Ubisoft's downhill game brings the redheaded snowboarder to life, with a sense of realism not often found on the screen
Shaun White quickly became one of the more dominant snowboarders on the planet, winning multiple X-Games events as well as a couple of gold medals at the 2006 winter Olympics. Through it all, though, he remains carefree and laid back, refusing to let the politics of the sport get in the way of his fun. He'll bring that personality to Ubisoft's forthcoming downhill game, Shaun White's Snowboarding.
White appears in the game, frizzy red hair and all. He'll provide tips as you proceed on your snowboarding runs, giving you the basics on tricks and skill improvement. If you screw up, he'll call you out, but he'll also encourage you to do better the next time.
There's a lot to ground to cover in Shaun White's Snowboarding—four mountains spread across Utah's Park City, Alaska, Japan and Europe. Each one contains a wide open-world environment to explore, with non-playable characters to talk to and numerous events to take part in. Ubisoft developed the game with a modified Assassin's Creed engine, bringing a sense of realism not usually seen in snowboarding games. The visuals, thus far, look spectacular, particularly when your boarder goes flying off a slope, performing a few tricks in the air before returning to the powder-covered Earth. The terrain looks great as well.
What's cool about the open-world approach is that you can tackle these mountains any way you see fit. If you feel like going for a leisurely run down a simple slope while you get a hang of the controls, go for it. On the flip side, if you're feeling gutsy enough to try your luck at something tougher, it's up to you. No matter what you do, White sticks with you, not only as your trainer but also as a buddy. In addition, as you progress through the game's multiple events, you'll unlock plenty of new gear, including licensed poles, skis and other accessories.
If you're not up for a downhill run, there are several other things to do. The game features a huge online community, so you can meet up with others and engage in races or snowball fights. Furthermore, you can film your buddies doing tricks and upload them to the Ubisoft servers, while also accessing other community members' videos to see what they're up to.
As for controls, Ubisoft made the game easily accessible to all types of players. Although it isn't as arcade-oriented as EA's SSX series, it does have numerous tricks to execute. There's also a combo multiplier, so you can send your score into the thousands as you hit the big air opportunities. Best of all, you can body check players and throw snowballs as you head down the mountain, which adds a slight competitive edge. Be careful, though—what goes around comes around and fellow players will remember what you did.
The Wii version features exclusive Balance Board support. You set it sideways, hop aboard and control your movements by leaning and jumping. We saw this in action at a recent Ubisoft event and it looks cool.
Shaun White's Snowboarding should be a welcome addition when it arrives later this year. Just make sure you stick with calling White the Flying Tomato and not Carrot Top. Remember, you want this guy to be your friend.