Game Reviews

X Games SnoCross

Star onStar onStar onStar halfStar off
| X Games SnoCross
X Games SnoCross
| X Games SnoCross

It doesn't take long for snow to melt under a spring sun, just as it doesn't take much time at all for the novelty of slick graphics to wear off.

If the wintry weather that's hit both sides of the Atlantic lately is any indication, X Games SnoCross will be long gone before the snow begins to melt.

This frosty firecracker has attitude and sheer visual prowess to match, with much the same all-encompassing feel as an EA Sports release: however, a number of flaws - including frustrating technical difficulties - leave it snowed in.

Snow business

X Games SnoCross pads you thick with snow gear to compete in snowmobile races and freestyle events. Both form the backbone of the game's Career mode, which takes a traditional structure of leading you through a series of events: winning one event unlocks another.

In both races and freestyle challenges, acceleration is assigned to a key on the right side of the screen, whereas tilting takes care of steering. With jumps aplenty, tilting forward and back is also essential. Lining up your snowmobile with the ground beneath you as you hurtle back towards Earth is an imperative part of staying in the game.

Thanks to finely tuned controls, you actually feel like you have full 360-degree command over your snowmobile. Just a few minutes play is enough to bond you with the control system, enabling you to fully apply yourself to the tracks at hand.

Falling foul

The key to winning races is knowing when to tip forward and then back. Doing the latter extends your flight time, but hold it for too long and you risk crashing on your descent. X Games SnoCross really comes into its own when you perfect this balance. The rhythm that builds from perfecting one jump after the next is exhilarating.

Where the icicle starts to drip is in the freestyle levels. Rather than being a case of crossing the finish line first, these one-on-one stages come with a Tony Hawk-style set up, where picking up more skill points than your opponent before the clock runs down is the aim.

Charging around an open course is the order of the day here, with jumps acting as your trick springboards dropped in fairly liberally.

Two factors gunk up the game's freestyle ambitious. First, the computer drops considerably in intelligence here when compared to the standard races. Your opponent often fails to score even a single point at times.

It's hard to blame it, however, given that some of the courses seem to feature invisible drops of death. This second fault can result in you crashing back to earth, flying straight through the snow beneath your feet and simply never stopping.

On several occasions, our rider flailed through the snow without end, the camera remaining fixed while he dropped completely out of sight without reset - all while the clock was ticking away.

The love bug

It's clearly a bug and one that causes more amusement than anger, but it nevertheless leaves a dirty mark on X Games SnoCross. Even taking such a bug into account, this feels like a product of real quality, some superb controls helping to give the game a sense of subtlety without diluting the challenge.

Needless to say, if the aforementioned problems can be ironed out post release, X Games SnoCross could well be worthy of a medal all the more golden in nature. This is one race where ESPN has thankfully relied on sheer class to power its snow sports sim ahead of the pack.

X Games SnoCross

Stained with spots of yellow snow, on the whole X Games SnoCross is a quality snowmobile sim with superb controls