Hands-on: Snowboard SuperX

TOKYO - We get our hands on the first snowboarding title for the PlayStation2 - see our impressions and media.

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TOKYO - Electronic Arts used the PlayStation Festival 2000 as a vehicle to show off its snowboarding game for the PlayStation2, titled Snowboard SuperX (X, pronounced "cross"). Definitely the best-looking snowboarding title we've yet seen, SSX appears to have gameplay that is equally as impressive as its graphics.

We asked Steve G., the executive producer, to give us an overview of what the game is all about. He stated, "The basic idea behind this was how to take real routes and snowboarding physics, and make the experience bigger and wilder experience than you can have in real life. I've been snowboarding for about 15 years and I started a thing called boarder cross back in '91, and this is kind of an extrapolation of it. It's like one of those things where you go to bed and dream about how snowboarding could be."

He went on to say, "So what we did was build these huge surreal courses that have so much depth in them - there are tons and tons of shortcuts. Basically, anywhere there's snow you can go. And the game has an edge over those snowboarding titles of the past in that it's heavy on the tricks and keeps up the competitive edge."

SSX grabs different snowboarders from around the world and pits them against each other. Characters have their own unique personalities and will speak in their native tongues. So when you race against a Frenchman, don't be surprised when you hear him taunting in French. The game also features courses from around the world - some that we saw were in Germany, France, the US, and Japan. One course we've learned about is called the Tokyo Megaplex - it's an indoor course with a circular track.

There are plenty of different modes offered in the game, and they'll have a focus on different elements such as tricks or time. The basic trick is that you hold down the jump button and release the button as you hit a jump - and then from there mix and match different moves to go for points. Each time you do a trick, you'll add to your adrenaline bar, which can act as a turbo of sorts.

As stated earlier, the graphics in the game are quite good. However, currently the game does seem to suffer from some frame-rate problems, but we have it on good authority that these will be remedied shortly. "We'll have the game at a constant 60fps," said Steve. "That's no problem at all." As for the characters, currently all of them are being shown with 2,500 polygons, a figure that will soon be upped to 5,000. Another thing that is being worked on is the camera. In the current version you can manually adjust it, but in the final it will change dynamically on the fly. There are areas where you'll want a better perspective, and the computer will thankfully handle that for you.

One of the coolest aspects of SSX is the music. The game features tracks from Mix Master Mike of Beastie Boys fame. He worked with the team to create an on-the-fly DJ - depending on how well you're doing in the game, the music will change. And a majority of the tunes are original.

SSX is currently on track for a release this April in Japan. The game will then release in the US at the PS2 launch. According to EA, the game will see minor improvements for the US. One possibility is the inclusion of a four-player mode, if Sony opts to release the new PS2 four-player adapter in the States. Be assured that we'll have lots more on this game soon.

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