Hands-OnAmped: Freestyle Snowboarding

Microsoft dropped by with a pretty complete-looking build of its upcoming snowboarding game.

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Microsoft's Salt Lake City-based team is working away on its upcoming freestyle snowboarding game, Amped. The game is a little more decentralized than most goal-oriented snowboarding games, focusing on tricks and earning credibility in the snowboarding world rather than racing goals.

Amped's main mode is a career mode that starts you out as a totally unknown snowboarder with only a handful of objectives available. The aim of the game is to get media coverage and rise through the snowboarding ranks, eventually becoming a pro rider who is featured on magazine covers and the like. You'll do this by selecting different mountain runs, each of which has its own set of goals. The different types include hitting all the snowmen hidden around the mountain, doing big tricks near photographers so your picture is taken, and riding behind pro riders and doing better tricks using the same jump points that they do. You'll earn sponsors by going on sponsor runs. Each sponsor has a different favorite trick type, such as spins, flips, or grinds. A meter at the top of the screen shows the sponsor's current interest in your run. As you do tricks that they like, they'll become more and more likely to sponsor you. Wrecking causes the meter to drop.

Aside from the career mode, Amped has a quickstart mode and alternating multiplayer contests for up to four players. The multiplayer game has a lot of different competitions, such as best trick, media points, king of the hill, and high score. Additionally, each game can be played for different numbers of rounds, and you can modify each game with special rules, such as "dash till you crash" or "trick or die," which requires you to consistently pull off tricks every 10, 15, or 20 seconds to continue riding. We were unable to try the multiplayer mode, so we can't comment on how, if at all, it differs from the main game.

Amped has very loose control, which makes tricks easy. Pushing up on the pad causes you to crouch, and holding the A button charges your jump. The top triggers are used for spinning and the other face buttons are used for different tricks. Unlike in many other snowboarding games, when you're crouched and charging a jump, you can still control your rider and turn at will. Once you're airborne, moving the pad around controls spinning and flipping, while the various face buttons let you do different tricks, such as an indy, a stalefish, and the like. You can also grind on fallen trees, the sides of rooftops, and the chairlift cable.

Amped will feature 17 snowboarders, though you'll also be allowed to customize your own rider. Aside from your rider's general appearance, you'll be able to select different goggles, pants, coats, and hats. You'll also be able to select boards, boots, bindings, and your stance. In addition you can adjust several different stats, which increase as your rider's career continues.

Amped is on track to be one of the launch games for the Xbox, so it should be on shelves alongside Microsoft's system when it is released on November 15.

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