The end result so far is a game that offers a unique slant on the SSX and Freekstyle mold by throwing in a helping of old-school Road Rash game elements.

You'll also find an eccentric selection of original characters.
You'll also find an eccentric selection of original characters.

You'll find two main modes in Downhill Domination: single-player and multiplayer. The single-player mode will feature several game types, including career and training. The career mode will ask you to select from one of 14 different riders--five real-life riders and nine slightly more eccentric original characters--and compete in races down vertical mountainsides and through urban environments. The overall goal in the game is to win corporate sponsorships and earn the right to compete in the Downhill Domination Championship. The races are both tests of skill and brawls, thanks to the game's combat system. You'll start with simple attacks, but you'll eventually be able to use sticks, water bottles, and vicious hip checks. You'll also be able to collect power-ups that offer turbo boosts or other bonuses that can be invaluable in a race. As you go through the game, you'll earn cash that you can use to purchase licensed gear for your rider and real bikes from licensed manufacturers. The game's multiplayer mode lets up to four players compete in a variety of events, several different minigames, and even a custom tournament.

The control in Downhill Domination is very solid and borrows from granddaddy of extreme sports franchises, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, for some of its core mechanics. You'll steer with the D pad or analog stick, "pedal" with the X button (double-tapping will yield a speed boost), and brake with the triangle button. R2 will let you bunny-hop, and holding the button down will let you charge the jump. Square and circle will trigger left-side and right-side combat. The shoulder buttons will perform tricks when used in combination with each other and the triangle button. The setup works surprisingly well and provides a unique feel to the bikes in the game. Performing stunts is key to successful racing, as it will fill your rider's boost meter, which determines how often you can boost and what stunts you can perform.

The environments in the game are massive.
The environments in the game are massive.

The graphics in Downhill Domination are crisp and detailed, thanks to Incog's use of a tweaked version of War of the Monsters engine. The course designs are open and expansive, with an impressive draw distance that lets you see the stomach-churning tracks. In keeping with the nature of the sport, the courses will support the mountain cross, technical downhill, and free ride disciplines. The riders feature solid detail and nice bits of animation.

Downhill Domination seems to be shaping up well. The game's difficulty and learning curve could use a bit of tweaking, but the game is certainly fun to play. The multiplayer games are engaging additions, although we'd obviously like to see some online multiplayer options included in a game from the team that brought us the addictive experience of Twisted Metal: Black Online. Still, Downhill Domination has shown a lot of promise so far, and Incog should be able to put all the finishing touches on the game in time for its release this summer on the PlayStation 2.

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