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Review

SSX Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

I think it's very vital.

SSX used to mean Snowboard Super Cross. SSX used to be about huge air and wild tricks. It used to be about racing, tricking and battering your opponents downhill. SSX used to be about over the top sports action and impossible feats of alpine artistry.

EA’s reboot, when initially unveiled, worried some fans with its move towards realism and its focus on survival and peril. Does SSX remain that unbridled, joyous game we loved ten years ago or has the attempt to update it for a new decade and a much more powerful generation of consoles left the spirit of the game back at the chalet?

The deep, elemental fear throbs throughout my entire body. A liquifying quiver that perfectly coincides with the rumble of the engine and the gyroscopic momentum provided by the helicopter’s spinning rotor blades.


More air than a Nike factory.
The game is introduced by DJ Atomika, who fans might remember from SSX3 and Burnout Paradise. He talks you through the set up for the game, and gives you the unfeasible back story that explains why you’re travelling the globe, sliding down its most perilous peaks.

Essentially, it’s a vanity project for a team of extreme sports nuts, out to prove that they can do it. One of the former team members, Griff, has gone rogue and is now trying to beat “Team SSX” to their stated goal of taming the world’s nine most deadly descents. SSX now stands for “Snowboard, Surfing and Motocross” as those disciplines provide the history of the characters who make up the team.

Breath is coming short, sharp and shallow. My legs are weak and I can feel another bead of sweat forming on my forehead, just above my mask.

It’s a mix of high-score tricking, racing and surviving dangerous slopes as you earn experience, unlock equipment and ultimately live through descending each peak before moving on to the next one. Griff has a head start on your team so you’re encouraged to learn quickly and catch up as you build towards the inevitable showdowns.

The game is slightly more rooted in reality than elements of its predecessors but that’s not to say we’ve got a snowboarding simulation on our hands. SSX is still about crazy grinds, impossible tricks and insane air. There’s no Tokyo Megaplex, with its pinball table elements but grinding the roof of Siberian factories, dodging aeroplane wreckage, lava pits and tricking over freight trains is still a long way from realism.

Ice crystals hang in the air like protozoic lifeforms. I am alone in this moment, nothing else exists but my internal struggle with the fear.

The gameplay, while not identical to earlier games, is solid. There are multiple control mechanisms so you can choose between buttons or the right stick to perform your tricks. I never felt completely in control using the stick scheme but the standard button layout was perfectly usable. The classic control scheme is for those who want something more similar to the old style of SSX controls, with shoulder buttons used for trick combos.


You can even trick off your support helicopter, if you get big air at just the right moment.
For the trick challenges, things are simple enough. You have to make it down the mountain, performing tricks to keep your combo multiplier up and max out your score. Beat a target and you can move on.

Races are slightly less straightforward because you’ll still need to pull off tricks in order to build up your boost but that need has to be balanced with a direct line downhill.

Keeping a trick combo going, with multiple tricks and grinds, will build up a Tricky meter which allows for unlimited boost as long as it’s lit. It also modifies the tricks you have available so that you can perform bigger tricks and different ones, further maximising the potential for a big score.

I remember why I’m here. I try to swallow the fear and it sits like a lump in my stomach.

Everything is balanced extremely well, although there is the odd difficulty spike that causes a bit of frustration as you have to repeat events and build experience points in order to unlock better equipment to succeed.

The “Deadly Descents” act as final stages to each mountain meeting of the story mode, almost like an end-level boss. In these stages, the goal is survival. You will be boarding down a dangerous mountain with some risk mechanic thrown in to hinder you.

For example, the first descent has fallen trees that you need to jump as you go, crashing into them depletes your armour and eventually your health. Gaining enough experience points to unlock suitable equipment on your way to unlocking these final stages is key and will call for some event repetition but that’s no bad thing.

The helicopter slows to a hover, high above a craggy canyon of ice, powder, trees and God knows what else. Beneath is a wilderness, almost uncharted and barely visible through cloud and fog.

I’m not new to this, though.

Each descent in each event is unique because of the multiple routes and the opposing AI so there’s a good chance you’ll actually want to repeat an event multiple times, even before considering the high score bragging rights.

It's Tricky makes a very welcome return.
Hitting those high scores will be the game’s biggest pull for many of the more competitive amongst us. With multiple routes and complex combos, it’s an incredibly intricate sequence of events that lead to a perfect run and I can imagine people spending hours repeating events, looking for the perfect route.

Without any traditional multiplayer matchmaking, this kind of competitive element is really taking on the task of increasing the game’s longevity. The RiderNet works like SSX’s version of the Autolog from the most recent Need for Speed games, constantly updating with your friend’s times and scores and encouraging you to compete.

