SSX – Should You Play This?

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When I heard they were bringing SSX back from the dead I became ecstatic.  Ever since the release of the PS2, I’ve been a huge fan of the SSX series.  Instead of going the realistic route, EA Sports  took their snowboarding game the opposite way.  Larger-than-life courses filled with ridiculous jumps, mile long rails, and runs that no sane person would ever attempt were par for the course.  It blended racing and death-defying tricks to create a whole new genre for the most part.   And you know what?  It worked.  SSX was a great launch title that showed off what the PS2 could do graphically  and it was a blast to play as well.  It also helped that it had a pretty decent soundtrack at the time that actually changed depending on how well or how bad you were doing.

SSX: Tricky came out next and introduced “über tricks”, absurdly exaggerated tricks, often involving detaching the board from the snowboarder’s feet that somehow also worked within this universe.  It also had a bunch of then-famous people voicing the XTREME characters such as Lucy Liu, David Arquette, and Billy Zane and it upped the ante in every way.  The courses were more polished, the tricks were more XTREME, and the soundtrack was even better with the now added remix of “It’s Tricky” by RUN-D.M.C. to signify that you were indeed being tricky.

[pullquote left]Larger-than-life courses filled with ridiculous jumps, mile long rails, and runs that no sane person would ever attempt were par for the course.[/pullquote]

SSX 3 was the pinnacle of the series up to this point due to one minor change in the game play.  In earlier games, individual tracks were located around the world and were mostly unconnected to each other. In SSX 3, the entire game takes place on one mountain, with three peaks and several individual runs.   This made the game have a bigger scope than the first two entries and the ability to ride freely down the mountain without ever having to participate in an event was great.  IT could take upwards to 25 minutes from the top of the mountain to the bottom without so much as a load screen interrupting your fun.  It also introduced online play which was addicting as hell.

SSX: On Tour was the next game in the series and introduced skis (yawn), and minor improvements on SSX 3’s almost perfect game play, however, it just didn’t have that same awe-inducing feeling as SSX3 did for me.  They released SSX: Blur for the Wii which I never played so I cannot comment on if it was good or not.  One would guess that trying to play SSX with motion controls would be an exercise in frustration like most motion control games.

Then it was radio silence from DJ Atomika for the next 5 years.

 

 

That brings us to the newest entry in the series: SSX.    The biggest change in the new game is the fact that the courses are all based on real life locations as opposed to fictional ones as in the previous games. EA Canada used data borrowed from NASA to generate 28 mountains from about nine existing mountain ranges around the world. This data was only used as the basis for the level design, and the developers created their own terrain on top of it.  This means you will be able to shred down Mount Everest, the Alps, and even down the Himalayas.  To keep in line with their SKATE brand, they now allow the use of the right thumb stick to perform tricks but wisely allow “old-school gamers” the option to play in classic mode.  The fluidity of the gameplay and the controls is fantastic and it runs smoother than any other game in the series.  If you bail it’s not because of the controls but because you may have gotten a bit too crazy with some of your tricks.  They also added in an RPG-lite upgrade system that allows you to upgrade your boards, clothes, mods, and more.   This means that you can’t just grab you board and head to Everest to shred it.  You will need to earn enough loot to buy an oxygen tank and mask so you can actually make it down certain runs.  Not only are there oxygen tanks you can buy, but you can also purchase wing-suits, ice hooks, headlamps, and more to help you as you compete to best snowboarder in the world.

 

I’m not going to lie, when I heard you’d have to purchase items like this to complete some of the runs I scoffed at the idea.  I didn’t want my XTREME sports game to mix with a role playing game.  I just wanted to fly down these mountains while doing ridiculous tricks without having to worry about having the best gear.  My mind changed the first time I used the wing-suit to string together a massive combo over a giant crevice.   It adds a whole new dimension to the game play. 

Not only did they add RPG-lite elements to the mix, but they also added in a new rewind feature.  This allows you to reverse time and take back that nasty fall or missed opportunity much like in the Prince of Persia series.  These are not without penalties though.  Rewinding during a race doesn’t stop time for your opponents and creates more of a gap for you to close if you’re in last place. If you rewind in a trick competition, then you’re going to get points taken off of that combo so it’s a decision of “is rewinding here worth it or not?“.  This too adds a new dimension to the gameplay that feels like it’s always been there after a few races.

