GAME NAME: SSX
DEVELOPER(S): EA Sports
PUBLISHER(S): Electronic Arts
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): 2 March 2012
It has certainly been a long enough wait for this. SSX on a console that isn’t a PS2 (or a Wii) has long been a dream for many gamers, especially considering how revered the series continues to be. Electronic Arts have brought those dreams to life but is this the game that we have been waiting for? Yes, and then again, no.
The World Tour story-mode contained in SSX is thin at best, serving only to introduce players to the new features of the game. Apparently boarding all of the Deadly Descents first is a big deal and you need to be the one to pull off this globe-trotting task. If nothing else completing the World Tour will give players a grounding on the new equipment items and allow them to unlock all of the playable characters without having to use in-game currency to pay for them.
The global locations are the stars of the show here, Zoe, Psymon and co. are just the vehicles for fun. Players will traverse settings from Antarctica through to the Rockies, hitting up Kilimanjaro, the Great Wall of China and Siberia along the way. There are nine locations in all, featuring sub-locations that have sub-locations like a weird sort of snowboarding Inception. In total there are 153 drops on offer in Explore mode but in reality there are between 50 and 60 unique runs. Each different event on a track, be it Trick It, Race It or Survive It, counts as a new drop.
The new equipment that SSX introduces is used to compensate for a hazard on each of the available locations. The wingsuit allows players to coast over caverns, the oxygen mask compensates for high-altitude drops, the solar panel keeps players from freezing and the pulse goggles let players see during storms. Other equipment includes body armour, a head-mounted flashlight and ice-axes.
There is cause for complaint with some of these new equipment-based features. The solar panel, oxygen mask and pulse goggle events place too much emphasis on surviving the hazards the equipment is supposed to protect against. It is possible to master these events but you won’t really want to. The other gear is well implemented and opting to go without it just increases the challenge.
Another minor niggle is the lack of variety between riders. Each has a different stat bump, making them more suited for certain events, but their tricks are all identical with the exception of the one unique Super Über trick each rider possesses.
This is more than made up for with the rest of the game. Players familiar with the series will know exactly what happens when the boost bar fills up. Filling the bar the first time sets up Tricky and a second tier of tricks become available to the rider. Boost is also infinite for a limited time. Continue to rack up the points and a second level of Tricky is accessed, featuring a longer period of infinite boost and an even more improbable tier of tricks. The old-school controls are available but SSX has a revamped control system that makes pre-winding jumps and transitioning between grabs and rail stunts even easier.
Some folks will complain about the difficultly level of some of the drops. It is true that some are horrendously challenging, sometime featuring more crevasses and edges than places to ride but there are more than enough ‘classic’ SSX runs to compensate. Each drop looks and feels fantastic and, for the fumble-fingered, SSX also features a rewind option that works by deducting a few trick points to put you back on terra firma.
Riding, tricking and surviving the hazards (ooh look, lava) on your own is entertaining enough but taking the game online in the Global Events section is an absolute must. Players can compete with huge numbers of people at once provided you pay the Drop Cost, essentially the entry fee to rider in the event. The total is split between players depending on where they are ranked at the end of the event and could be very lucrative indeed.
There other other features that haven’t even been touched on. Geotag collectibles (and the option to place your own when connected online) will see players exploring hard-to-reach areas. The soundtrack is top-notch and very suited to the series but players also have the option to substitute everything for a specific playlist, should they have music stored on their consoles. At the end of the day its just the massive amount of fun involved that is important and the fact that it is a new SSX, made using equal parts innovation and nostalgia. That last point alone should be reason enough to play.