Shaun White Snowboarding
Considering this is a sports title there's really not much to talk about with regards to a story. You're basically an up and coming snowboarder who interacts with Shaun occasionally throughout the game as he coaches you every now and then. The focus of this game is entirely on what happens on the mountain, what tricks you can pull off, and how involved you get with the online community. With that in mind, Shaun White Snowboarding thrives thanks to its gameplay merits. Unfortunately the experience also suffers from those same elements.
When you start out the world is your oyster. There are four mountains to tackle (Park City, Europe, Alaska, and Japan) and how you approach them is entirely up to you. These environments are huge and there are several drop-off points via helicopter and lift. It creates an open-world experience that actually works towards the game's success. Rather than be forced to do a slop from a specific point you're able to put together a custom run and ensure that you're never doing the same thing twice. Shaun White Snowboarding also gives you the ability to remove the straps and walk to new locations that maybe aren't accessible by board. The bottom line is the mountains are huge and there's plenty of stuff to see.
Along those lines there are many events scattered around the slopes as well. These are indicated on an inadequate hub via a small icon. The little radar that shows you where you are in relation to events and things of interest is simply not worth the time. You're better off pausing the action and pulling up the map constantly, but as you'd imagine this can be rather cumbersome. At any rate there are plenty of things to do, even though finding specifically what you want takes time. The challenges in this game vary from simple races to performing tricks and there are a few variants of each type. It's also worth noting that these can be played both online and off.
In all honesty, playing Shaun White Snowboarding by yourself is a boring and lonely experience. The game isn't very immersive and depending on where you go you're going to be the only person in sight. When you open up for online play, sixteen players can find a home on a mountain, eight can take place in events, and throughout it all it allows for a nice community feel. There's not much in the way of customization with regards to this experience, but the multiplayer component is arguably one of the better ways to play this game, lag issues aside.
Unfortunately whether you're playing challenges, sliding down the slops, or playing multiplayer the gameplay itself isn't very inspiring. Tricks are grounded in realism and there's no real big air at the start. This is well and good, but when the gameplay implements super powers later on you'll feel something of a disconnection. Why build up realism if you're going to destroy it with Force-like powers? It just doesn't make sense and it never feels quite right.
To make matters worse there are tons of glitches in the game and you'll find yourself snagging on objects, falling through the floor, jumping around, and watching frozen animations. It makes Shaun White Snowboarding feel unfinished, unpolished, and inadequate to take down its predecessors. You have to really like Shaun White and snowboarding to eek any kind of thrill out of this title and even then the experience will still be underwhelming.
The achievements in Shaun White Snowboarding run the gamut from easy to challenging. Doing butters and pulling off some wild air will net you a few points, but extensive exploration for power-up coins, participating and winning in each event, and scoring over a million respect points will take quite a while. You have to be very devoted in order to get all 1000 points, though I'm not quite sure the game is worth going through all the effort.
Like the gameplay, Shaun White Snowboarding features some shoddy graphics that feature glitches galore. Poor texture mapping, wonky animations, ugly character models, and pop-in are big problems that mar the look of this game. Otherwise the game's design is quite nice with regards to the environments. Locations are spacious, detailed, and somewhat realistic in parts. Unfortunately this game is simply too unbalanced to really make a positive impression. We've come to expect more from Ubisoft Montreal and in all honesty snowboarding games that were released before this one contained more polish.
Thankfully the sound in Shaun White Snowboarding is decent enough and not glitched as badly as other areas of the game. The soundtrack is decent, the voice acting is about as good as you'd expect it would be in a sports title, and the sound effects are authentic enough. There's a decent sense of immersion within the soundstage as you ride down the slops as well, which is a definite plus.
Shaun White Snowboarding simply feels like an unfinished and unbalanced game. The realistic approach and arcade elements don't mesh whatsoever, the gameplay is glitchy, and the graphics are a mixed bag. When the game works, it plays well enough, but it's not a stable experience and the lack of an impressive bag of tricks leaves it feeling like its lacking something. Maybe it's my personal preferences, but I had a much better time with SSX games in the past than I did with Shaun White's effort. The game just isn't fun and any enjoyment you eek out of the game simply doesn't last long enough to warrant a purchase.