Sled Storm Review
Sled Storm uses the SSX formula well, and anyone who enjoys a challenging arcade-style racer should have fun with the game.
For anyone who hasn't been following the development of Sled Storm for the PlayStation 2, in short, it's been quite a journey for the development team. When the game was originally shown, the visuals didn't really live up to the standards set by other games in the EA Sports Big lineup, such as the popular SSX. Based on initial feedback, the development team went back and redesigned the levels and the overall look of the game so that it more closely resembled the over-the-top feel of the other EA Sports Big games. The end result is level design that's done quite well, with tracks that have plenty of detail, shortcuts, and special effects. However, as good as the game looks, there are some noticeable deficiencies in the gameplay, including some of the most blatant rubber-band AI to ever be found in a racing game. But the basic gameplay mechanics are still good, and anyone looking for a tough challenge will certainly enjoy Sled Storm.
While there are time attack and single race modes, the main focus of Sled Storm is the championship mode, where you'll be able to unlock additional sleds, characters, and levels. You'll be able to select from three characters out of eight at first, with the other five becoming available later as you meet certain goals in the game. Each of these riders has different attributes and levels of skill in relation to the types of tricks they can perform. After selecting a rider, you'll select your sled. You don't have a choice at first, so your sled essentially represents the bottom of the barrel when it comes to performance, but again, you'll be able to unlock additional sleds later on by meeting certain requirements. The same selection process applies to the tracks.
When it comes time to race, you'll find that the basic controls are easy to use. You can accelerate, brake, and turbo-boost using the face buttons, and the shoulder buttons enable you to perform tricks. The one aspect of the game that's a little difficult to jump right into is the powersliding, which can play a critical role in the outcome of a race. Learning how to properly powerslide in Sled Storm can be aggravating because you'll often crash or unintentionally take dead-end routes, but what makes it worse is that the collision detection in the game can be a little spotty at times.
Normally, you'd expect a full-speed collision to cause a crash, but in Sled Storm that doesn't always happen. In fact, your sled rider will end up in some rather interesting predicaments as a result of the inconsistent collision detection. For example, in one of the earlier tracks, you'll be required to make a small jump across a chasm, but for some reason, your rider will occasionally cling to the wall and continue to drive at a 90-degree angle. In another situation, you may be going only a few miles per hour in the main section of the road, only to see your rider crash and fly through the air. It doesn't happen all that often, but when it happens just before the end of a race, the problem can prove very frustrating.
Sled Storm has another potentially aggravating issue, though it can significantly add to the challenge. The AI of the other riders in the game is purely based on the rubber-band model, where they will drive only as well as you're driving--if you're lagging behind, then they'll start to slow down. If you're in first place, then they'll be right behind you, waiting for you to make a mistake. This behavior can be found in plenty of racing games, but it's especially noticeable in Sled Storm, so much that sometimes you can sit the controller down for nine or 10 seconds without even moving the sled down the track, and you'll still be able to catch the leader. The reverse is also true. If you manage to have an ample supply of turbo and you successfully navigate through various shortcuts, a computer opponent almost always manages to sneak ahead of you--even when that same opponent was driving significantly slower when you were in sixth place.