Sports games, you either love them or hate them. Ski Racing 2006 takes you to the actual locations of the Ski World Cup, all the runs are modeled from GPS data and all the events are included. The aim is to win the Crystal Trophy but the game offers much more than just one competition.
After installing the game a quick look around the options reveals, well, a lot of options really. There are the 'usual' choices of graphic and audio options which give all the settings you need to set it up to run nicely as well as other game settings that allow you to select camera angles, display players name tags and the split screen options for when you play with another player, or players, on the same PC. There is also a choice to show the ghost; the ghost is your skier from the previous run who is a see through version that shows you your last track through the course, if you can't see him you are beating your last time.
The control options allow you to set all the movement and action buttons for two players for use in the split screen games. A very good tutorial is also included which lets us non skiers get to grips with techniques like 'Edging', where the skier uses the edge of the skis to get round tight bends, a button can be set for this. The tutorial covers everything needed to become a world class skier without the frost bite or plaster casts. So now we're ready to enter a competition.
There are several game types to choose from, Free Run, which is self explanatory, gives you the choice of up to twelve locations around the world depending which discipline you choose. These include Slalom, Giant slalom, Super G and Downhill. If you choose to play as a pro you are taken to another screen where you can pick a world class skier from 24, they all have different skills, jumping, edging, speed etc. When you pick a pro you can also customize them by selecting different clothes, skis, goggles etc.
World cup sets you up for the big competition. This is a big event, it covers all disciplines across forty events at all locations. This and free play are the essence of the single player game. Multiplayer has a few options. You can set a game up to play on a LAN or join an internet game, you can start a server or a network game where events, locations and even the weather can be set up for just the kind of competition you want, with the amount of players you want. A nice touch is the Event Editor under the Extras menu. This enables you to add, remove or reposition gates so courses can be tweaked to make them harder or easier. Penalties can also be set, a player can be disqualified or have a time penalty added for missing a gate.
So how does it play? Very nicely actually. You start in the gate at the top of the run and a 'swinging meter' bobs up and down. Click the button you have selected when the meter is as near to the top as you can and off you go. The meter determines the amount of boost you kick off with. You head off down the run steering through the gates, sometimes very quickly. The Slalom especially requires quite a lot of skill; there are some very tight turns and the edging skills learned in the tutorial need to be honed to perfection if you are to win.
The graphics are quite nice with some very good views across the mountains. The fog and snowy weather effects are very well done and limit your visibility which only adds to the excitement. Little groups of spectators line the runs and they cheer and clap as you hurtle past; the skis also make a satisfying crunchy sound on the snow. There is a music sound track that plays but most of the sounds come from wind and skis, skiing is quite a quiet past time.
Although not a big fan of sport type games I was surprised at how much fun Ski Racing 2006 was, to set up and play a competition with the kids or friends was a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. All the options are covered and are very simple to set up. Sport fans will get a lot of enjoyment from it.
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