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Amped 3 First Look (Xbox 360)
Tuesday, 24 May 2005
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We all expect our favorite videogame franchises to progress from title to title, but that isn’t always the case. Fortunately for Microsoft Game Studios, the Amped series followed a nice progression from its freshman to sophomore year; unfortunately for Microsoft Game Studios, XSN is but a distant memory. 2K Games has salvaged a few of the XSN franchises for a rebirth on the Xbox 360, which includes Top Spin 2 (which you can read about here and Amped 3 (working title) which features a somewhat different look and feel for the snowboarding genre. Exactly what is different about Amped 3? You may want to take a seat since this is gonna’ take a while…

Mass appeal
We were a big fan of Amped 2, but it was not a game for the casual fan of snowboarding. Amped 2 was a highly technical affair that did little to keep the interest of the Average Joe or Joellen. A formal affair in almost every way, Amped 2 was a sweet title but only for a small niche of gamers who could actually rattle off a list of pro snowboarders. Amped 3 seems, at least from our short demo of this work in progress, a totally different game than its predecessor. The concept of Amped 3 is much more lighthearted than Amped titles of the past, focusing on game experience customization, Tony Hawk’s Underground type combos and attitude (with a little extra Jackass thrown in for good measure), and general fun on a snow-covered mountain.

Flash Gordon
So, the request was put in to the designers of Amped 3 to make it appeal to a wider audience. These guys already know snowboarding culture and how to make a great technical snow carving title, but what is the X factor for bringing in the new recruits? According to the demo, the answer to broad appeal for Amped 3 is an Internet pop theme which is highly customizable for each user. Most of Amped 3 will focus around a story mode that features characters which the developers are hoping gamers will associate with right away. Each character has a slightly different personality, which is illustrated by crazy pop, flash-style artwork that is like a good or bad trip; depending on your point of view. In a minute vignette of character thoughts from Amped 3, we managed to see sock puppets humping, and more 2D computer animated art than a Homestar Runner cartoon. Using the gratuitous pop art imagery, players can completely customize their HUD to match a personal sense of style and attitude; exactly the stuff J Allard insists that is the key to the Gen Y demographic. The customization and sense of individuality in Amped 3 goes one step beyond customizable HUD’s and pop art feelings with the ability to “power-up” your character with a list of Jet Set style vapor trail effects. The one that stuck out in our heads was a psychedelic style that used purple, blue, and other cool tones to display an intertwined pattern of paisley. This paisley patter would shoot off the back of the playtester’s board; an exhaust of sorts from a fuel that we’re assuming isn’t an over-the-counter affair. Along with the trippy trail behind a board, players who unlock the special customization visuals will also be greeted with 2D art and graphics when a big trick or combo is performed. So now, instead of merely getting some on-screen text reporting the moves and subsequent score, gamers in Amped 3 will be treated with flash-like buzzes, whistles, and imagery which should carry their own photosensitive seizure warnings.

Size matters
Don’t let all of this 2D stuff get you miffed about Amped 3. This is a true Xbox 360 title which will flex the powers of the hardware beyond the simple flash art style that we previously mentioned. The main thing that the Xbox 360 hardware allowed the Amped 3 developers to do is make the amount boardable mountain immense. The map size in Amped and Amped 2 combined fit in a tiny sliver of the traversable terrain in Amped 3. Satellite telemetry was used to model a mountain in Bolivia down to the meter, making for a highly accurate representation of size and steepness. The ability to model a complete mountain also allowed the programmers on Amped 3 to add in the extreme boarding areas which have been off limits in games prior. You’ll be able to helicopter into an area which is not navigable by foot, and drop onto sheer rock faces, cliffs, and any other terrain that says “I’m a moron to even attempt this.” Gamers will also have more gameplay options available to them than just heading down the mountain on a snowboard. One demo showed two sleds tethered together by a bungee cord, with two jackasses riding in each. The physics system would react to each undulation of the terrain until both characters were ejected from their nests; but this was the idea all along. The goal is to fly off of your sled and cause as much bodily damage as possible; complete with an X-ray chart of the carnage after the run which helps to tally up a score. The brand new broadcast view - which gives gamers a real-time 360 degree view of the action - looks to do a great job in showing off the raucous attitude injected into Amped 3, and also makes it apparent within seconds that this is unlike any extreme snow title you have ever played.
Stay tuned for more on the first Xbox 360 extreme title out there. Amped 3 is sure to be a wild trip in a accurately modeled and massive chunk of high-altitude Bolivia - did you expect anything less from the next generation?


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