Downhill domination or damnation?
In the 32 and 64 bit eras of gaming, extreme sports games were all the rage, and leading the way was one name: Tony Hawk. Thus, a plethora of skateboarding games made their way onto both the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Then the next generation came and coming with it were different extreme sports like inline skating with Aggressive Inline, BMX bike riding, and snowboarding with the SSX series. What Incog Inc. Entertainment's (War of the Monsters and Twisted Metal: Black) Downhill Domination shares similarities with is SSX, but instead of shredding down a snow covered mountain with a snowboard, players ride mountain bikes down dangerous mountains and hills. It's a game that both makes me yearn for a return to this glorious era of gaming and one that I can't help but get frustrated at.
The star of the game is the various mountains on stage here. The main mountain races are quite lengthy, lasting anywhere between four to six minutes on a good run. They're all also full of character, each feeling an adventure you're taking from beginning to end. One of my favorite downhill runs has you going through towers, riding down spiral staircases, before you pass through a graveyard, then a series of ancient ruins, all before the final stretch where you blaze through the city streets of a coastal town. And this is all in just one race. The true fun and sheer joy of playing Downhill Domination's races is that each course is teeming with alternate pathways. It's never just one particular path you have to go. You're encouraged to travel off the beaten path (but not out-of-bounds) and take risks to discover killer shortcuts and impressive jump opportunities. Finding the best racing line is something that takes a little patience to perform, but when you finally do discover it, it's a truly rewarding feeling.
|Ah! The choices! Which path to take?|
|Take this oil pipe for a risky shortcut, or just decide to play|
it safe and ride underneath it.
|The moose is loose!|
|Let's just say this racer isn't looking to bump fists.|
Tricks aren't the most engaging aspect to Downhill Domination's gameplay, but they're satisfying to pull off all the same. That notwithstanding, most tracks aren't meant for you to unleash the trick beast and perform trick after trick. They're just not designed that way and intentionally so. The courses are designed well this way (and as you read earlier, many other ways, too) in the regard that you have to learn the courses to figure out when it's best to trick, and where it's best to trick from. You eventually find your preferred racing line.
|Sure, they're showing off, but if you have it, use it!|
The bike shop sports a large variety of things to purchase and unlock. There is stuff that is a no-brainer to have a bike shop like being able to upgrade bikes-- whether it be different models, colors, new tires, etc., purchasing new items, or buying special new features for the game.
There is a sizable sum of playable riders to choose from, though all of them are pretty much derivative vanilla characters whose only real difference is what dialogue they repeatedly squawk mid-race. Each character is also not the greatest to look at, showing that Incog Inc. Entertainment took most of their time giving personality to the courses themselves and not so much the riders that blaze down them.
While the characters don't exactly excite, the amount of single player options for each rider is truly incredible. The main meat and potatoes of Downhill Domination's solo campaign is the Super Career. This puts you in a series of over two dozen events to try to earn enough points in one event to reach the next. Not only are there traditional races where you go down the main course of each of the game's nine mega mountains, but there are other event types, too. One is the mountain cross series of events that are much shorter affairs where you ride up and down moguls, hills, and bumps while tackling tricky and tight turns. The other is the technical downhill series of events where the paths down the mountain are much narrower and require extreme precision to get a leg up on your opponents. You can even pursue individual career types that feature all one type of races, such as free ride (regular races down a long mountain course) or technical downhill.
|Time to hit the old dusty trail.|
|In first-person view, you can really see what's coming ahead at you.|
[SPC Says: B+]