At first glance it would only seem natural to compare Destineer's newest snowboarding game, Stoked, to Electronic Arts' popular SSX series. After all, both games are recreating the look and feel of snowboarding, they both have a deep library of tricks and they are both offer wide-open mountains for you to explore to your heart's content. But look closer, because it's not SSX that Stoked should be compared to.
Stoked is a traditional snowboarding game that takes you around the world pulling off tricks for money and fame. You start as a snowboarding novice, just a man (or a woman) with a dream of becoming the biggest name in the sport. When you close your eyes you can see an Absinthe Films movie being made about you, your tricks being used in all of the top snowboarding magazines and sponsors knocking down your door to give you money. But before any of that can come true, you will need to start completing challenges to earn fame points.
The first few hours of Stoked are spent learning how to pull off tricks and navigate around these treacherous locations. You'll find that there are two types of challenges to complete early on, one that has you trying to beat a high score and one where you are asked to pull off a very specific set of tricks. At first this will all feel a little too easy; after all, how hard can it be to beat 1,500 points or complete two different tricks before time runs out? However, before long you'll be asked to pull off long lines of tricks and beat scores that don't even seem possible at first. As you play through any one of the three unlocked mountains (Chile's Almirante Nieto, Japan's Mount Fuji and Switzerland's Diablerets), you'll find yourself spending a lot of time trying to perfect your skills and master as many moves as possible.
Does any of this sound familiar? Well it should, because it's exactly the same thing you do in both Skate 1 and 2. Fans of Electronic Arts' skateboarding games will feel right at home with the challenges in Stoked, which is definitely a good thing. And that's not the only thing that will remind them of Skate. For the most part the controls very similar, all the way down to the way you jump/ollie (charging down on the right analog stick and then pushing up). When it comes to pulling off tricks and navigating the game's five mountains, you never once need to press the Xbox 360's face buttons. All of the moves are done by using the two analog sticks and the shoulder buttons. And while all of this will seem a little confusing at first, it ultimately proves to be an exceptional way to control a snowboarding game.
Comparisons to other games aside, Stoked is actually a rather impressive piece of snowboarding tech. The game gives you five fully-realized mountains, each based on real places and full of fun challenges and hidden locations. But what sets this game apart from the competition is the use of weather. Instead of allowing you to choose whatever slope conditions you want, Stoked has its own forecast that cannot be changed. If you want there to be a lot of powdery snow, then you'll have to check the forecast and then show up when it tells you to. Same goes for low amounts of snow and everything in between. You will quickly find that in order to be the best you can be at this game, you are going to have to learn how to pay attention to the weather conditions.
The conditions on each of the five mountains isn't just a minor thing, either. You'll find that some challenges are easier when there is little snow, while others require there to be several feet of snow on the ground. The real time weather also applies to online gaming, so if you and your friends want to snow on specific conditions, you will have to set your clock and show up either right before or right after a big storm. This use of weather gives off the sensation that this is a real environment and not just some game world that you can bend to your liking. I have never had to check a weather forecast more than I did in this game, and I found that this added a great deal of realism to the title.
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