- in Review
The SSX series comes from a past line of PS2 games, but it’s been a long time since the extreme snowboarding franchise from now non-existent EA Sports BIG has seen the light of day. On new consoles SSX tries to reboot the franchise and suck you into the over the top snowboarding action from the older consoles. And while the new game does have a few issues it takes snowboarding and makes it into something utterly ridiculous and fun.
In light of EA’s discovery of the analog sticks SSX has been given the same treatment as their sports games. You pull off your crazy tricks by rotating the right analog stick in different directions, then variations from there gives you different types of grabs. If you have played the old version they have added a “classic” control scheme which plays like the PS2 counterparts but some of the button placement for things like grinding “natural rails” and O2 are placed in a way where you have to be an octopus to get at them. Uber Tricks also make a return and they are as crazy as ever, though one of my personal disappointments is that you cannot customize your uber tricks like in SSX3 so the only unique uber trick that your character will have from the others is their signature trick.
Playing the game though is heaps of fun; the game has an amazing sense of speed and makes it feel like you are going blistering fast all the time. The tracks really help with this since they are filled with great shortcuts and big air ramps that really pull you into the game. The soundtrack also helps with the sense of speed and air, by spinning the track remixes a little bit and also while really high up in the air the songs will fade out then come back with vengeance once you hit the ground and little shock waves form around you. Little touches like that really make the whole feel of SSX great.
There is a story mode in SSX but it is not something to be admired. I feel the only value it adds is to laugh at the terrible motion comics they use to tell each of the characters stories and wonder why they would think anyone would care that Griff pulled from team SSX to go off on his own. The motion comics are really more of an excuse to show what the old characters have been doing since the old games and how the new people are “So totally extreme bro!”. The story mode is really only used to introduce you to the different types of event the game has to offer which is nice since they show off some of the more well designed tracks in the game.
After the story mode there is explore mode, where all of the levels are split into ranges, within those ranges are a variety of mountains and within those mountains are the individual tracks. This offers a lot of tracks to race on; in fact each range is about the size of SSX3 or SSX on Tour. There are three events race, trick, and survive. The first two are pretty self-explanatory but the new Survive mode is one of the new features in the game and also tie into the “deadly descents” part of the story. Taking on a variety of challenges like outrunning an avalanche, avoiding trees, and navigating ice as a couple of examples, you have to survive for as long as possible. When you reach the bottom of the track you’re taken all the way back up but the track gets progressively harder the more times you go down. Though doing trick and race events on these survive tracks are more tedious than fun, and seems like they added the option only to up the event number for the back of the box.
For those survive events you will be needing equipment, such as armour, headlamps, wing suits and more. What’s interesting is that they have added a kind of loot dynamic when purchasing items. When you going into the shops before a race you have the options to buy from a variety of randomized loots, so if you want a snowboard with some good speed you might want to try and find the “epic snowboard of speed” which is me is hilarious in a snowboarding game. This stuff also applies to modifiers which are boosts you can put on your characters, kind of like a legal steroid if you will. As well as Geotags which are markers that you can put around the track for your friends or others to find and the longer they are out there the more money you will make.
The new feature and pretty much the main draw to the new SSX is their online implementation called RiderNet. RiderNet works a lot like Autolog from Need for Speed Hot Pursuit; it takes your friends scores and sets them in an ever active leaderboard. You race their ghost times and gain credits based on how you did and if you passed them or not. This is fun because if presents an ever evolving leaderboard or gold standard for you to beat, also if you have that one friend who puts up ridiculous times or trick scores you are able to hide them as well. Your friends’ progression through the game is also tracked and updated to you, so if they just got a gold medal on a track you can instantly go there and try to take down their time. Global events are open to everyone and let you challenge people from around the world in a certain event in a chance to win some big money depending on how you place from bronze to diamond. EA has spent a lot of time on this online portion of the game but they don’t have any head to head matchmaking, so you can’t race your friends in real time or try to run a survive event as the same time as them which is a bummer.
While the online ghosts battles are fun I still wish there was some sort of real time head to head mode in the game. Also another grip is that equipment is either useless or just over powered. Things like using the headlamp in the dark areas aren’t really needed because the caves you are going through aren’t dark enough to need them so you are better off taking some sort of other equipment. Or in regular race events taking the wing suit will allow you to fly over giant portions of the track making your time cut down by minutes if you were to just race through the track normally. This makes for insane race times which people exploit in the Global Events making it near impossible to get high in the rankings unless you do the same as them.
SSX overall is a fun game with a few rough edges here and there. While is it not the same as the old SSX games fans might love it still offers that over the top style of snowboarding which made the series famous in the first place.
Great review Anthony, the only thing SSX has for me is the tricks though so I’ll probably be picking this up when it goes on sale. Some of the high score runs on youtube look so disjointed and ugly and that’s such a shame, it really makes the tricks look stale.
Thanks Albert. I find high score runs of any game to look totally messed and mechanical. Look at like Pac Man, there is literally ONE way to play the game if you want a world record high score since they’ve disected the AI of the ghosts. But yeah in SSX it’s kind of eff’d since you can go on the side of the map and skip the whole track.