"If you were to assemble a United States of Playground you would need a place to locate a capital; a place where the landscape was created by Dr. Seuss with a backhoe. A place where it is possible to wake up in summertime and drive to winter. In short, you would need Utah."-Jonny Moseley
Personally I've been using a white Smith Maze since like 7th grade, no cracks or dents yet (then again I haven't really taken any hard falls directly to the head). I think it looks pretty cool. Probably gonna buy a black one for this season, definitely would recommend.
To clarify: the shock absorption and safety aspects of helmets is all in the rigid, gnarly styrofoam the helmet is actually made out of. The plastic shell is for waterproofing, design, and a little bit of protection. On a huge impact, the thick styrofoam will absorb the hit and hopefully crack/shatter. That's how it's intended to happen. A beanie serves the same purpose as the squishy stuff.
Next year, giro i believe, is coming out with a really cool looking soft shell design.
Havent seen it myself but the owner of the shop i work at was pretty geeked about it and i know we ordered a few of them. Its supposed to be more durable to blunt impact, and last for multiple impacts.