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Downhill Domination PlayStation 2

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Incog
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

Extreme sports games have really become fashionable over the last few years and we've seen many different takes on the formula. Downhill Domination is the latest of these and it's kind of a SSX game on two wheels. It's essentially a mountain bike game that has a lot of variety and even a bit of combat thrown in for good measure. The different game modes offer plenty of variation and the trick system that has been used doesn't take any real effort to learn but how does it stand up in a genre that's becoming increasingly better from year to year?

Downhill Domination offers Single Events, Career, Arcade, Moshbowl, Super Jump and training modes on the single player side of the game. At first glance it appears to be pretty usual stuff. However what's impressive is that you can have different types of career. You can have the all out Super Career, which consists of a whopping 24 events that covers all the different styles or you can specialise such as Freeride, Mountain Cross, Technical Downhill and Freestyle, which is great if you don't like one of the different modes. The Arcade mode, which is essentially a 13 course career except for the fact that you can't upgrade your bike in any way, will allow you to unlock the Super Jump and Moshbowl modes if you manage to win it (alternately you can use some of your hard earned cash to unlock these modes). Some events can be played as a 2-player game (up to 4 if you have a Multitap) and there is even a Dual Slalom mode to unlock. However there is no online mode, which seems a bit of a crazy omission.

As you would expect with a game of this nature the career modes are where you'll spend most of your time. You pick one of the riders on offer, from a rather crazy bunch including the likes of Cosmo, T-Bag and the Japanese girl Mai, choose a basic bike and uniform and then head off to the events. You have to wonder why you can't create your own character though. So many games like this don't allow you to create your own character and you have to make do with the fictional ones on offer. It's not a fault but just a personal irritation in games like this. Each of the characters on offer has a signature trick, which is good to see. With the money that you make from the races you can buy upgrades for your bike and you'll also have the chance to earn combat upgrades (just like the SSX games you get to give your opponents a good whack whenever they are near to you). Initially you'll be a novice rider but as you improve you'll rise up through the ranks to eventually become a pro rider and have access to sponsorships.

Whilst the trick system used in Downhill Domination is easy to learn I did have some issues with it. One of the main problems I have is that some tricks require some really awkward button presses. It's not the amount of the buttons that need to be pressed that's the problem, although this can be a pain at times, but it's the reliance on the need to press three buttons at one time with one hand. The one trick requires the triangle, R1 and R2 buttons to be pressed simultaneously all with the right hand. I found this too awkward and I would imagine there are many out there who would feel the same way.

Graphically Downhill Domination looks OK but it's the game engines ability to render such wide open areas that will amaze. The frame rate in the game is very impressive and it flies along, without ever slowing down and gives a true sensation of speed. In fact it feels much quicker than many motor sport games on the console, so if you like fast adrenaline pumping racing games then you'll certainly be impressed with this aspect of the game. The game has various locations and 9 mountains for you to ride on. The locations include Scotland, Japan, U.S.A., Canada, Russia, Peru and Italy. The locations look good but they're not that detailed but I suspect this is to maintain the ultra slick frame rate which is of primary importance. The rider models are quite good and the animations, especially of the tricks, look natural. It's also great to see that a dynamic weather system has been implemented and just because you start an event with the sun shining doesn't mean you won't be in the midst of a storm by the end of it.

There are no problems for deaf gamers with Downhill Domination. That's not to say that everything is subtitled as there comments made when choosing a rider and the comments that are made by the riders during the events are not shown in text. The commentary that accompanies the initial fly-over before an event begins is also not shown in text. However none of what's missing really matters. The in-game tutorial is delivered exclusively in text so you'll have no problems at all in learning what you have to do. The game manual is around 40 pages and covers all what you need to know including the list of tricks that can be performed, which is always great to see with a game of this nature.

Downhill Domination is a game that will appeal to all those out there that are big fans of the SSX series and other offerings from EA Big. It's a solid game overall but it needs an online mode to really make it something special. Still the single player game is comprehensive enough and with the plethora of unlockable features on offer such as editors, pro riders, fantasy riders and even a prototype bike it's going to keep you busy for a very long time. The most impressive aspect of the game though is it's sensation of speed which is amazing. It actually feels like you're traveling down a mountain across rugged terrain, which is quite an accomplishment. If adrenaline pumping high speed games are your thing then you should definitely give Downhill Domination a look.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10
It looks like a SSX on two wheels and it certainly plays like one. The trick system whilst easy to learn sometimes requires too many button presses with one hand and it's a shame that no online mode has been included.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Rider comments have not been subtitled but otherwise there are no problems.