Stoked Multiplayer Hands-On
Sunny or not, the weather can't prevent us from tearing up the slopes in Destineer's upcoming Stoked.
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If you're a snowboarder, the weather will determine whether you want to suit up and head outside or chill by the fireplace sipping hot cocoa. In Stoked, you can experience fresh powder from the comfort of your own couch and carve your way down the steep, tree-ridden mountainside anytime you want. A helicopter will drop you on top of some of the world's most breathtaking summits, where you can either soak it all in by taking pictures or strap in and take the plunge through the magnificent backcountry. While there's plenty to do in the single-player portion of the game, we spent most of our time playing online with the development team.
One of the best parts of the multiplayer portion is that you never have to leave your single-player game. You're not navigating through convoluted menus trying to track down a multiplayer session. You can be working on your single-player challenges on one of the five mountains when a friend gives you a call in-game to join. To accept, just press X and you'll be whisked to your friend's location. Once the multiplayer game ends, or if you get kicked out early, you can continue taking on the extreme challenges that are part of your single-player game. This seamless transition in and out of multiplayer games is a great feature on top of the several fun ways to pass the time as a group.
One of the first games we played was Trick, which is similar to Horse in basketball. Each of us took turns calling out a trick, and as long as we were able to land it, the next person would have to do the same. If you fail, you'll earn a letter until you spell "trick," and then you're out. This is an amusing mode to watch because you get a nice view of each person's attempt--and subsequent failure. It also works well in small groups so that you're not waiting too long before strutting your stuff. However, even with our eight-player group, it went by relatively quickly because wipeouts--as well as perfectly executed tricks--are always a blast to watch.
The next mode we tried was Bring It, in which you're given a limited amount of time--roughly a minute--to nail as many tricks as you can in order to rack up the most points. It doesn't matter how, where, or when; you'll just have to outdo your opponents to come out on top. Dash Till You Crash is similar, but you have only a few seconds to reach the score indicated in the top left so that you can continue to the next round. The point total will go up as time goes on, so it starts to get frantic when you're just trying to find the next ledge to jump from or any surface to grind on. Trick vs. Time is where a trick will be called out and you have to perform it properly before the timer reaches zero. The difficulty also increases as time goes on, and depending on how good your fellow boarders are, this mode could end really quickly. The controls are analog-stick-based, so it takes a while to get used to that setup if you've been trained on holding A and smashing buttons to do a variety of tricks.
The Ground Is Lava is an interesting mode where you're trying to remain airborne as long as you can so that your lava meter doesn't fill up. As long as you're in the air, the meter will pause. It's fun to see where everyone goes and watch them hop around and leap off anything they possibly can. There is also the standard Race mode, in which you plow through colored checkpoints while trying to keep ahead of your opponents. In the final mode we looked at, Rally Point, everyone can come together and take on one of the single-player challenges. It's a more social way of playing the game, and having people heckle you is always a source of motivation.
Our session was primarily spent on the peaks of Diablerets in Switzerland and Almirante Nieto in Chile. Each real-life hour is equivalent to one game day, so we were able to see some of the weather changes as we made our way down the snowy mountain. Because of the dynamic weather system, keeping an eye on the skies is beneficial, especially when you want to ride on parts of the mountain that otherwise wouldn't be accessible because of rocks. Certain challenges are also easier to meet, depending on the conditions. With plenty of snow-covered terrain to explore, you'll notice that you never reach the bottom of the run. The helicopter is always at your disposal to take you to another drop point if you're tired of the landscape. If you want to do it the hard way, you can always duck-walk back uphill.
There are plenty of customization options available for your rider, so you could be boarding in full winter gear or in a bikini top (if you choose to be female.) You can even adjust your bindings to get the stance you prefer. All the music is licensed, and you can be picky by selecting which genres you want to listen to and which ones you want to exclude. What stood out most, though, was the sound, because it was an excellent indicator of the snow conditions. You'll hear that ugly board-on-ice sound when you're passing through colder areas or if you've managed to grind on rock. Luckily, none of this affects your board.
Stoked is coming along nicely, and we enjoyed the time we spent in the multiplayer portion. The snowboarding experience is much more entertaining and exciting when you have other players watching and competing over Xbox Live. We were told that there will be downloadable content in the future, but we'll have to wait a little bit longer for the juicy details. Leaderboards will be refreshed each week to reflect the top boarders, so you'll be able to show the world what you can do. Get ready to hit the slopes when Stoked slides into stores on January 20, 2009.
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