Developer: Electronic Arts Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Following the recent trend of established titles from the past making a return, Electronic Arts has revamped its SSX series after a four year hiatus. With a few new changes, and a few returns of some familiar faces, does the SSX revamp still pull off some sweet moves, or does it plant its face in a pile of snow? Bundle up and dust off your snowboard: here’s the review.
I Don’t Know Any “Snowboarding” Lingo, So Bear With Me
The single-player campaign revolves around Team SSX taking on the world’s “Deadly Descents”. Griff, the previous leader of the team, leaves, and it’s up to the rest of Team SSX to take on the challenge of the “Deadly Descents” and eventually challenge Griff. Rather than the fictitious stages of past games, the “Deadly Descents” are based on actual slopes found all around the world, including the Rockies, Patagonia, Siberia, Alaska, and even Antarctica. There are ten stages, with a few levels per stage, and that is the single-player campaign in a nutshell. Events include the traditional races and trick stages, where you must outscore the opponent by successfully performing tricks before arriving at the designated finish area. The final stage of each level involves a challenge where you must survive the descent. Before each final stage, you must purchase armor for environmental hazard levels, a wing suit for levels with extremely long gaps, and a breathing mask for extremely high altitude descents.
Well, At Least I Don’t Have To Drive In The Snow
With every stage, you meet a new member of Team SSX. Some longtime fans of the series will recognize the returning members of the gang, but with a new game comes new innovation to the series. Items such as wing suits are new editions, and they add a new feel to the game that wasn’t there before.
Rather than the face buttons, the right analog stick is used to grab the board, rotate the rider, and straighten the board. For purists, the face buttons still work to pull off tricks; however, both new and returning SSX players will find the new control scheme relatively easy to pick up. Even with that, the controls can be switched to the classic SSX control scheme for those that have a hard time with the transition, or if you prefer the old scheme. New players will need some time to get used to the movement of the rider. With that said, the controls feel very responsive, so it’s up to the player to work on timing to pull off high scoring tricks and big combos.
Speaking of combos, the combo system builds the player’s score, which also contributes to a “Tricky” meter. Once full, the “Tricky” meter allows the player, depending on the character they choose, to pull off a special move. In addition to extra points and special moves, SSX helps the player in other ways as well. During their run, should the player mess up a trick or fall off into a chasm, they can rewind the game at the sacrifice of either time or points. This mechanic makes this game very approachable for new players, and it encourages players to take chances and score points. Anything that makes players enjoy the game more is always a good thing, and the rewind mechanic is no exception.
Hope You Aren’t Afraid Of Heights
Aesthetically, SSX is very pleasing to the eye. This should really come as no surprise, since Electronic Arts’ games are always aesthetically pleasing. Every track might not look all that different at first glance, but you’ll quickly find out that every track has something that makes it stand out from the others. Fallen trees, sharpened ice banks, pipelines, train rails, and giant chasms all have their part in different levels. It’s hard enough to differentiate ten different locations, but with over 150 drop points, there is plenty of room to shred to your heart’s content.
It’s not just the environments that look good; the characters have been given their share of detail as well. When flying through the air at ridiculous altitudes, animations look fluid as the player chains together tricks before they hit the ground. Little things like the air flapping through the wing suit are also nice touches.
It’s Tricky To Rock A Rhyme, To Rock A Rhyme That’s Right On Time
Make sure you work your combos to fill up the tricky meter. Even if you don’t land the special move, you are going to want to hear a remix of Run DMC’s “Tricky” that will play for a while. This remix is a lot of fun, and really adds to the soundtrack of the game. It’s worth filling the meter just to hear that song, but luckily, the soundtrack continues to impress beyond Run DMC. The other songs on the soundtrack add a feeling of fun and excitement to the atmosphere of the game. The mix of dance and hip hop, combined with snowboarding at extremely high speeds and landing tricks that are just out of the realm of reality, works well.
The voice acting (yes, there is voice acting) is good. Most of it involves the helicopter pilot encouraging the player, or telling them how far along they are in the stage before the finish. The characters also chime in with a “Look ma, no hands!” should they hit a ramp and elevate to an insane height that would give someone with acrophobia nightmares.
Unfortunately, not everything in this game is great. If there were one area where the issues were extensive, it would be the lack of multiplayer modes available. Races, trick accumulations, survival, and even the combination of survival with either of the first two mentioned modes are all that SSX offers. With other deep multiplayer experiences available in other games, this offering is relatively weak in comparison. When you consider the fact that the trick accumulation mode is so similar to the single-player campaign, there isn’t much to entice players to go online.
Other issues in this game include the fact that stat boosting items in the game don’t feel any different than the standard boards, and that there are inconsistencies when landing tricks. Neither of these issues “break the game”, but they are worth mentioning. Players should also be warned that this game requires the dreaded online pass. If you rent it, you’re going to have to pony up that $10, or not play this game online.
This isn’t to say that SSX isn’t a fun game, because it truly is. For everything this game lacks, it makes up for them in other areas. With features like “Rider-Net” fully integrated into the gameplay, it really engages players and keeps them involved in how their friends are playing the game. It is similar to the “auto-log” in the Need For Speed games. If you don’t play online, the game will record your run and put a ghost performance in the game, as if you had friends playing the game.
SSX is a love letter to those people that had fond memories of the SSX games of the past. With the over-the-top nature of this game, the concept of “big air” doesn’t exist; rather it’s “a monstrous amount of air that would probably give someone a nosebleed if they play too close to the screen” type of air. SSX is a very fun game, even if games like these haven’t been released in a while. Whether you are a fan of the original games or a newcomer to the series, there is something for everyone in SSX.
Final Verdict: SSX gets 8 Mt. Kilimanjaros out of 10
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of SSX by EA