Hands-onShaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder

Activision's O2 line is adding snowboarding to the mix, and so far the game sticks close to the other games in the line, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX. Find out more in our new hands-on coverage.

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An updated demo, featuring more of Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder than is available on the demo included with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, recently arrived at the GameSpot offices, and we've spent a couple of days taking it through its paces. While the game uses the Cool Boarders Code Alien engine and the Tony Hawk trick system and mode structure as its starting points, the combination of these things makes for a familiar but still new-feeling game.

While most snowboarding games have focused at least as much on simple racing as they have on doing tricks, Shaun Palmer focuses on the same type of goal-based gameplay that made Tony Hawk's Pro Skater famous. The levels in the game are based on actual ski locations, such as Donner Ski Ranch, Kirkwood, Heavenly, Squaw Valley, and Gotcha Glacier. Each level has nine goals, and there are 72 goals overall. Like in Tony Hawk, goals include a series of score-based objectives, collection goals, and trick-based goals, such as doing a nosepress on a water tank at Donner.

The trick system and combo-based scoring system are also reminiscent of Tony Hawk. The square button is used for flips, the circle for grabs, and the triangle for grinds. As in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, you can link tricks together with manuals, which is done by popping one end of the board up and balancing while still moving. Manuals are joined by moves known as butters, which can also link tricks together. The game also contains the new move added to Tony Hawk 3: the revert. The revert is a landing trick that you use when coming down from vert ramps and half-pipes. The revert can be comboed into a butter, so you can work vert tricks into your combos. The game has a special meter that fills as you do tricks and empties when you wreck. When the meter is full, you can unleash special tricks. Where the Tony Hawk games limited your special tricks to two D-pad presses and a button, the expanded trick system in Shaun Palmer forces a slightly more elaborate setup for specials, so most specials are done in true Street Fighter fashion, swirling the D-pad from left to right or right to left, then pressing a button.

The two mountains available in our version of the game look pretty nice and are designed with big combos in mind. There are plenty of half-pipes and tons of rails throughout the level. It's conceivable that once your boarder has high enough stats you could execute one combo that lasts all the way down the mountain. The boarder models are well animated, transition well between tricks, and have three distinct costumes. One of Shaun Palmer's looks gives him a scruffy beard and has him shirtless. The game also sounds pretty nice, with voice clips from people on the mountain (people screaming that the mountain is closed, yuppies looking for latte, and so on) and good boarding sound effects. The game's soundtrack is a little more focused than in Activision's other games and contains tracks from Pantera, Slayer, Static X, Orange 9mm, Papa Roach, Powerman 5000, and Alien Ant Farm.

Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder is scheduled to hit stores on November 13. Stay tuned to GameSpot for a full review once development on the game has concluded.

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