|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: RTL Sports||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Conspiracy Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 18, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
In quite a few regions, the arrival of bitter cold, snow, and ice signals the end of the sporting season for many athletes. For others, it means things are just getting revved up. Don't feel bad if you count yourself among the throng of sports enthusiasts who prefer to enjoy the show from the sidelines or behind the grip of a controller. There's nothing wrong with digging into the thrilling competition of cold weather sports from the warmth and safety of your living room, and Winter Sports: The Ultimate Challenge offers a fun and varied excursion into the realm of winter armchair athletics.
Once you get started there's an abundance of activities to keep busy with. The game presents players with plenty of challenges with 15 disciplines to compete in across nine popular winter sports, quite a few play modes to switch things up, split-screen and hot seat multiplayer options, and interesting controls schemes. The main sporting events include alpine skiing, ski jumping, cross country skiing, bobsleigh, speed skating, figure skating, luge, skeleton, and curling. A few events are pretty similar, and some are more elaborate than others. Before long, most players will likely find they gravitate towards their handful of favorite sports and hastily plow through or even bypass the rest altogether. Fortunately, several play modes offer a greater range of ways to enjoy the game. They also provide incentives to continually wade through all of the events rather than just a few.
Competition mode lets you play a 15 event competition, a seven event competition, and a virtual competition where you can hand-pick the specific events. Eventually, it's possible to unlock a classic competition which features some venues from RTL Winter Games 2007. For short-and-quick sessions, any single event can be selected and played in either single or multiplayer mode. On the other hand, career mode lets players engage in a protracted series of league matches. The four playable leagues are each made up of a seven event competition and a 15 event competition. Completing both will allow you to progress through the league and on to the next. By achieving a high slot in the rankings, you'll be awarded experience points which can be used over time to boost your skill level in each of the disciplines. Even once you've grown tired of replaying the main events over and over again, the campaign mode extends the game's play value by adding in skill-based goals. Players are presented with a honeycomb shaped grid where each comb represents a specific challenge. Completing challenges opens locked combs on the grid, which let you face off in a competition against boss opponents. The skill challenges are a welcome addition to the already robust gameplay options in Winter Sports.
From the crowded stands full of cheering fans to the hard-packed snowy slopes, the scenery in Winter Sports is impressive. The realistic alpine mountain ranges found in outdoor downhill courses are beautifully detailed, and even the inside of the ice rink arenas are grand. Minor final touches to the visuals such as the inclusion of track markings in the snow from other competitors, environmental effects, and humorous interactions between characters during lulls between events are appreciated. There are plenty of cinematic scenes which provide a panoramic overview of the course, crowds, and cold climate. It's a slightly different story, however, when you look more closely at the character models. Their body movements are reasonably realistic, but the same level of detail found in other areas of the game simply did not make it into the characters. Close-up, it's kind of like watching a bunch of badly skinned cyborgs engaging in wintry competitions.