There is an option to build games with invited guests too, which seems likely to offer a more traditional multiplayer experience but will require a group of likeminded people on your friends list.

I let the board slide out the door, taking me with it into the frosty night air. The rushing wind soon envelopes me.

The game looks and sounds fantastic, with glistening snowscapes and well animated character models all working along to a great soundtrack which actually remixes live in reaction to your in-game actions. A particular highlight, amidst the easy listening indie rock, drum & bass and dubstep is the remix of Run DMC’s It’s Tricky that plays when you fill your Tricky meter.

It’s a nice tip of the hat for old fans but with a modern twist — much like the rest of this exhilarating game.

Pros:

  • Looks and sounds fantastic.
  • Exciting gameplay and intuitive controls.
  • There’s plenty to do, with around six hours of story mode plus free play.
  • RiderNet will keep groups of friends locked in competition.

Cons:

  • The over-reached set up is unnecessary.
  • There could be more voice work as you compete.
  • Occasionally a little too unforgiving with difficulty spikes.

SSX is a wonderfully fun game. It successfully captures the spirit of the earliest games in the series but without feeling dated. This generation of consoles has suffered slightly from an understocked catalogue of games that revel in their over-the-top nature and SSX is a perfect remedy for that. If this is what happens when you rest a franchise for a few years then I am perfectly happy to forgive EA for those lean years they left us without a new sequel.

The blackness beneath me flashes with glimpses of crystalline ice, sharp and deadly. Time to see if this wingsuit was worth the money.

SSX is a great reboot.

Score: 8/10

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30 Comments
  1. justboy
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    Loved ssx tricky on the ps2. Don’t know how I feel about this though, hopefully there will be a demo on the store soon.

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:06.
    • Kevling
      Member
      Since: Dec 2008

      Demo went up last week :)

      Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:09.
      • justboy
        Member
        Since: Jul 2010

        Don’t know how I missed that!

        Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 10:12.
    • Rad4Life
      Member
      Since: Dec 2009

      I just got the demo but haven’t played it yet. I can’t wait to pick this up. I loved the other ones on PS2 and have really missed snowboarding on my PS3. All the reviews so far have only made me want it more. Imma get off here and go try that demo now!

      Comment posted on 02/03/2012 at 23:00.
  2. Tomhlord
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Apr 2009

    I was super excited for this game, but it does appear to be getting 8’s all round, which is still very good and I will still pick it up, but now buying a Vita is a bigger priority

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:08.
  3. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    That’s SSX ticked off my checklist, just Road Rash to go now from EA.

    Love SSX & can’t wait to pick this up.

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:10.
    • Omac_brother
      Member
      Since: Nov 2011

      Yes. EA better dig Road Rash out of the archives because it needs another go.

      Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 10:24.
  4. Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Sounds good, loved the older games. One thing I wouldn’t agree with, assuming the demo is from a current build of course, is the game’s visuals. They are dreadful in the demo and really low-res

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:12.
  5. Kevling
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Really enjoyed the demo, totally agree with your “I never felt completely in control using the stick scheme” (in fact I tweeted almost exactly that phrase over the weekend!).
    The seamless multiplayer (like Burnout Paradise?) and Autolog-inspired Ridernet show how groundbreaking and influential Criterion have been within EA.
    So I will definitely buy this, but with it being out within a week of Mass Effect 3, one of those is going to have to give, and it will probably be this. Still, it will e £25 within 3 weeks like almost every other new release except FIFA and COD :)

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:13.
  6. zb100
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Excellent review, many thanks CB.

    Think I’ll be sticking with shoulder buttons and being able to switch to custom soundtrack is the icing on the peak.

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:21.
  7. yogdog
    Member
    Since: Feb 2010

    After trying the demo last night, a definite buy from me over the next month, along with Mass Effect 3.

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:27.
    • YOURMUMANDME
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      I totally thought it was out today! :(
      Played any of the modes yet?

      Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 20:57.
      • zb100
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        US release was yesterday.

        Comment posted on 29/02/2012 at 08:52.
  8. LunaticSoul
    Member
    Since: Apr 2011

    I tried the demo once, and I didn’t like it at all.The graphic was really bland and the gameplay was too confusing. Is the real game any better? Because it was practically a must buy (spent years playing tricky and 3) but the demo made me change my mind.

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:43.
  9. Jumping Monks
    Legend
    Since: Jan 2009

    I am so glad this is a good game. Looks like I’ll be picking this up then. Great review guys!

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 09:53.
  10. tactical20
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    Thought the demo was pretty poor, and with THPS HD out in a few months, I don’t see any need for SSX in my collection.

    Comment posted on 28/02/2012 at 10:06.

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