It wasn't that long ago that people were arguing that Cool Boarders was better than Nintendo's 1080 Snowboarding and vice versa. While the argument was a lot closer back then, Cool Boarders 2001 serves as a rather large "I told you so" for the side that always preferred 1080's more realistic feel. This is one PlayStation game that, like the Buffalo Bills of the early '90s, never quite makes it.
It's pointless to place the trimmings on a turkey that still isn't cooked on the inside, and this analogy fits Cool Boarders 2001 like a glove. There just aren't enough modes to explore. You may either play the career mode - where you pick a pro boarder or create your own and begin tearing up the pro circuit - or a quick race. That's it. As you play through the career mode, new boards, riders, and courses are opened up. You earn attribute points if you finish high in the standings, but they are automatically applied to your character in whichever way the computer deems appropriate. For a game that is already low in the options department, a simple thing like allocating your own hard-earned attribute points would have helped in making you actually care. But alas, it's done for you, so you don't.
Under the career mode, there are six different events to choose from. Gates requires that you finish first while negotiating a slalom course, board park places obstacles in a sequence down the hill that must be hit in order, CBX is a Road Rash-inspired bash-and-race affair, and big air gives you one massive hit to perform your most burly tricks. Pipe gives you three runs down a massive chute, complete with two feet of vert, while downhill points run is a simple race from the top of the mountain to the lodge. Earlier previewable versions of the game had a pro boarder challenge where you took on real-world pros in specific events, but this option has been changed so that you simply have certain objectives to accomplish. The most glaring omission is a free ride option. This goes against the very nature of the sport, and considering that a fighting interface has been included instead, this is one game where the developers simply don't understand the subject matter. There is enough variety to keep things fresh for a while, but the execution of the gameplay reduces all of these modes to the point of worthlessness.
The trick system is severely flawed. In order to perform a simple grab, you must first hit the X button and then any direction on the analog stick. If you press the direction first, or even at the same time, the desired trick is not performed. This becomes incredibly annoying when attempting to perform any sort of combo where you're not repeating a trick that was already landed. After a short period of time, it becomes akin to scraping your nails down a chalkboard, as the gameplay quickly turns into bouts of extreme button mashing.
Every extreme sports game attempts to emulate Tony Hawk's Pro Skater these days, and CB 2001 is no exception. The button configuration is almost identical, though the terrible hit detection limits your ability to express the rider inside. Transferring from one obstacle to another is nearly impossible, as once your boarder releases from one obstacle, there is a dead spot where no commands may be entered. This results in your boarder bashing into rails or catching the tip of the board, causing him or her to awkwardly flop down the other side. Steering down the mountain presents its own set of issues. The boards are just far too unresponsive. Getting off course even once means that you might as well begin the race again, as the edges of the boards lack the proper tuning. Cranking hard on the analog stick makes the boarder turn slightly for a moment or two, and then he or she suddenly lurches into a full 90-degree turn. It's far too difficult to get a handle on this erratic steering mechanism, and choosing a different board provides no appreciable difference. Considering the computer riders seldom bail, even on the very first course, playing Cool Boarders 2001 quickly turns into an exercise in frustration.
The graphics in CB 2001 appear to be running on the same game engine the series debuted with back in 1996. All the usual suspects show their faces. Polygon seams are blatantly obvious, the backgrounds jitter, the riders are too small onscreen to make out any detail, and the textures are laughably pixelated. The course designs are CB 2001's graphical strong point. They are wider than in past installments of Cool Boarders, and the obstacles are intelligently placed, so if the control interface actually worked, you could conceivably pull off trick after trick. There are branching paths to each course, but attempting to cruise down a slim trail is nearly impossible thanks to the terrible hit detection, which makes obstacles like trees twice as wide as they appear. The trails the boards leave behind in the snow are well done, but you can forget any sort of particle effects for snow sprays. Spots of knee-deep powder pop up here and there, and they're at least somewhat believable.
The sound is by far the best aspect of Cool Boarders 2001, but it's still not great. The whooshing effect as you transfer from edge to edge is done well, and the sound of riders stomping tricks is absolutely perfect. But if you're looking for authentic music in CB 2001, you can forget it. Instead you get a number of wailing guitar tracks that are almost impossible to tell from one another, along with some Chemical Brothers rip-offs that are best left unheard.
The most obvious problem with Cool Boarders 2001 is that it fails to represent snowboarding in an accurate way on any front. The free flowing nature of the sport is stifled, and it all comes off as if the developers have never strapped a board to their feet and headed down the mountain, let alone hung out with a crew of real riders to find out where they're coming from. From both a technical and aesthetic standpoint, Cool Boarders 2001 is like a winter without snow - a drag. If you're looking to add a snowboarding game to your PlayStation collection, MTV's Pure Ride more accurately captures the spirit of the sport and is much more fun to play. Cool Boarders 2001 is an aggravating example of what not to do when developing a snowboarding game.