1080­° Avalanche (GameCube) Review

By Adam Riley 11.12.2003

Nintendo EAD’s 1080º Snowboarding on the Nintendo 64 set the standard for all snowboarding games on every format, putting the likes of Sony’s four dire Cool Boarders to ultimate shame. Even when EA BIG’s Supreme Snowboarding Extreme was released, 1080 was able to hold its head high and call itself the King. However, now EA has churned out SSX Tricky, and more recently SSX3, the bar has been raised and the original 1080 far exceeded in terms of depth and quality. But Winter 2003 sees Nintendo step-up to the fold once more, ready to reclaim its crown with 1080º: Avalanche…

Hit the slopes with the five different Avalanche characters, some of whom will be extremely familiar to seasoned gamers that have played the original 1080 and the Wave Race series. The line-up includes Akari Hayami – a 19 year old girl from Kobe in Japan who’s delicate nature means she does not like rough antics on the slopes, Ricky Winterborn – an 18 year old Canadian that is heavily influenced by Punk and Electronic-style music and manages to charm the ladies with his rebellious image, Kemen Vazquez – a 21 year old laid-back Chilean that is not bothered in the slightest by upbeat and short-tempered people instead preferring to sit back and relax, Tara Hunter – a sexy 22 year old from Connecticut in the USA who is a relative newcomer to the group and, finally, Rob Haywood – the oldest of the bunch at 23, hailing from Washington and definitely proving himself to be the leader of the pack.

1080’s initial public viewing was greeted with major disappointment, sporting rough textures, average-looking courses and a weak frame-rate. Months afterwards, and now we have the final version that not only wipes the memory of that earlier poor work-in-progress, but manages to impress on so many levels overall. Each of the characters, whilst a little under-developed when it comes to detailed features have the correct ‘cool’ styling that is associated with such a title, and is reminiscent of the general dress code for the average snowboarding addict – erm, most likely! The actual courses themselves, however, are the main draw. Before starting a race, as with most games nowadays, and as last seen from NSTC in its version of Wave Race for the GameCube, you are treated to a panning view of the whole course, including shots from various different angles. This is when you truly grasp the beauty and attention that has gone into the formulation of the locations. Sure, when you are zipping down the slopes on your ‘board you will obviously be able to see the lovely fluffy snow around you, and witness the clever use of blurring effect to garner that extra sense of speed or the rumbling that occurs around you as an avalanche races quickly towards you from behind, but the sheer beauty of each course is somewhat lost as you hurtle straight for the finish line. NSTC has taken the ropey skeleton of a game that former Nintendo Second Party, Leftfield, formed and fleshed it out into a game that exudes exquisiteness from every pour. Well, every pour apart from the dreadful options screen that looks like it was knocked up in about five minutes…hehe!

Screenshot for 1080­° Avalanche on GameCube

I am not lying – NST has enlisted the work of rock groups such as Cauterize, Finger Eleven and Seether in order to help give a ‘cool’ feel to the whole experience of Avalanche…and overall it works splendidly. Nintendo proves that even though the style of music is not the usual it deals with, it can still manipulate and choose the correct tracks to suit the in-game menus and the actual courses themselves. In fact, the most impressive use has to be in the intro for the game, where the song rocks along and the game action shown in the background exactly fits in with the changing pace of the tune, giving the effect of a promotional movie clip rather than a simple computer game! Even when you come across some of the slower songs further into the game, they seem to suit the level you are on at the time, so instead of quickly zooming down the slopes you will feel like you are gracefully gliding along in the snow with birds flying overhead and the sun beating down on you from above. It is all very well implemented and shows just how intelligent developers can be when incorporating any type of music into a gaming product. There are some voice samples thrown into the mix as well, and the little quips from characters, whilst quite cheesy, do in fact suit the rest of the ambiance found in Avalanche – in other words they are ‘hip’, ‘fly’, ‘wicked’, ‘boss’, ‘gnarly’ and other such words that today’s youth probably (do not) use! You will get a little annoyed, however, when you land from a jump and your character lets out yet another stupid noise or grunt…but that is a little sacrifice for such great in the sound department, I suppose!

