There are essentially two ways to make a successful sports game: one is to make the game as much fun as possible while keeping realism as a secondary consideration. The other approach is to be as faithful to the sport as possible, taking into consideration every minute detail that any die-hard fan would want.
It’s safe to say Stoked is the latter and quite possibly the most realistic snowboarding simulation to date. However, this may very well be its main problem: it’s way too realistic for its own good. The learning curve is very steep and it will take a couple of hours before you get the hang of things.
Before you’re able to hit the slopes you have to create your own future snowboarding champion. Although the create options are ethnic- and gender-friendly, they’re still fairly limited. I wasn’t able to create anyone bald, nor was there an option to have long ginger hair. I’m sure all Shaun White fans will be outraged by this, although the often-nicknamed ‘Flying Tomato’ released his own game called Shaun White Snowboarding last year.
After you’re done designing your boarder, there’s the mandatory tutorial. It’s here that you realise this is no easy game. Just like EA’s Skate series, you no longer use the face buttons to execute tricks. Everything requires the heavy use of analogue sticks and triggers.
Even for the simplest trick, such as an Ollie, you’re required to flick the right stick down and then up in one swift motion. What happened to just pressing X a la Tony Hawk? Not only that, but being a snowboarding game, you’ll constantly have to find appropriate slopes in order to execute your tricks.
Doing flips and grabs is even harder. You have to hold the left trigger and push up or down for flips. Grabs are either done holding the right trigger or both triggers while pushing the right stick. As confusing as it sounds, it’ll all become clear once you've had a few hours of play.
Upon saying that, practising those few hours is the best way to learn to play this game effectively. The tutorial isn’t very clear and, upon completing it, you cannot play through it again. Not that you would want to anyway, considering how rude your instructor (Austrian snowboarding pro Wolle Nyvelt) can be. Although he speaks very clear English it’s his gratuitous sarcastic remarks that’ll leave you frustrated. If you fail an objective he’ll sarcastically declare, “Awesome job. You’re way better than me…NOT!” There are many more witty quips like this to be heard, I assure you. And I thought tutors were supposed to be kind and encouraging...
You start off your career as an unsponsored nobody hitting the slopes while doing a few objectives in the hope of getting noticed. Doing that allows you to unlock ‘Fame’ points, and the more points you gain, the more objectives you unlock. It is here that you can do sponsor challenges and competitions with the goal of becoming the best snowboarder on the circuit. There are even pro challenges so you can show off your skills against the pros and hopefully beat the wise-cracking Wolle at his own game.
It’s great to see the game set in real locations, with five mountains for you to free-roam. The mountains are huge, prompting you to call a helicopter in order to drop off at different sections. Graphically, the game is realistic and beautiful. There’s something majestic about seeing the sunset on top of a snowy mountain. It’s also very detailed, with your rider’s clothes often being covered in snow if you bail more than once.
It may have been a bit slow to start off with, but once you start unlocking more challenges, the game can be quite fun. Bear in mind, it’s still very difficult in a way that only hardcore gamers and snowboarding fans might enjoy. I’ll sum it up in a manner Wolle Nyvelt might use: “This game is enjoyable for both beginners and casual gamers… NOT!”