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Worldwide Ace » Misery Amplified

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Misery Amplified

29 July, 2008 (23:37) | Video Games

There’s few things I dread more than having things I remember fondly dragged through the gutter for another iteration. Despite a wonderful day jaunting around Guam, my mind is drunk with sadness at what’s happened to one of my favorite games.

When the Xbox first launched, a good friend of mine bought one. For the first few weeks after, I found myself in front of his TV every other day. While I didn’t own a system myself, he and I spent hours on end playing.

At launch, he picked up the original Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, though it was shirked in favor of the other launch titles. Quickly, we found ourselves left with nothing else to play. Project Gotham Racing was too hard to control; too much of a Grand Turismoesque simulation. Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee, while cool to look at, was only one player. Dead or Alive 3 was fun for a time, but I’ve never been one for fighting games. And while Halo was a gem, it was either coop or needed the system link to really impress.

I was skeptical about Amped. I hadn’t enjoyed a snowboarding game since the Nintendo 64’s 1080 Snowboarding, but it wasn’t like we had much else to play at the time. I have to admit that it wasn’t my favorite at first. With all the other games to play, I spent most of my time watching, only picking up the controller when my friend needed the help of a better gamer to beat a particularly hard challenge. The best thing I could say about Amped was that it was a more realistic game, unlike the destestable style-over-substance SSX games.

A week later, while skiing with my cousin, I found that Breckenridge was hosting an Amped tournament in a tent at the bottom of the slope. I figured what the hell and entered, quickly finding myself at the top of the leaderboard. One other player came through and beat my score by a little, prompting me to try again. I trounced his score by nearly double, actually putting out some effort.

At the end of the day, no one was within a thousand points of me. I won first prize, a Burton Snowdeck, which would see no use and I eventually gave away, but it was the pride of winning. I came back and bragged to my friends. I walked with a strut for a month and spent every waking free minute destroying Amped and finishing every challenge. Amazingly, I was totally engrossed.

The gameplay was simple Tony Hawk-like moves. You built a boarder, picked a mountain and went to town. As you did better, you opened up challenges and other mountains. And even after you beat the game, there was more to do, since being ranked #1 wasn’t becoming a true legend.

By New Year’s, I had somehow convinced myself to drop the cash for a system. I borrowed Amped and finally beat the game, quickly proceeding to beat it again with a newly created boarder.

After a while, as happens with games, I let it slide to the side. It wasn’t an easy game to master, but in doing so, I found little challenge in playing my friends. Once again, Halo became the most played game at my house.

When Amped 2 released, I grabbed the first copy I could get cheaply. At first, I was frustrated. The new control system didn’t make any sense. The added style feature was extremely difficult to use. And gone were the button pressing grabs of the original Amped.

But the more I played, the more I fell in love. What was wrong with the first Amped had been fixed in Amped 2. Suddenly, it took skill and practice and timing to get things right. It wasn’t about going big, but the beauty of coasting through the air with the greatest of ease. It emphasized nailing the landing and slight tweaks over spins not possible in the real world. It was magic.

No matter what other games I played, I always came back to Amped 2. Burnout 3: Takedown and Halo had their allures with multiplayer, but left to my own devices, Amped was my comfort food.

When I saw Amped 3 for supercheap during a brief stop at the mall, I snatched it and held it dear. Here was the next installment of one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.

I patiently waited until after dinner and a shower to pop it in, and when I finally did, I was rewarded with six minutes of unskippable, seizure-inducing cut-scenes ripped directly out of the Mooninites heads. I took the time to create my character and jumped in to find the beautiful control scheme of Amped 2 gone; the speed and thrill were lost to clunky mechanics and a slow moving engine; and, perhaps worst of all, the joy of snowboarding ripped from my console in favor of pop graphics and a strange story mode.

Indie Built, the company behind the Amped series, had been sold by Microsoft to Take Two Entertainment prior to the release of Amped 3. I knew this, and I knew it would ruin the game, but somewhere between then and now, it had all slipped my mind. I can’t decide if I should be happy that there will be no Amped 4—Indie Built was disbanded shortly after Amped 3 was released—or sad that the series died on such a down note.

Of course, this isn’t to say there aren’t a few good things about Amped 3. The ability to find your challenges randomly around the mountain is nice. In prior games, you had to leave the level, choose the challenge and then go back to the level should you (or the game) deem it necessary. The chance to add new elements through a moutnain editor is also nice, though I didn’t play with it much. Unfortunately, it’s all too little too late in light of the glaring problems.

Tomorrow, I’ll head back to gamestop and demand my money back. I’ll recommend, though I know they won’t listen, that they don’t put the game back on the shelves. It’s an embarrassment to the Amped name.

Perhaps in time, the scars will fade and I’ll be able to enjoy Amped 2 once again. For the time being, one of the greatest games I ever knew has suffered a fatal case of Bad Sequelitis.

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  • Matt(Ty)

    HAHAHA! Demand your money back for a game… that’s like demanding your money back from a meal. It makes sense but I can’t ever see how it should work. (You already played it!). Anyways that’s what you combo-crunching-button-mashing-down-up-down-start-select console rats get. Not like I’m one to talk though – with my favorite genre TB-Strategy games only being released on average about twice a year. Alas…

    FYI be sure to get back to my e-mails soon if you can, I’m running under pressure before I take off to sort out details so we won’t have to while on the road. Good luck gaming!

  • Matt(Ty)

    HAHAHA! Demand your money back for a game… that’s like demanding your money back from a meal. It makes sense but I can’t ever see how it should work. (You already played it!). Anyways that’s what you combo-crunching-button-mashing-down-up-down-start-select console rats get. Not like I’m one to talk though – with my favorite genre TB-Strategy games only being released on average about twice a year. Alas…

    FYI be sure to get back to my e-mails soon if you can, I’m running under pressure before I take off to sort out details so we won’t have to while on the road. Good luck gaming!

  • Anonymous

    Did you get a different, more engaging game? I haven’t seen any new blog entries for over a week which might mean that your immobilized in front of a game console in Guam.

  • Did you get a different, more engaging game? I haven’t seen any new blog entries for over a week which might mean that your immobilized in front of a game console in Guam.