Screenshot for 1080­° Avalanche on GameCube

Avalanche is not really the sort of game where you can pick up a controller and be an instant master of the title. But that is not to say that the game is not intuitive in the long-term. In fact, give it about half-an-hour and you will find that the controls do start to become quite natural, learning that when you press the crouch button to gather extra speed you cannot turn corners as sharply as when stood straight, remembering to time your jumps perfectly so you can access little short-cuts or even launch yourself over small obstacles en-route and then quickly tapping the L-shoulder button to make sure your character does not topple over into the candy-floss-like snow beneath you as well as hastily spinning the analogue stick round in a circle in order to correct your landing and avoid toppling over when you have come to rest awkwardly on the ground, sending your boarder into a dazed spin. Things like this make the whole experience of Avalanche a pleasure to behold and partake in. But in order to become a true master of the slopes you will need to put in many hours of play time, as there are different approaches to the racing that need to be taken, all depending upon which mode you are playing in.

There are five different game modes: Match Race, Gate Challenge, Time Trial, Trick Attack and Multi-player. Match Race pits you against only one computer opponent across a total of fifteen highly entertaining and well thought-out courses that are riddled with short-cuts and hazards. Once you beat the Novice mode, you uncover the Hard and then Expert courses and the experience is one of great pleasure, while it lasts, though – as you will complete all of these modes in a few hours of play, unless you really decide to take your time playing 1080. The problem is that the tracks are too short – very nice, but finishing most courses in less than two minutes is quite a poor show by NSTC to be honest. But the Time Trial, where you have to collect special tokens whilst finishing quickly at the same time adds a great amount to the title, as does the Gate Challenges that see you forgetting everything you thought you knew about the game and encountering torturous positioned gates that require fine, delicate manoeuvring skills to reach, all the time trying to maintain enough speed to avoid running out of time before the next check point. This really does get the adrenaline pumping, and is such a huge positive point for 1080. Forget SSX’s kerr-azy stunt system that puts 1080’s basic set of moves to shame, as that is not what Avalanche is all about – the stunts included here are merely minor additions to keep a sector of fans mildly placated. Adrenaline is the name of the game, especially in the already mentioned Gate Challenge and the Avalanche occurrences that you will come across in the Match Race mode. The feeling of having such a powerful force chasing you down the slopes as you drastically attempt to jump over fallen logs, dodge rolling boulders and steer clear of tree clusters is one that simply cannot be matched by EA’s extreme title. Nintendo and NSTC probably should have focused more on this aspect, though, including more than the handful of tracks that are available.

Screenshot for 1080­° Avalanche on GameCube

So, in conclusion, all is not lost with 1080 – you may find that the Match Race mode is over too soon, but there is plenty to unlock in the game via the Time Trial and Gate Challenge modes, the stunts will keep you occupied for a short while and then there is the obvious draw of either split-screen multi-player racing or LAN capabilities allowing four separate TVs to be hooked-up, or the Internet used thanks to the clever folk at Warp Pipe. There have been some nice additions to the gameplay, like the balance system, the grinding ability along rails and pipes, and the new Time Trial collection theme, but after such a long time, this update could (and should) have had so much more…

Once you have mastered the basic control system in the game, you will quickly become immersed in the hi-octane action and downhill delights, which will in turn lead to you flying through the games main racing option far quicker than you would have hoped. Whilst there are five different racers to choose from, a wealth of special boards to unlock, fifteen tracks and seven additional reworked courses, things will be completed in the normal mode very quickly due to the nature of the tracks, which are pretty short in length – normally about one-and-a-half minutes in total and not too arduous to finish in first position either. However, you can manage to get a significant amount out of 1080 by honing your skills on the Trick Attack mode, risking death in the Gate Challenge section or searching out the special tokens that are dotted around the Time Trial levels and unlock the extras deep inside the game. Oh, and there is the choice of racing against three friends in multi-player split-screen or even on four separate consoles thanks to the LAN-support option. Just wait until the folk at Warp Pipe gets their hands on this title and then you will also be able to play against competitors via the Internet! So all-in-all, whilst by no means perfect in terms of longevity, it is nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe…

Screenshot for 1080­° Avalanche on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

1080 is a brilliant demonstration of how tight gameplay should be in a title like this, whilst managing to avoid being too unfair. The game has not come as far as it should have done since the days of the N64, but it has removed the old clunky landing system that resulted in crashes every five seconds. Unfortunately, though, the SSX series has come on much further and fans will likely plump for EA’s more extreme franchise. NSTC has been slightly lazy, just like it was with Wave Race: Blue Storm, which is a crying shame because what they have done is extremely high quality. Make sure you do not completely dismiss this game completely – at least give it a chance at rental first…

Developer

NSTC

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Sport

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (9 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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