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Aggressive Inline

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Z-Axis
Publisher:  Acclaim
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Extreme Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  9-18-02

In recent years, the extreme sports phenomenon has exploded in popularity, with such oddities as the XFL and Vin Diesel’s XXX simultaneously hitting the right buttons with legions of fans and leaving the mainstream scratching their heads in bewilderment. And let it never be said that the video game market be far behind when it comes to jumping on the fad bandwagon. In fact, developers have been trailing extreme sports’ popularity fairly closely, with such mega sellers as the Tony Hawk series filling corporate coffers with the hard (or not so hard) earned dollars of punk and aggro fans everywhere. The latest contender in these stakes is Acclaim, ready to challenge Tony Hawk for the mantle of top dog with their own Aggressive Inline, hoping to do to inline skating what Tony Hawk did for skateboarding (or at least for developers’ burgeoning bank accounts).

Those not familiar with extreme sports may not be used to the control scheme (always an issue with the somewhat poorly engineered GC controller), and may find the game a bit on the difficult side. Thankfully, developer Z-Axis has taken the controller’s limitations into consideration, providing the gamer with a helpful (if all too brief) tutorial. The tutorial will guide you through the basics and describe terms associated with inline skating. The only problem with the tutorial is that once you do the move in question correctly, even if by accident (which happens far too often), you’re shuffled right to the next event, without an option to continue practicing said move. In effect, Z-Axis is assuming you have a photographic memory, which is a bit much to ask for from Aggressive Inline’s intended audience of skatepunks and XFL fans.

The levels in Aggressive Inline are so massive, they can only be opened in parts, which isn’t to say that the levels you start off with aren’t enough to keep you working it for hours. Seven levels may not seem like a lot, but the sheer size of each gives you plenty to work with. Each level starts off with a given number of challenges (generally about 20-25), with more to be found by tackling people or glowing bubbles with objects (for example, skates) in them. New levels are opened when you get a certain number of points from performing tricks on each level’s challenge list.

There is no time limit in Aggressive Inline – your only limitation is the "Juice Meter". If the Juice Meter drops to zero, your game is over and you have to cough up 100,000 points to continue. Keep an eye on it, because falling (which happens a hell of a lot) takes a good chunk out of the Juice Meter. To keep the Juice Meter full you have to perform tricks; naturally, the more tricks and chains you perform, the quicker the meter fills. Once the meter is filled, sparks fly from your skates, and you’ll be able to jump higher, skate faster, and do tricks better.

Putting aside for the moment the lousy setup of the GameCube controller itself (which Z-Axis, in its defense, has no real control over), the controls in Aggressive Inline are fairly tight and respond well to the many commands you have to input to perform tricks. The A button is used to pick up speed, jump and ride walls. To perform grinds and handplants, the Y button is your best friend. Grabs and tricks are pulled off with the aid of the B button, with the X button taking the floor for vaulting, pole spins, and skitching. Once you get the hang of the controls, performing tricks in the game will feel so natural, you’d think you were doing this all your life.

Several true life players (and a few bogus ones for good measure) have had their likenesses licensed for the game, including Chris Edwards, Taig Khris, and Jaren Grob. Z-Axis has done a great job of capturing the skaters likenesses (if not their true-life stats, a real bugaboo for me), even including such details as tattoos and preferred clothing style. Now if only they’d had their skills, Aggressive Inline would have been a much more palatable (not to mention more interesting) proposition…

Aggressive Inline, like Street Sk8er or the original Crazy Taxi before it, has a real kick-ass soundtrack. The music (ranging from skatepunk to aggro to rap to ska) will keep you in the spirit of the game and have you pumped up to perform tricks. Even hearing the same tracks repeated over and over in an endless loop isn’t as bad as you’d think.

A Park Editor is included in the game to let you to build your own massive level and show it off to your friends. Unfortunately, there’s no "create a skater" option, which has become a favorite feature in many similar games of late.

And unlike a lot of games out there, Aggressive Inline actually believes you when you say that you have friends. Z-Axis has thoughtfully included a two player mode where you can compete against a friend in several (generally somewhat annoying) mini games. The mini games range from logical, such as seeing who can get the highest score in a given time, to the absurd, such as seeing who can save the most animals or find the most eggs. Of course, the real trick is in finding the damn animals in the first place. In most of my 2 player trial runs, I was lucky to find one or two (and my partner, absolutely none, any time whatsoever). Despite the stupidity factor, most of these games are fun; but the real bread and butter of Aggressive Inline is in it’s (one player) Career Mode. Career Mode allows you to build up your skater’s stats and open up extra levels and sublevels in the game, and it’s where you’ll be spending 90-100% of your playing time. Everything else is the parsley on your plate.

Highs:

  • Huge, huge, levels

  • Great soundtrack

  • Extremely addictive

  • No time limit, which allows you to progress at your own speed

Lows:

  • Fairly high learning curve for extreme sports newbies

  • Many of the game’s "challenges" are far too difficult, particularly given that they are presented equally from the start of the game to the end (there is no way in hell you’ll have the skills to pay the bills until you’ve built your skater up a few levels)

  • No "create a skater" option – you’re stuck with who they give you (and a sorry looking crew they are!)

  • Regardless of the real life models for the game’s players skills or abilities, all players start out at an equally low level and skill base (i.e., no matter how great you think Shane Yost is, in this game, he’s only as good (or bad) as you are).

Final Verdict:

Aggressive Inline proves to be a top notch entry in the extreme sports genre, taking from similar games and expanding on it to its own ends (if perhaps a bit too much on occasion). Some of the levels and tasks are far too hard or big to tackle at game’s start (with your inexperience and your skater’s pathetically low starting abilities), but with time, the hardest tricks will seem like second nature. Overall, Aggressive Inline is an excellent game and can become so addictive that you won’t notice the hours melting away. It’s definitely a must have for anyone who enjoys a good sports game, and a ripping good time, once you get the hang of it (and a little experience under your skater’s belt).

Overall Score: 8.5

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