by THQ Reviewed by: Mike David
Part two of my Xbox snowboarding games review continues with Dark Summit, please see "Amped" for the first part of my adventures in Montana.
Mt. Garrick has long been a mysterious mountain. With its local legends, strange lights at night and ominous runs. But now with the military mobilizing on its slopes under the eagle eye of Chief O'Leary, it's up to you to find out what's really going on up there. O'Leary hates snowboarders for numerous reasons, but after you're done with him, he's going to have one more.
Rip it up on your snowboard with an entirely new set of consequences at stake (your life being one of them). Dodge the Gestapo-like ski patrol, avoid landmines, grind off of cliffs while running from enemy skiers and generally try to save the day, all while doing it in style. Mysteries abound on Mt. Garrick, time to get busy.
Oh, and what the hell is that green stuff?!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Snowboarding games are for the most part entertaining. I've had more positive experiences with them than not. When I started seeing the buzz on Dark Summit a few months ago I can say I was generally excited. Not only was it a snowboarding game with fantastic features, but it was going to be mission- based. This fact alone made me think of how this simple idea could open up all sorts of possibilities in future games (imagine Gran Turismo with shady rival drivers doing evil things between races, or being told to lose a championship race because the bad guys have your kidnapped daughter). Whew, I'm getting all sweaty thinking about it. But enough rambling...on to the review.
As you start up Dark Summit (DS) you will play as Naya, a roguish woman snowboarder with a reputation for defiance and attitude. How Naya is drawn into the web of spies and such is never really explained but know that she has been selected by some sort of conspiracy group to find out what the heck is going on at Mt. Garrick. In the early parts of the game, you will be asked to complete "missions" that don't seem real mission-like. For example, a "mission" would require performing a certain number of special tricks or jumping over some heavy equipment. I know it doesn't seem real adventurous, but before you know it, this game has worked its way under your skin and you will keep playing, anxious to find the mission towers so you can complete the next one. I know a game is fun when I keep telling myself, "5 more minutes, just 5 more minutes." Quickly the missions will become a bit more serious, such as collecting bombs and playing mind games with Chief O'Leary and his minions.
The game itself is played like most snowboarding games in third person perspective. The button configuration is set up with ease in mind as it is not terribly difficult to get the basic moves down fast. And while the special moves are a little bit tougher to master, they too are realistic in their cause and effect. I was pleasantly surprised with how well everything worked.
As the game continues and you are constantly contacted by your mysterious mission giver (via a "Nokia" cell phone in a shameless product plug) you will be advised on what to do next. Since the mountain runs are all very large, it will be up to you to pick a path and try to locate these glowing radar/radio towers. You can find these towers by using the game's radar located on the right of the screen or if you get reasonably close you can see the tower's light shining skyward. Essentially, you must slide under the tower where the game will pause and the mission giver will come on and give you your next mission. Here you can choose to accept or decline the mission. Presumably you will accept the mission, in which case you try to do whatever it is you were challenged to do. Now here is where the game is a little strange. If you accept a mission and fail it, there are no repercussions. You can do one of two things when this happens; simply continue down the mountain looking for another mission or you hit the "start" button and select the restart mission option. This is what I did for the most part as I was becoming obsessed with completing enough missions to open up the next part of the mountain. The problem with the game was that the entire "risk" factor was nonexistent. There is no real sense of danger for Naya even when she falls into a chasm, jumps into a vat of toxic waste, gets blown skyward when hitting a landmine or whatever. The game simply advances her a little further down the mountain and in some cases the mission could possibly still be going. For example, one of the missions is to knock down the evil (but stupid) Hans and run from his even more evil sister Rachel. Since you must race away from her for a predetermined length you could conceivably fall into a chasm and then have the game start you up a little further down the slope. Now as long as Rachel doesn't touch you, the mission is still active. I found this to be a bit disappointing since the whole "consequences" aspect of the game is virtually moot.
One of the things that immediately stands out regarding the slopes is how dangerous it all appears. If this was a real ski resort, attendees would have to sign a waiver so as to avoid lawsuits by the surviving members of your family upon your death. Jumps are insanely high, iron girders angle dangerously out of the ground, toxic goo is spread all over the place, and other skiers race by with no regard for any sort of safety. The military has blocked off numerous runs which can be busted through quite easily. There is an absolute carload of objects to jump off, grind across, or destroy. Anybody who can't find anything fun to do in this game should go back to living with the Amish.
Here is a perfect example of getting a game out before it's ready. Dark Summit looks good in some respects, like the characters and some of the items and objects in the game, but the whole feel of the runs is too murky looking. Sure, the toxic waste looks like toxic waste, but there really isn't any of those cool snow effects present in Dead or Alive 3. I honestly think the game could have been left in development a couple of months longer to really sharpen up those little things that I'm insisting be in my next gen games.
Overall it's graphically competent, but we all know what the Xbox can do, so to me, I feel let down.
I don't know what country this game takes place in, but there is a man with a German accent barking out statements on the slopes' intercom system. "Ze Chief iz vatching you!" I have to laugh; they're really strange and oddly amusing. The other primary voice you hear is that of the mission giver. He sounds like he's an authority figure with an attitude. He let's you know what your next mission is and then injects a smartass comment. I thought the voices in the game were the perfect balance of humor and appropriateness.
To be perfectly honest with you, what little music I heard really made no difference in the game whatsoever. I think it's there for filler, while the in-game sounds were also done subtly. You could tell that THQ subscribed to the "less is more" philosophy.
Like I said before, a mission-based game like this is going to open a whole new door for other genres. I have already seen some games on the horizon that will subscribe to this new option. The only other game that I can think of that is similar to this one is Speed Devils for the Dreamcast.
OK, THQ may have let some aspects of this game slip, but one thing, the important thing they got right, was that this game is just plain fun. The whole purpose of playing video games is to have fun. THQ remembered this and made sure to not take themselves too seriously. The end product may not be as flashy or brilliant as other titles, but it is fun. In the end, that's what matters.
Review Posted On 10 January 2002.
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