Amped 3 Reader Review
What are your favourite foods? Clothes? Music? Games? For me, those are nonsensical questions asked by, and probably only answered by, people who don't think too deeply before speaking. Oooh! Insulting!! Not really, think about it - "It all depends" is probably the only sensible answer because there are surely too many contributing variables to respond with anything more specific. Unless you live life on a very narrow gauge, in which case - fair play to you, enjoy the consistency of your chosen path (and keep buying NFS :-)).
What's this got to do with Amped 3? On scrambled egg days, this is a truly great game because you can just relax, throw some combos together and generally chill out without exerting much effort; on those days it suits admirably. It doesn�t impose a rigid structure, the presentation is unique and it�s all very relaxed as you might expect from people heavily doused in the snow boarding culture. It�s also very forgiving (especially compared to its forebears) - both in structure and required skills.
On Sunday roast dinner days it can be a tad underwhelming, definitely lacking in structure and belligerently eschewing traditional Sunday-best values in favour of sometimes childishly idiotic combinations of pot noodles, peanuts and encona chilli sauce. You search for your allotted timetable but there isn�t one, you expect to be frowned upon for your lack of discipline in practicing perfect landings but nobody cares, you�re just left to your own devices and always warmly welcomed back later.
Amped 3 is definitely best consumed on scrambled egg days not on meeting-the-in-laws-for-Sunday-Dinner days.
If you�re a fan of the series then your initial reaction will probably be one of disappointment. You�ll have an internal whining session with your Amped 1 psyche about how they�ve dumbed it down for the SSX crowd, kowtowed to the unskilled masses and generally evoked a disapproving superiority complex in your personality. You will get over it though. Amped 3 is definitely a departure from the relatively unforgiving nature of its forebears but it does bring benefits to the table and there�s always the numerous leaderboards to bolster your pride in your skills.
The core of the game is exactly as you�d expect and much the same as the first two versions. You perform very specific short sharp tricks for the media (�Media Callouts� - rails, flips, ariels etc), you do high score runs within time constraints (�Snow Quest�), you follow preset routes to within a few feet (�Magic Circles�) and follow pro-boarders beating their scores at specific points on the run (�Lord of the Boards�). One great fun addition to the roster is the �Sled Trauma Challenge� where you set off on a sled (often a piece of furniture or bathroom ware) and try to inflict as much damage to your player as possible by crashing into rocks / rails / jumps etc. Childish but amusing :-)
On the whole the gameplay is MUCH easier than Amped 1 and 2. The controls are intuitive and simple � left stick controls orientation / rotation and face button combos perform grabs. Butters return to allow you to link tricks and build up huge combos and on the whole it�s quite similar to the previous versions. What is different is landing. Previously, anything other than a near perfect landing would blow the trick and the combo. Here, it�s actually pretty difficult to screw up a landing and thus high scoring combo runs are far more common � despite buttering being slightly harder this time around. Go near a rail now and you automatically end up riding it � IIRC, you had to press a key to grind a rail in previous versions. All of these changes conspire to make the game much much easier and this is what will grate with a large number of fans of the series. The �story mode� will also annoy many with its childish blend of Monty Python / Southpark animation techniques and MTV / Jackass humour � but if you take it as a self-deprecating pastiche on snow-boarding culture as intended then it can have its moments and breaks up what would otherwise be a never ending series of runs.
The main interface is a natural extension of the Amped 2 interface. You�re presented with a complete view of the mountain from which you can view and navigate the whole mountain from afar. Drop points and challenges are all visible and you can zoom in to specific areas to see a reasonably detailed view of the furniture on that section of the mountain. Challenges are colour / icon coded so you can see at a glance roughly what the challenge will entail. Moving the cursor around (with the left thumbstick) to a specific challenge and pressing A will bring up some more detail on the challenge, any previous medals you�ve attained and, if you�ve achieved a gold medal, your world ranking on Xbox Live. It has to be said that at times it can be difficult to read the text and differentiate between challenges that are physically close to each other on the mountain � at least on a standard definition TV � but the zoom function does allow you to work around this and on an HDTV (as God intended), you�ll have little difficulty.
