There's a popular saying among guidance counselors: "If you can't excel at one thing, at least be above average in everything else." Infogrames' Xtreme Sports fits this premise to a T. The game uses a single jack-of-all-trades game engine to portray six different sports: ATV driving, snowboarding, mountain biking, bungee jumping, sky surfing, and speed gliding. When compared with the events in genre-specific releases such as Rippin' Riders or Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, no single event in Xtreme Sports is particularly noteworthy. However, as a compilation, the game is quite proficient.
Instead of emphasizing specific performances in different events, Xtreme Sports is more akin to a heptathalon. In each of the game's three championship brackets, you'll ride ATVs, glide the friendly skies, leap from bungee platforms, slide down steep slopes, and pedal your way to the finish line - your overall completion time taking precedence over the skill and flair exhibited in any one event. To complete one bracket and move to the next, you'll have to take the gold in not one, but three or four such grueling competitions spanning a variety of worldly locales. If you're successful, your prowess will earn you access to 11 different base tracks and five additional bonus tracks that range from the heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Himalayas to the confines of Maui, Stryn, and Scotland. If you stumble, the game's practice, single track, and two-player versus modes should keep you occupied until you're able to overcome the three CPU-controlled opponents.
As for how the game actually plays, that depends on how holistic you are. Taken individually, none of the game's events is terribly deep or creative. Each has roughly similar controls - the analog pad steers, the R trigger controls acceleration, the A button makes your character jump, the X button unleashes a turbo boost, and the Y or B buttons perform blocking and tricks. Speed through the course as fast as you can with these controls and you'll do fine. The snowboarding, ATV, and mountain biking events exhibit the greatest level of refinement, with a number of clever jumps, obstacles, and tunnels, which make the events almost as good as those in the corresponding stand-alone genre-specific releases. The game's other three events - sky surfing, speed gliding, and bungee jumping - aren't nearly as challenging or inspired, existing mainly as twitch-based diversions designed to greatly hinder or enhance your overall time. It may not sound like much in pieces, but as an overall product, Xtreme Sports blends these activities well. The speed and trick points earned in the snowboarding and biking events give you a greater head start and turbo boost for use in the ATV competition, while the overall lead gained in these activities gives you a leg up in the dog-eat-dog speed gliding competition. Even the action of running between courses is a gameplay element in this game, as you'll have to madly tap the A button to quickly transition from one course to another. In linking the events together in this manner, developer Innerloop has transformed what would have otherwise been a snooze into a remarkably addictive and varied game.
Graphically, Xtreme Sports looks beautiful, although it's not without its problems. Each course, be it the snowy peaks of the Himalayas or the volcanic shores of Maui, is a faithful representation of its real-world counterpart. Snowdrifts and fog populate colder climates, while lava flows and billowing dust are common in the warmer settings. From time to time, spectator helicopters and commuter traffic will make their presence known in the competition, either by becoming obstacles or kicking up hellacious dust clouds. As is common in games of this nature, sunlight-inspired lens flares and reflective water textures are overused to the point of gaudiness. In terms of character models, the game's four riders - Nina, Cath, Noel, and Raga - aren't going to win any awards, but each moves and gesticulates with enough realism to convey the impression of a real human shooting down a mountain at 60mph. Oddly, the game's greatest stumble is one rarely seen in Dreamcast games - texture warping. If you pay attention to the walls while passing through valleys or tunnels, the textures covering them will undulate and shimmer as if an alien force from the eighth dimension were burrowing its way into our reality. The problem never interferes with actual gameplay, but discerning graphics nuts should go into the game knowing it's got a few blasphemous flaws.
In the audio department, there are a number of New Age and industrial songs that serve to set the mood, while a smattering of ambient environmental effects, such as spectators or gusting wind, back up the soundtrack with a decent sense of realism. The majority of sound effects, mostly engine murmurs and crash noises, are somewhat weak, but this is offset by a bevy of hilarious character voice samples. Nothing is more enjoyable than getting into the groove racing up a mountain, only to have a shrill "argh!" break your concentration and send your rider skidding across the gravel.
Overall, your mindset will be the determining factor in how much you'll enjoy Xtreme Sports. If you're expecting six perfect games wrapped up in one title, you'll only find disappointment. However, if you're in the mood for a game where each event is reasonably well designed and integrated into a greater, meatier whole, then Infogrames' Xtreme Sports should prove satisfying.