E3 2001: Hands-on: Airblade

Criterion Software debuts its PlayStation 2 follow-up to Trickstyle.

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Criterion Software has unveiled its follow-up to the Dreamcast hoverboarding game Trickstyle. The game, formerly known as Stunt Squad, is now officially called Airblade, and it will be released on the Sony PlayStation 2. Airblade has two primary modes of play, a story mode and a stunt mode. The story mode, which was playable at E3, is mission-based. The player must complete a set of objectives in order to open up new goals. Like in Trickstyle, the lead character rides a hoverboard, but this time the action takes place in populated city-based environments, rather than futuristic racetracks. Players must maneuver the character around these urban environments in order to complete specific tasks, such as knocking out snipers and disposing of security guards.

In the mission we played, two friends of the lead character have been kidnapped by a terrorist group and are being held hostage in an undisclosed part in the city. First, we had to ride around the environment, maneuver around traffic and pedestrians, and slam into the preliminary bodyguards by performing tricks. An arrow pointer, à la Crazy Taxi, directs the player to the next guard. After we disposed of the bodyguards, we had to take out a limo by grinding on its roof, knock out snipers and terrorist team members on scaffoldings, and finally rescue the hostages. All the while, we had to grind on rails and jump across rooftops to get to our next objective.

Generally, the objective-based gameplay works well, particularly because the entire mission is on a timer and demands relatively quick decision making. However, the controls are a little loose. Of course, hoverboards shouldn't have tight, responsive controls by nature, but at times it's difficult to make precise movements when the game demands it. We frequently found ourselves missing a rail or a guard and having to circle around a few times before hitting the mark.

The trick system in Airblade is similar to the system found in Trickstyle, and there are several grab and spin moves. Players can perform kick flips, wall climbs, 360s, and other assorted tricks. The PlayStation 2 face buttons are assigned to such actions as grab, grind, and jump. The square button on the PS2 is used to perform tricks, which are executed depending on the situation.

Airblade will be released for the PS2 this year.

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