1080 Avalanche was a game forever in the shadow of SSX3 - EA's rival snow-racer that, with its massive mountain ripe for free-roam, electric tricks and eclectic soundtrack, seemed almost objectively better. Except it wasn't. Swapping festival atmosphere and moon physics for something altogether more grounded and gritty, Avalanche deserves a spot in the sun.
Born from a cleaner focus, it demonstrated Japanese developers' traditionally tighter authorial touch. Where SSX was a circus tent, breezy and ridiculous, this was an office block built to withstand earthquakes. The comparison's not dissimilar to FIFA/PES, or Skyrim/Dark Souls. One's organic, the other's exact.
It's 2D platformer accuracy in a 3D world. You'll learn your character's animations and predict the game's habits, the parameters that'll trigger a stumble (pulling a trick too late) or botched grind (approaching at the wrong angle), and this puts the control (or blame) squarely on you. What's lost in dynamic unpredictability, though, is more than made up for in rigid precision.
The fundamental difference between this and SSX is flash. Here, it's less tricky and more speedy - cheek-rippling, tears-in-the-eyes speed. Tracks are narrower and shorter, designed to funnel you from peak to base in the most efficient time possible with little time for showboating.
Characters include Akari, an 18-year-old Japanese lass with sharp turning; 21-year old Chilean bro Kemen and his superior speed; 20-year old Ricky Winterborn who makes for a fierce jumper; 20-year old Rob Haywood and his blessed powers of good balance; and Tara, 19, a hip-hop diva with lightning acceleration. Five stats, five characters - simple.
Jumping's prized in trick attacks, and turning and balance were best in gate challenges. Speed and acceleration, meanwhile, were useful for races.
The first of the two was a neat twist on the formula, pushing you to not only achieve the fastest time but grab coins in the process. These, true to 1080, presented an inflexible goal to pursue, a demonstration of Avalanche's directness. The second saw you thrash one rival at a time across four difficulty tiers and culminated in a thunderous chase that emphatically justified the game's Avalanche title.
These were the piste de résistance, capping off human competition with a foe that was not only unstoppable, but actually got faster. Plus: it wanted to kill you. This turned 1080 from sport into life-or-death struggle. In their punishing precision they summed up 1080 perfectly - and while we won't see a revival any time soon, its legacy is in proving there's never just one way to tackle a genre.