SSX’s newest component, the Survive It courses, test your ability to make it down the run alive.   Each of the nine mountain ranges feature a Deadly Descent, a run that requires you purchase special items such as the wing-suit or the ice picks.  Avalanches try to crush you with snow, freezing cold and lack of oxygen will kill you if not prepared,  and jagged rocks and fallen trees threaten to stop your epic run quite short (make sure to equip that suit of armor, yes I’m being serious).

Items called “geotags” have been added as well. These allow players to place them in hard to reach places of the world, when they rewind, to entice other users to seek them out.  The longer your geotags remain uncollected, the more XP and cash you get for your placements. It’s a clever way of letting players show off where they’ve been and it’s nice little bonus when you grab someone’s tag that may be on your friends list…(TAKE THAT William).

 

While playing through the game, RiderNet keeps track of your progress. Anyone who has played any of the recent Need for Speed games will recognize RiderNet as SSX’s version of Autolog. The moment you load up SSX, RiderNet alerts you about what your friends are doing.  Any scores posted or collectibles acquired are mentioned, and the game  will set challenges for you based on your friend’s scores.   It’s another way for you to either feel superior or inferior to your friends and in my case much more superior to William.  Global Events, a constantly updating series of challenges open to everyone in the world is a great addition as well. EA has challenges going all the time, and you can just drop in and try and post a high score or fast time.  Some of these are free to enter and some require an entry fee.  This is great because it pushes you to win them so you can claim the huge amount of credits at the end.   As you’re racing along a course, other players doing the same show up besides you. This helps because SSX does not have a normal multiplayer mode.    You are mostly racing/tricking against ghosts of other riders as opposed to real-time players that you can interact with.  For some this is a problem and they attempted to save face by letting you create custom challenges that only people on your friend’s list can access, which helps take the sting out of losing a true multiplayer gametype.

 

The soundtrack is mostly like the other games.  Alot of dubstep has been added because the kids LOVE THE WUB but the best feature of this game in my opinion is the use of custom soundtracks.  “BUT ROB THAT’S NOT NEW!” is what you may be saying and to that I say “NO ONE ASKED YOU!” but what SSX does is pretty freaking sweet.

As in the other games, the music that plays in the background is remixed on the fly depending on how well or how bad you are doing.  This remix feature ALSO WORKS WITH YOUR CUSTOM SOUNDTRACKS.  That’s right, it’s not perfect but it works pretty well.  I was playing the game last night and was tricking pretty hard on a rail doing a ton of spins and as I was hitting my 1080 the remix feature kicked in during the song “Cake and Sodomy” by Marilyn Manson.  That means that for the rest of the rail (while I was still spinning) the song went into loop mode so all that was blaring out from my speakers was the word “fuck” .  It put a huge smile on my face.  You are able to customize your playlists for different parts of the game, meaning that you can have different playlists for the menus, trick courses, race courses, and more.  It’s a small thing that doesn’t affect how the game plays but it really does make all the difference when you hear your favorite songs being used interactively and not just playing in the background.

[pullquote right] That means that for the rest of the rail (while I was still spinning) the song went into loop mode so all that was blaring out from my speakers was the word “fuck” [/pullquote]  This “review” has been mostly positive but now it’s time to get the part of the game that I just don’t like.  The “story”.    The story is lame  and focuses on team SSX trying to conquer the nine Deadly Descents.  The problem is, one of their former team members, Griff , claims he’s going to do it first. *snore*  The use of comic book cutscenes is laughably bad but thankfully you can skip them. No longer are you able to play the character you want in the “story” mode as you are now tied to specific characters for specific mountains.   Thankfully you are able to go into free mode to play as any character as you want, but the addition of the story seems pointless in my opinion.  It feels forced and I hope they either change it up in the next entry or scrap it all together.

After a good number of hours in game I have to say that this is the SSX game that current generation consoles have been waiting for.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store in future editions.

Pros:

  • Custom soundtracks

  • Fluidity of controls

  • Geotags add a nice competitive aspect

  • RiderNet is a fantastic addition to keep track of your friend’s progress and challenges

  • Global Events are addicting!

Cons:

  • Lame story

  • Lamer cutscenes

  • No local Multiplayer

 

Should you play this:  YES

 

Buy it here:

Xbox 360 Version

Playstation 3 Version