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SSX

 

SSX

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: PS3
Category: Sports
 
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Author: Mat White

Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: EA

I remember times when I would spend hours and hours at a friend's house playing the older games in the SSX franchise. The brand is synonymous with big air, bigger tricks, and a pure fun experience not seen in most games. SSX was a franchise where it didn’t matter if you were a fan or not — you’d still probably enjoy it. Does this new version of a popular series do justice to the classics?

Graphics

I love how the snow looks when the sun hits it and has the appearance of diamonds. Which is nice because you’re going to be staring at snow for the entire time you play SSX. The game really succeeds in providing a colourful and enjoyable world to look at. There are certain aspects of SSX that are needless and ridiculous but these only add to the superb package. One of them is when you reach Super Tricky and get huge air; when you land it starts a massive shockwave that ripples the mountain. It’s additions like these that separate great games from mediocre ones.

During some of the more intense drops in the game you have the experience of snowboarding through Mt. Kilimanjaro in almost complete darkness. You'll also race down a mountain during a heavy blizzard using pulse goggles to see through the blinding wall of snow. The camera is usually focused behind your character as you’re going down a mountain. At one point however, the camera switches positions to the front of you. You are then required to race down a mountain trying to outrun an avalanche. This was my favourite of the nine deadly descents featured in SSX

Sound

One of the first things I noticed about SSX was how well the soundtrack fits during Gameplay. There are 37 licensed tracks from the likes of the Hives, Skrillex and Zion I and the Grouch. What’s so great about the music is the remix engine used in the game. It actually mixes the licensed tracks or your own music depending on what you’re doing and how well you’re boarding. The first time I heard the game remix, some of which I imported, I had a huge smile on my face and thought it was such an awesome and unique feature to put into a game.

EA Sports usually does a good job when capturing the atmosphere and realistic sounds of a particular sport, and SSX is no exception. The crunching of the snow under your board, the whistling wind as you’re flying down the mountain in your wingsuit at 200+ km/h among other things is just fantastic. Your pilots give you advice about the different drops in the game and make comments over the radio about your boarding. There’s even a reference to Rocky IV thrown in there, which is always a plus in my book.

Gameplay

There are over 150 drops spread over nine iconic mountain ranges. The drops branch into three categories:

Race It - Pretty self-explanatory. Your goal here is to set the fastest time possible. There isn’t a set linear path down any mountain, so finding the best path and taking shortcuts is key here. While taking big air isn’t advisable in Race It, tricks are still as important as ever as anyone who has played the old SSX games knows, Tricks = Boost.

Trick It - This is the heart of the franchise. Use jumps and grind whatever you can (including your helicopter) to post the highest possible score that you can. With the new physics engine you can jump and trick off of anything, so your possibilities are next to endless.

Survive It – In this mode it’s you versus the mountain. You’ll be faced with deadly crevasses, huge rocks, avalanches, the darkness and anything else the mountain throws at you, making for a surprisingly intense experience where one wrong move means the end of your run.

The controls in SSX are as sharp and responsive as ever. So if you screw up, you can only blame yourself. You can control your jumps and grabs with either the analog stick or the buttons and go between them at anytime. For those of you who are familiar with the original control scheme, you have the option to switch to it if you’re so inclined.

World Tour is really an extended tutorial set up to get you used to everything that you need to in order to find success online. World Tour takes you to iconic mountains like Mt. Everest where you race against time to avoid running out of oxygen. You snowboard through Mt. Kilimanjaro in almost complete darkness with only a headlamp to aid you. Try to avoid doing too many tricks or else you will inevitably fall into the volcano. I had a lot of fun with all of the Deadly Descents. These “boss battles” provide the player with an incredibly intense and unique experience not found in any other snowboarding game out there.

Online is where you’ll be spending pretty much all of your time. It was inspired by the AUTOLOG from NEED FOR SPEED, which was an excellent idea. There are no lobbies, no waiting around for someone to join your game. You turn the game on and go.

Explore mode has three times the amount of drops found in World Tour. I love the way it works because if you aren't available to play with your friends, they’ll set the records and whenever you log in next, you’ll be able to race against their ghosts and try to beat them. You are rewarded credits every time someone competes against your ghost so even when you aren’t online you are still earning credits. The best feature about Explore mode is that you can play it offline, letting you earn those badges and medals against the AI.

There are Global Events involving thousands of players at once. No lobbies or waiting time necessary. You just post your score or time and try and earn as many credits as you can. If you just want to play against your friends then you just need to create a Custom Global Event and wait for them to join. I am told Custom Global Events has the ability to host 500 different people at the same time.

There are collectibles that you can earn called Geotags. When you find one, you earn credits. You can purchase and place your own in any spot on the mountain that you want. You earn more credits the longer that your Geotag remains unclaimed so hide them well.

SSX has one of the most well built online components to date. No Laggy Servers, No Disconnects. No waiting around for other players. Everything is just fluid and works incredibly well. Other studios should take note of how to provide a fun and engrossing online feature as well as SSX.

The only place in which I feel EA dropped the ball was the exclusion of any split-screen multiplayer component. I remember playing the older SSX games at friends' houses and having a ball. So I was disappointed to not see that included.


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