There’s an audience of people out there who are hoping Shredders might see a return to wholesome, tricked-out, arcade carving like the Amped series delivered literally decades ago. To get to the point, while it doesn’t not deliver on a fun, never serious trip to the snow, Shredders ultimately feels like snowboarding’s equivalent of Session before anything else. It might be confident in its systems that deliver fleeting yucks, it’s an overly basic offering that’s lacking in polish and, once it’s evident what’s actually in the box, starts to slope downhill when considered for too long.
One thing I didn’t necessarily expect from a sandbox, open-world snowboarding game was a full story mode right out of the box. It’s goofy, it’s absurd, but it’s the player’s escalation of chaos with his or her partner in crime, the very Australian-sounding Scotty, that pushes the ‘story’ along. The name of the game is pressing the flesh with world-renowned boarders and getting up to all kinds of hijinx, it’s definitely cheesy and it’s full of cringe. It does feel as though the story tries to stay out of its own way at times and never wants to pull focus from the cooler things the game does, like hijacking someone’s fireworks show over Kings or crashing down cliff faces with Jamie Anderson.
There’s a relaxed vibe about everything Shredders does that’s almost endearing. It reminds me a little of how OlliOlli felt like a satirisation of skater culture, except Shredders attempts it without a hint of irony and it all feels a bit goofy. The humour, which ranges from certifiably insane to awkward gaffs worthy of Larry David’s second cousin, doesn’t really ever land.
The story is a mix of main and side missions, though they’re hard to differentiate. With a handful of regions to work through, it doesn’t take long for a pattern to emerge with Shredders. You’ll meet a pro—and I’m taking the game’s word for that here—and learn their discipline, tail them for a line or two and ultimately end up doing something spectacularly over the top. It’s a fun enough core loop that keeps things mildly interesting but the most profound changes come with the terrain as Shredders has you master parks, backcountry, and good old pow. There are enough missions to sustain the story mode for around ten hours, but any fun to be had within the game’s open-world from that point is going to be player-made.
Shredders definitely built itself from the Skate blueprint and, like Skate, you’ll get out of it whatever you’re prepared to put in. Although its control scheme is similar to Skate’s in that it’s all about fine, calculated stick control, at the end of the day it’s easy enough to cruise down a line and make short work of the level’s most primary objective and move onto the next one. Despite being accessible in a lot of ways, without a trick guide of sorts it can become a real mammoth task remembering everything. The pause menu often has objective-specific tips that remind you how to do that 180° Rodeo, but it doesn’t always.
That being said, I think the act of snowboarding and all of its intricacies is the one thing Shredders does nail. The game feels really fluid, considered, and confident in its representation of what is a pretty nuanced sport. When you’re not flubbing launches and undercooking your rotation, the game can look super fluid and it flows really nicely. It’s when you’re beginning that it can look a tad clunky as you’re nutting it out.
The game isn’t at all punishing if you stuff up a line, though. Like many racing games have done, there’s a packed-in rewind function that places you several seconds before whatever disaster you shred into. As someone who’s far more familiar with skateboarding and its many forms, I found the visual language of snowboarding to be rather unreadable during this game. Parks felt routine and straightforward, but leafing down a snow-white mountain while trying to call to mind an encyclopedic move set wasn’t a walk in the park. As snowboarding is clearly a momentum sport and gravity does its best work downhill, I appreciate the developer adding outlandish features like a snowmobile to drag my sorry butt back uphill, a tow winch to give myself a little speed boost heading into a ramp, and even a drone that’s great for not only taking in the gorgeous backcountry sights but it serves as fast travel for the player within reason.
It’s all little things like this that speak to a developer respecting the player’s time, and I’m all for that.
It’s either fortuitous that snowboarders are clad head to toe in layers pretty much all of the time, or the team was wary of their limits because the character models have all been obfuscated by baggy protective gear and goggles. It doesn’t take away from how lifelike and crisp the animation can be, or how stunning the scenery can be as the sun breaks over the horizon and the cool orange glow hits the pow, but it did feel like I was hearing disembodied voices the further I made it.
Like a cool breeze, the game’s rather nondescript synthwave tracks wash in and out, and, as forgettable as they are, it’s a relief they’re more prevalent than the game’s voiceover work. It seems nothing was learned from hearing the stilted, wooden performances throughout a decade of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater titles as pro athletes—like, but not limited to, Jamie Anderson—lend their voices to give the game a dash of authenticity, which never seems like a worthwhile trade-off for quality.
Shredders, in an analogous sense, is more Session than it is Skate. It’s hard to see the odd story resonating with anybody, the generously proportioned terrains are sparsely populated and, as a package, it feels feature-poor. This is all despite it feeling super confident in its controls and systems. It’s a small slam from which the developer can dust themselves off, but it’s far from a wipeout.