It’s finally here! SSX has arrived, and it begs to know whether you’re ready to hit the slopes?
Dating back to my childhood, I’ve always had fond memories of the SSX franchise. The series was always one of the best at offering over-the-top arcade style snowboarding and I can’t even being to tell you how much time I spent with its classic releases like SSX Tricky and SSX 3. Simply put, I’ve always loved these games and the newest one, simply titled SSX, doesn’t change that.
This is one of the most complete snowboarding experiences out there and it’s an absolute blast the whole way through, as you make your way through nine exotic locations that have you traveling around the globe. While the game does do away with story, it more than makes up for it with gameplay.
The story is more or less non-existent and isn’t worth mentioning. Just know that there is a career mode that has you running around the globe competing in various events. The Rockies, Alaska, Antarctica, Africa, China and Switzerland, among others, are all locations that you’ll visit here and each one presents a new environmental challenge. The routine is as follows; when you arrive on location, you must beat the local Team SSX member to unlock them. After that, you can play as them, while traversing the location. You’ll take part in a handful of events until you make it to that location’s deadly descent. Once you complete the deadly descent, you’ve finished the location.
Now, this is all easier said than done as each deadly descent presents a new challenge. Sometimes it’s a hazard like ice or trees while other times it’s extreme cold, darkness or lack of oxygen. All of the challenges can be overcome with the right gear, but each one throws a new curveball at you, forcing you to re-think how you’re going to get down the mountain. Some are tougher to overcome than others but the variety they add to the game is much appreciated. Luckily, to help you survive, you can buy special gear. For instance, purchase a wingsuit to glide over pits in the mountain or take with you an oxygen tank to help breathe at extreme altitudes.
Most of the events you’ll go through are split up into either race events or trick events (and then the survive events, which are the aforementioned deadly descents). Races should be self explanatory but for trick events, the goal is to score as many points as possible by pulling off wild tricks. Luckily, the trick system in the game is fairly easy to use and get the hang of. You’ll be pulling off insane moves in no time. You can choose to use either the face buttons or the right joystick.
It helps that the runs are well-suited for your death defying stunts as ramps, rails, pipes and more are spread in a plentiful manner throughout each mountain range. Of course, tricky mode is back, as is Run DMC‘s signature track. As a result, you can expect the same over-the-top manoeuvres that you found in the previous games. Tricky mode, once again, is earned by pulling off wicked tricks and combos. Once you enter the mode, all your moves are tweaked and you can do some absolutely ridiculous things, earning huge points while doing so.
Speaking of how awesome the mountains are; SSX is far from linear. These hills are huge and they usually have multiple routes to test out. There are hidden passageways spread throughout as well, ensuring that every rider will find a unique way to get to the bottom. And, with over 150 drops to conquer, it’s safe to say that you won’t run out of locations anytime soon. Each drop is unique, breathtaking, exhilarating and a ton of fun to compete on. They are also all incredibly detailed (despite a bit of awkward level design found here and there).
After the story mode, we get explore mode. Here, you’ll be treated to what seems like an endless amount of challenges that once again, span all over the globe. This is more of an open mode than the career and you have a ton of freedom to do what you want. You’ll set out globe-trotting as you collect medals from the various points, all while earning experience points that can be put towards unlocking new gear or riders. This is the game’s free play mode and you can lose hours in it. It should also be noted that ghosts of your friends’ times and scores will be present on each run and you’ll earn extra credits for beating them.
Lastly, we have Global Events and RiderNet, which is the game’s online portion. RiderNet is an Autolog-inspired online community feature that provides alerts, tracks your progress and sets challenges for you. The Global Events are just that, events that are constantly being updated and are open to, well, everyone. You can hop in at any time and try to post a new high score. These events all last for different periods of time, sometimes a few hours, sometimes a few days, and they are constantly changing. While there are no real interactions with other people in these events, you will see their ghosts whizzing by you.
Geotags are another interesting feature linked to the online world. These are collectible items that you can place on any mountain for other players to find. You get credits by placing them, and if no one collects your Geotag, you’ll get even more cedits.
Topping off all the gameplay is an excellent soundtrack that is very well suited to the game. There aren’t any real “big name” songs but all the track choices are easy on the ears and great to listen to while you speed down the hill.
Now, though the game is pretty damn excellent, it’s not perfect. One new feature, the rewind button, is a bit of a failure. When you mess up, whether that means falling into a pit or crashing after an insane trick, you can rewind the game. Doing so will dock you points and put you a few steps behind your competition. It’s almost too much of a disadvantage that it’s really never worth it to rewind. It’s tough to recover from a rewind and you likely won’t place well if you do so.
This next complaint relates to some of the game’s level design. Like I said above, most of it is great and the mountains are all extremely well plotted out. That being said, some minor frustration can occur for two reasons. For one, a couple of the drops are too dark, especially if they occur during nighttime. They are lit up but still, I found it tough on the eyes and found myself constantly becoming disoriented.
Darkness becomes especially annoying if it’s a race level and you’re trying to get down as fast as possible. Tying into this is the fact that sometimes the game is too fast for its own good. This is a fast-paced game and on certain levels, I found that some spots were too tight and too cramped, especially when there were trees in the way. No matter how hard I tried, it was just too difficult to control my boarder precisely enough to navigate through these spaces in a proficient manner. Plus, when you add in the darkness factor, some of these patches on the mountain become a nightmare. Luckily, you won’t run into them too often.
EA has just about redefined the snowboarding genre with SSX. This is the game that current generation of consoles NEEDED. It’s by far the best in the genre and it’s just so darn fun to play. Often, I would sit down with it, intending to only put in 20 or so minutes but would end up playing for hours. The gameplay is incredibly fluid and ‘tricking’ is such a blast. It’s a real rush when you’re zooming down the mountain at top speeds, grabbing huge air and pulling off wild tricks. It’s an experience that’s hard to describe, but one that should be felt by any fan of the genre.
SSX is a winner on just about every count. I’m usually hard to please and most games out there fail to hold my attention for very long. SSX is different though. I’m still playing it frequently and still loving every second of it. The arcade style of snowboarding that it presents is addicting and it really is hard to put down.
If you haven’t checked this one out yet then you owe it to yourself to at least give one of 2012’s top games a chance. SSX is the ultimate interactive snowboarding experience.
I’ll see you on the slopes!
A review copy of the game was provided to us for review purposes.
SSX is the ultimate interactive snowboarding experience, featuring addictive gameplay that offers a ton of endless fun.