The SSX series was a staple in the previous generation of consoles. The original SSX was a launch title for the PS2. SSX Tricky, SSX3, and SSX On Tour were all released for the Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube. While SSX Blur made an appearance on the Wii, SSX has been sorely missing from this generation of consoles. However, EA Sports is rectifying that situation with a brand new SSX.
If you have played any of the SSX games, then you know that you’ll be snowboarding down giant tracks. While SSX3 featured one giant mountain, this new SSX has nine mountains that test your skills and adrenaline levels. They will unlock as you get through the different events. You’ll need to conquer all of the mountains to prove your worth on the SSX circuit.
Each of the mountains has three kinds of events. Racing events challenge you to reach the bottom of the mountain as quickly as you can. While tricks won’t help you for points, they will give you a boost to increase your speed as you go down the mountain. The trick competitions utilize your skills with the board. Showing off and getting the sickest tricks are the milestones to success. These two event types should be familiar to the fans of the series. The new type added to this game is the survival event. That might sound easy on the surface, but there are several obstacles in the way to impede your progress. You are actually required to wear body armor to protect your descent. Once you run out of body armor, your health takes a hit. If you run out of health, you are dead in your tracks and you have to start over again.
Several of the old characters from previous SSX games are present, and they provide the storyline for SSX. You are a member of a group of snowboarders trying to conquer the nine Deadly Descents. One of the former members of your team, Griff, is claiming to be the first one to do it. You start out as Zoe and along the way you pick up other characters. These include characters like Elise and Psymon. You’ll go through all nine mountains with your team to prove that you are the best snowboarders.
You can use the classic controls to jump in if you are familiar with the previous games. EA Sports has provided a new control scheme that makes it easier to perform new tricks. The right stick has now become the focal point of doing tricks. You move the stick to the left or right to determine which hand performs the trick, and then move it to where you want to grab the board. This makes it easy to perform tricks, but if you do the same thing constantly you will get less points for performing the same trick over and over. You can jump by either hitting the A button or by pulling back the right stick and then flicking it forward quickly. The face buttons are used for tricks as well, and you can use both buttons and the right stick during the same run. The right trigger is used in conjunction with tricks to tweak them, which will score more points. The left trigger lets you grind on buildings and edges that aren’t specifically made for grinding on. There are plenty of opportunities for grinding, and it makes this part of the game a little easier.
Sometimes things just don’t go your way while going through a run. If this happens, you can rewind time by hitting the left bumper. This is great for when you are trying to land a trick and wind up faceplanting into the ice. However, if you use it during a race, all the other racers will keep going forward, so you’ll want to use it sparingly. You also get deducted points the longer you hold the rewind button down, so don’t use it too heavily.
Graphically, the game looks great. The curves and rails are easily seen, and with the extra horsepower the fiendish developers were able to put more trees and caverns in your way. You can see the wind causing the clothes of your character to flap, and the snow trails left behind look good. The boards and gear can be switched out, and it’s noticeable right away. However, the game does seem to be a bit dark at times, and you have to adjust your TV to increase the brightness. I wish that they would have made it possible to just change the brightness within the game.
The audio during menus and between runs have a mellow ambiance to them. It’s very similar to the previous games. Musically there is a wide variety. Pretty Lights created a remix of It’s Tricky, but I admit to preferring the original. Other artists include the Hives, Camo and Krooked, The Big Pink, Nero, and Skillrex. It’s all good background music, but you won’t be concentrating on the music when you are blazing through the mountainside. You will have a helicopter pilot guiding you through your descent, although there are times that you’ll just want him or her to shut up.
The single player mode is composed of nine different areas in the World Tour. You start with a short tutorial and from there compete in different events. Each area is ended by one of the Deadly Descents. These are almost like boss characters in other games. You’ll need to keep your speed up to finish, but you’ll need to earn those boosts by performing tricks. They are challenging, but they aren’t impossible. As you complete stages on each mountain, more objectives are unlocked. Sometimes these will be in separate areas of the mountain, and other times they will include a portion of the run you just completed. This can take you about six to eight hours if you are a seasoned vet.
For each stage, after you fail a certain number of times, you are asked if you would like to end this and go on to the next stage. You will gain some experience, but not as much as if you had completed the stage. This is a nice way to keep people from getting frustrated and getting stuck.
The Explore mode lets you do just that — explore the different mountains. It has over 150 drops and different events you can compete in. These are the same race, trick, and survival events in the World Tour, but this time there are specific objectives to reach a medal. You either need to complete the course within a certain amount of time, or you need to reach a higher score than what is given for that particular medal when you are offline and competing against the AI. Your friends can show up in these events as ghosts to show you how they completed the course, and you can compete against them. Your own ghosts also show up.
Global Events are a true integration online with the gamers and the developers. Here you can compete in different events against thousands at the same time. There isn’t any lobby or scheduling, and you can have custom events where you just invite your friends. When you start the event, if you treat the helicopter skid as a lobby, everyone can race at roughly the same time.
The RiderNet shows your progress throughout the game, showing which medals you have won in the game, and shows what your friends have been doing. It is similar to the Autolog that is present in some of the previous Need for Speed games, including The Run.
At first I was having a real problem with SSX because it had been a while since I had actually played this or any other extreme sports game. I was frustrated a little because my timing wasn’t just right and I wasn’t getting the scores that I was used to. Eventually after a couple of hours it just clicked for me, and I remembered what a fun time I could have with this game. I wouldn’t be too surprised if others have a similar experience.
Playing SSX is a little like riding a bike. If you have played it already, it won’t take much for you to get into the game. If you haven’t, then it might take you a little while to get used to the controls and see the lines within each level. However, once you get it, the snowboarding is a lot of fun. It’s really a wonder why EA hasn’t come out with a new SSX game sooner, but as they say, better late than never.