The extreme-sports pendulum is swinging toward simulation. Call it a correction after years of superheroic tricks and outlandish settings in games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and SSX. Skate and Skate 2 proved that the shift was sound: Both dialed back the excess and grounded their games in reality, mostly focusing on deeds mortal humans could achieve. Now Stoked has similar ambitions for snowboarding. The game’s mountains hew close to Mother Nature, recreating five freshly powdered real-world peaks. Changes to the weather bring new snow, making every run down the slope feel slightly different. Particularly deep snowfall opens new paths or chokes gullies with shin-deep drifts.
When it comes to the basics, Stoked gets it right. It feels good to power downhill, carve a serpentine trail down the mountain, and catch air. Like the Skate series, Stoked keeps the challenge high. Score challenges feel tough out of the gate, but become easier to topple once the controls are mastered. Most interesting is the way the game encourages players to learn and digest the naming conventions for snowboarding moves. Back in the day, players could simply spam tricks until they racked up enough points. Now you’ve got to know your frontside from your boardside, and be aware whether you’re riding switch. Playing Stoked may not make you a better snowboarder, but it will certainly help you look like you know what you’re talking about.
Beyond the game: Most of the soundtrack comes from never-heard-’em indies. The most recognizable tune, Atmosphere’s “Smart Went Crazy,” doubles as the game’s default anthem. At four years old, the banger is a little long in the tooth, but who’s going to begrudge a song that has this much bump left in it?
Worth playing for: Stoked manages to deliver multiplayer that feels a tad more robust than the rest of the field. When playing online, boarders can tackle the same challenges they were working on solo, or suggest group activities like races or trick competitions to the rest of the dudes on the mountain.
Frustration sets in when: Challenges that require specific moves ought to show you that move onscreen. Don’t force players to pause the game and refer to their “grab bible” or whip out their manuals.
Final judgment: Stoked is good enough to get people compiling a wish list of features for Stoked 2.