To get riding, you can either select a challenge or a drop point on the mountain. Selecting a challenge will move the cursor to the nearest drop point and then draw a dotted line path to the selected challenge. In other words, you always start at a drop point � unlike Amped 2 where you got dropped directly at the start point for any non media / snowman challenges. If you have selected a specific challenge, then when you hit the mountain you�ll see both a direction indicating arrow in the air above your avatar and a giant rainbow segment originating at the point on the mountain where the challenge begins. It�s hard to get lost. If you simply selected a drop point, these directions will be missing because you�re essentially free riding � but the structure is open, so you can simply ride down the mountain and choose challenges �on the fly� as you approach / pass them.
One potential irritation that is nicely avoided is that if you fail (by just a few centimeters) to enter a challenge start zone and go sailing by then you can bring up the pause menu and switch to a snowmobile and ride back up the mountain to the start point. It�s this open ended and forgiving nature to both boarding and navigating that makes the game so accessible and relaxing to play. Another example of this is found with the �Park Builder� feature; if you�re struggling to hit a score challenge just press the Start button and switch to Park Builder and add more furniture in the vicinity of your run � rails, jumps, buses, ships masts and so forth. Arguably this is a complete cop out making it possible to complete the challenge despite your lack of �mad-steez�. OTOH, it makes the game far more accessible and turns it into a giant play-set where you build what you want where you want � and all your changes are persistent too.
Ultimately, it�s just a different mindset to Amped 1 and 2 and you adapt to it pretty quickly; that's when you really start having fun with it. Sleds, hang gliders and snowmobiles all add to the fun and whilst they may seem somewhat adolescent to the serious Amped 2 fan, they provide a bit of playful fun and there are at least some serious contenders to your serious skills on the Xbox Live leaderboards.
Talking of leaderboards and segueing nicely into achievements, the game has a decent and fair spread of 360 achievements to aim for as well as a comprehensive set of leaderboards. The various milestones in the story mode each have an achievement associated with them, as do things like �owning the mountain� and acquiring medals in all events / challenges. Owning a mountain involves impressing the required number of bystanders scattered around the mountain (sometimes frustratingly hard to find the last few) by first getting yourself �Amped� and then doing tricks in front of them. There are 196 challenges to complete in all (each with its own leaderboard) � getting a bronze in all of them bestows you with the achievement �Lesser Snow God�. Getting gold in all gets you �Supreme Snow God� � which isn�t easy, there�s a definite imbalance in some challenges which makes you wonder if one of the Amped 1 designers wasn�t responsible for them :-)
One obvious omission compated to Amped 2 is a "proper" Xbox Live mode where you board with other people. A shame really since this used to be great fun and very relaxing on the whole.
Another feature I really missed in Amped 3 was the ability to mini-RPG-like choose which skills you wanted to improve by spending earned skill points on specific skills like rails, flips or spins. In Amped 3, you simply earn generic skill upgrades as you progress through the challenges. You can�t customize your skills, but you can still heavily customize your rider�s looks to amusing effect if you�re that way inclined - even to the extent of wearing full costumes (Pink Bunny, Gnome, Ninja�.) unlocked as you progress through the game.
All in all, I grew to like Amped 3 a great deal despite it�s perhaps slightly too forgiving nature. I loved Amped 1 and 2 and played a huge number of hours of both but I hit a point in both where I simply couldn�t progress any further due to my lack of skill. With Amped 3, I finished the story in about 8-10 hours of play and achieved �lesser snow god� in about 12-14 (I wasn't watching closely). That may seem short BUT I did get the sense of accomplishment of �finishing� a game AND I�m still playing it when I want to simply chill � still chasing the slightly elusive �Supreme Snow God�. It�s also completely undemanding mentally and aurally � so you can listen to your favourite podcasts (in my case �The Urban Sofa�) streamed from your PC whilst you play and still make progress. As a full price title I�d give it a low 8 or high 7 out of ten. I bought it as a bargain bin title and for that it�s a 10/10 title and highly recommended.
When I want burger and chips gaming topped off with a healthy relish of accessibility and forgiving gameplay its often Amped 3 I reach for.
8 / 10