Triathlon from hell...
When it comes to sports games, I tend to shy away from the standard fare of football, basketball, and hockey. Give me something different like BMX, skateboarding or snowboarding and I'm all over it. Lucky for me, game developers are responding to those of us with the urge to blast across the Himalayas on a snowboard or ride over a Hawaiian lava flow on a quad.
Xtreme Sports presents itself in the shape of a triathlon, leaving competitors to hone several skills at a time. Each race has three legs, each of which is a different sport. You might find yourself bombing downhill on a snowboard, then onto a speed glider, after which you let go and run as fast as you can to your quad for a race to the finish line. I really like the variety, Mastering just one sport won't guarantee you the gold.
This makes for a bit of difficulty regarding control adaptation. Upon switching events, naturally, the control scheme changes - sometimes drastically. Snowboarding has totally different controls than, say, mountain biking, so you must be quick to change gears and go from slalom to pedaling in the blink of an eye. The unfortunate part is that the CPU isn't holding a controller, so you might find yourself fumbling for buttons while getting skunked.
To even the score, they threw in the Road Rash element, where you can bash the player next to you with an elbow as they try to pass.
The graphics are smooth with decent textures. However, the character animations are fairly minimal; they look nice, but get redundant. Des[ite different crashes, your character always winds up in the same twitching, fetal position beneath your board or bike.
The animations for the tricks are pretty cool, although again limited since there aren't that many tricks. It must be hard to make any one of six different events very complex, but there are relatively few tricks per event. A little more depth would have been great..
Some of the events are gaming firsts. There's Speed Gliding, in which you grab hold of a hang glider (gee, I didn't see any animation for buckling a safety harness...that's even more extreme) and get pulled through a course of giant balloons by an airplane.
Then there's Bungee Jumping. I have been waiting for someone to translate this insanity into a form that I might actually try, and now I can say I've done it. Other events range from Sky Surfing to basics like mountain biking and snowboarding. Having so much variation really helps.
Teaming up with a buddy means split-screen action all the way. I saw no graphical suffering or noticeable slow-down. However, two player only lets you compete in single event races, not the triathlon. Sort of defeats the purpose.
With only four selectable characters, you'd hope there were more to unlock...but there aren't. There are some unlockable courses and power-ups which do offer more possibilities, but in a game that has six events and eighteen different courses, more characters would have been nice.
Xtreme Sports offers pretty graphics and varied gameplay, but the individual events are simply too limited for this to have a long shelf life. However, the new events really sets XS apart from other sports titles. If you're tired of the same old sports, then get a little extreme.