Airblade has certainly come a long way since its initial development stage, when it was originally titled Stunt Squad. Debuting a year and a half ago at E3, Criterion Studios had no publisher or set release date for this wonderful looking hover board game on the PS2. The game's development was quite early, and if I recall correctly it was not displayed in video form, but only three screenshots were revealed. Criterion kept a tight lid on both of their projects (Burnout and Airblade), until this year's E3 rolled around and the cat was out of the bag. Airblade was displayed in playable form and the results were nothing but praise. Well I'm happy to announce that I've scored the European version of the game and can say from personal experience this game kicks serious tail!
I'd refer to this game as a visual mix between Jet Grind Radio and Tony Hawk 3. The sci-fi futuristic atmosphere, of course, ties in with Sega's hovering in-line skater, meanwhile the realistic visual details set the pleasing scenery which is free of any noticeable aliasing or flicker issues. The texture detail is considerably better than Tony Hawk's; everything that surrounds you almost has this pre-rendered feel, but make no mistake about it everything is real time. The character detail is absolutely fantastic! Each and every one of the 5 riders has a distinctive design with unique physical proportions and cool clothing. On top of that they have some very high polygon counts, as each and every boarder's facial detail is well noticed. Without a doubt, Airblade runs on a very powerful game engine. I'd like to see this game engine remodeled and used to design another extreme title. It Looks like Neversoft has met their match.
To say this is a Tony Hawk clone on a hover board is preposterous. Airblade is like no other game out there. First of all, the game is story driven, and come to think of it the story does share a little dash of Jet Grind Radio. You see, a group of armed forces is after you because your best friend stole a secret package. In hopes of recovering the secret package, the force breaks into your apartment and kidnaps your friend. The package contains the Airblade -- a hover board - think 'Back to the Future 2'. As the main character, Ethan, you rip the package open and hop on the Airblade to help your friend. Airblade's gameplay is mission based, so expect rendezvous points, knocking out snipers from roofs by slapping them over the head with the board, to destroying huge glass billboards in a city street with your name and face below a 'wanted' sign. There's a whole lot to do in the 5 environments you are presented with. Interactive obstacles are scattered all throughout the levels, not to mention that this is also a living-breathing world as pedestrians and traffic vehicles inhabit various levels. The trick system in Airblade can be described in one-way; extreme.
Unlike Tony Hawk, Airblade takes everything in our imagination and presents it through vibrant and decorative finesse. The game's coolest trick is that you can swing on poles, vertically or horizontally. This eventually becomes a tactic, as some objectives may require you to reach higher ground, or destroy an object by swinging on it. The game has regular tricks that you would most commonly find performed by Snowboarders or Skateboarders, in addition to grinds of all sorts. Pulling off a couple of tricks will fill up your boost meter, something that is a key necessity in order to achieve higher air. If time permits, stay tuned for a full import review on Airblade. This is certainly a game that Sony's US headquarters need to recognize and bring over to the states. This puppy has some selling potential.