Ubidays 08: Shaun White Snowboarding impressions

Oh great, another snowboarding game. Whoa, wait a second. This snowboarding game actually looks good!

That’s pretty much what went through my head when Ubisoft showed off Shaun White Snowboarding during Ubidays in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Ubisoft is trying to do something completely knew with this genre and thanks to the help of Shaun White, it looks like they have a solid title here. 

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game will be offering up a completely different experience over what the Wii will offer. The 360 and PS3 versions will be more geared towards players that are looking for a very realistic approach while the Wii version will be focusing on the casual player. Hit the jump for my impressions of Shaun White Snowboarding for the PlayStation 3 and Wii.  

PlayStation 3/Xbox 360:

Ubisoft and Shaun White have been working on this project for two years now. This isn’t going to be just like any of the other snowboarding games out there. They want to recreate the feeling of going up a mountain with a group friends here. This isn’t just about tricking and racing. It’s about going on these big open mountains, taking chances and having a good time with your friends. Hell, you can even throw snowballs at each other.

When starting a game, you are always at the top of the mountain. The mountains are going to be huge and expansive thanks to the game using the Assassin’s Creed engine. The distance from the top of the mountain you’re on to the very bottom was unbelievable. The total distance from the top to bottom is six kilometers, all of it explorable. And that’s just one mountain! There are going to be four mountains all totaling 18 square kilometers of exploration in the game. It was amazing to see the trees and stuff at the very bottom of the mountain slowly get bigger and bigger as you rode down. I was told that it would take ten minutes just to get to the bottom of the mountain.

Everything in the game is already opened up at the start of the game so you can choose where you want to go. The game will know if you’re a new player and will warn you about going to the harder areas like Alaska. You can still ride it, but it would be a lot harder to ride that mountain at first compared to one of the other mountains. 

I was told that the controls of the game will mimic real life situations. You’ll feel the difference when you hit patches of loose and firm snow and you board will be a factor in how well you handle different environmental situations. You’ll also have control over how you shift your weight around to deal with each situation.  

The main focus of the game is to play with your friends. Would you believe me if I said that Shaun White Snowboarding is going to support up to 16 players? Even crazier is the fact that there trying to have it so more than 16 people can play on one mountain. The multiplayer is going to be completely seamless as it will be a jump in/jump out type deal. And if people drop out, the game will have a A.I. step in place to keep things going smoothly. You can also film runs with your friends and then have them uploaded online to share with your friends.

There will be plenty for players to do on the mountains. You can participate in half-pipe competitions race down the mountain, do a death race where you have to sort of fight with each other, to tons of other activities. Basically, what you can do in real life will be possible here.

You can start up a session at any point as you ride down the mountain by doing a trick. The more tricks you do, the more points you’ll get. To close a session, you just simply stop what you’re doing. You can get off your snowboard too and hike back to where you’d like to try something again. 

Another interesting addition to the genre is the fact that you can “die”. Fall down a cliff hole, smack into a tree at top speed, get caught in an avalanche, all these and more can get you killed resulting in you to lose any points you’ve accumulated. You’ll respawn, but just the thought of you dying is interesting for a snowboarding game. Oh, and you can ride the avalanche for some major points.

The camera system will let you look all around yourself so this will help when trying to avoid an avalanche. You can even go into first person mode letting you look at things through the character’s eyes.  

Overall, I think Shaun White is going to have a lot to offer players. The build I saw was on the PlayStation 3 and it’s more or less going to be the exact same game on the Xbox 360. The PS3 version will support Sixaxis motion support, though.

Also, one neat thing to bring up is the loading screen. Instead of just the standard “Now loading” screen, you actually get to practice on a half-pipe. The half-pipe isn’t that big but you can perform tricks on it until you’re ready to move on to the main game.  

Wii Version:

The Wii version of the game is going to be completely different from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. Everything from the levels, the graphics and the controls are different for the Wii. The biggest difference, though, is that Shaun White Snowboarding for the Wii will be using the Balance Board.

You can still use just the Wiimote, but I think they’re goal here is to get you to use the Balance Board to play it. The Balance Board and Wiimote will be used in conjunction. You will only use the A and B button on the Wiimote for tricks while everything else is up to your legs on the Balance Board. There is an onscreen Balance Board that shows you what motions you’re doing but I have no clue on how that will help you, if at all, during the game.

With this version of the game, the places you ride on will be more section oriented. You’ll have specific events you can only do in Japan while another event will only be seen in Chili.  

You can pick your character, customize their outfit and gear, and you can pick a “camera man” to ride with you. The camera man is just the in-game camera, but it will be able to give you boosts and there are other characters you will meet in the game. You can capture your runs on film and there will be lots of unlockables like music tracks, scrapbook items and more. 

The developers are going for a totally different experiences with each version of the game. So far, I’m really impressed with the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. The heavy focus on multiplayer along with the huge open world is a formula for success. 

I’m not so sure about the Wii version though. The Wii version looks like it’s going in the direction of previous attempt at a snowboarding game. The Balance Board inclusion looks like it will help make the game fun and possibly result in plenty of broken necks. It’s a shame that there is no online for this. There will be local co-op and versus modes, but that’s all they’re planning for now. 

Shaun White Snowboarding will be out on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS and PSP later this year.  

Hamza Aziz