|a game by||Slingshot|
|Editor Rating:||7/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Soul Ride is a dichotomous Snowboarding simulation that exemplifies what should and shouldn’t be created for the X-treme gamer. Slingshot Game Technology has produced a game that is frustrating to play, but has wonderfully rendered terrain and is pleasing to the eye.
"The terrain engine uses data from the US Geological Survey to model vast areas of real-world topography. In order to do justice to the magnificent topography, we developed a unique level-of-detail system so that the moguls in the foreground and the mountain ranges far in the distance are all part of one seamless 3D model. Soul Ride has no painted backdrops; everything you see on screen is modeled in 3D." -- Slingshot Game Technology
The visual effects of the terrain in this game, however, did not make up for the lack of realism in the characters, sound effects, and general gameplay. There was quite a disappointing contrast between the attention paid to terrain detail and the lack of character development.
You have a choice of two mountains with seven runs on the first and eight on the second. To unlock other runs, you must qualify by completing the run in the allotted time as well as tacking on some additional style points. Although this is the extent of your preset choices, you do have a "helidrop" option which allows you to place yourself at any point on the mountain and establish a run of your own.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This was by far the most frustrating aspect of the game. Jumps and grabs were difficult if not impossible considering the configuration of the controls. The controls were designed for a joystick; pushing buttons one and two to affect moves. There was no option to configure the keyboard controls so I was left using the CTRL button to jump and no button to grab. This was a pretty serious limitation to the game and an option to configure the input device as well as the individual controls should have been incorporated into the game. While the game was difficult to play given that I was using only a keyboard, I would assume that it would be much easier to play if I had used the joystick for which it was intended.
The snowboarding character responded sluggishly to the controls and it was aggravatingly difficult to make a hard carve in the snow without wiping out. If I tried a sharp cut of more than 35 degrees on the horizontal or 45 degrees on the vertical, the character was prone to crash. Also, with the speed the character was traveling down the mountain, quick responses to avoid rock outcroppings were necessary yet difficult to pull off.
Soul Ride incorporates a "Virtual VCR" function, allowing you to play back, save to disk, or send a replay to a friend. All game actions are automatically recorded by the Virtual VCR. It also allows up to three "rewinds" during the actual run down the mountain-a nice feature for those of us who are constantly drawn to every hazard on the mountain. This program does not support multiplayer gaming; although you can make a recording with the Virtual VCR and e-mail it to a friend, you can’t compete head-to-head with other gamers.
Originality / Cool Features
This game was developed in conjunction with the Catapult Snowboard Controller, a skateboard-sized board that plugs into your gameport allowing for a more realistic snowboarding experience. I just can’t imagine what the neighbors would think if they saw me carving in the middle of my living room, but it would be a cool controller to try out.
As I had stated previously, the terrain graphics were quite attractive. With the addition of a "sunset" weather option, the mountains, trees, and sky were well-rendered and eye-pleasing. There were decent lighting effects and the quality of the 3D topography was pretty good overall.
In stark contrast, the snowboarding character was relatively pathetic. A two-dimensional cardboard cutout with an overstuffed jacket, the character looked more like the little kid from "A Christmas Story" with his outstretched arms than a snowboarder I would envision. Also, to say that the crash sequences were unrealistic would be an understatement. Imagine taking that cardboard cutout snowboarder and flicking it across a kitchen table. There was little variation to the form of the snowboarder and the lack of flexibility in the character made for pretty disappointing wrecks.
I found myself boarding straight through some of the rock outcroppings and at other times, crashing headfirst after hitting some unintelligible bump in the snow. The clipping path evaporated periodically and the character occasionally merged with the environment, only to reemerge and tumble like a G.I. Joe down the side of a hill. Even some of the simple details were missed -- shouldn’t your board actually leave a track in the snow?
One of the more pleasant aspects of the game, Soul Ride features fourteen different tracks from Bloodshot Records. This covered for the lack of quality sound effects in the game and made for a fun run down the mountain. I should state that the audio characteristics of the snowboarding, such as cutting through the snow and grinding over the rocks, were passable, but there were few environmental sounds or voice-overs that would have enhanced the game. Music aside, the audio was pretty bland.
Pentium II-300MHz or better PC running Windows 9x, NT4 or 2000, 64MB RAM, an OpenGL-capable video card, and a Joystick or Catapult controller.
Soul Ride is a beautifully rendered game with incredible mountain shots, versatile weather options, and challenging gameplay. A lack of character, board, outfit, input, and multiplayer options was a disappointment, however. The program has its graphical faults but otherwise is a face-paced game that challenges the gamer to explore the expansive terrain and earn style points in the process.