There is something about the SSX series which will always hold a place in my gaming heart. I’m not too sure why exactly. Things have long moved on from the games original release on PlayStation 2 in the year 2000, although while that particular piece of hardware and all its associated games have since left my possession, one game remains on my shelf, SSX.
Such is the high regard I hold for the original game in the series, that I couldn’t bring myself to let it go, even though I have no means of playing it. Who knows, maybe one day I will divulge once more and splash out on a PS2, however for now it just sits as lonely figure on my shelf, sandwiched in between its younger brother, looking on as if its best days are well and truly behind it.
While it may be the case that the original has long been forgotten (by everyone except me at least), it seems that EA is determined to make the SSX live on in the current generation and in this respect, with the latest game in the series, the mega-publisher has more than exceeded its goal. Developed by EA Canada, the new SSX tells the story of a team of the worlds most skilful extreme sports people, who have decided amongst themselves that it’d be a good idea to take on the nine Deadly Descents; known to you and me as the most dangerous mountains in the world. To do this the team manages to get funding from all manner of sponsors, before one of the members rebels, aiming to beat everyone else to the crunch; it’s your teams job to stop him.
Now I must confess that I’m no snowboard expect, I’ve never taken part in the sport in real life, in fact the closest I’ve came is when I went on a skiing trip with my school to Italy, although I’m not sure how much that counts since I spent most of my time going down the black run on my rear end. I do know fun when I see it though and SSX has more of this than it does snow covered mountains.
When SSX first starts up you are greeted with two control options. The first option will go down well with fans of the series of old, mapping your tricks to the face buttons. Alternatively you can opt for the new way of doing things, with left and right stick controlling movement and the buttons assigned to mixing your tricks up a little. Personally, I tried the new way of doing things, well to begin with anyway, before deciding I’d had enough of sitting on my butt in the snow and switched to classic.
Getting into the action takes you to your first port of call, the single player experience, known as World Tour. This tutorial style game mode takes you around all nine mountains, introducing you to the various game types. Here, your hand is essentially held on the way down the mountain, teaching you the best way to pull off tricks and encouraging you when things go wrong. The world tour can be a frustrating experience, but at least you can skip some modes once you fail a few times, allowing you to quickly move on to the more exciting parts of the game.
Once unlocked, other modes are much better. Explore allows you to go to any region you wish, taking part in Race, Trick it or the exciting Survive it events. The latter is certainly the most interesting. You see, all of the mountains have a Deadly Descent which require you to have special equipment, such as armour, ice picks and even a wingsuit, due to the danger that faces you on the way down. These mountains throw all manner of hazards at you, be it ice, avalanches, rocks or any other ‘worst case scenario’ you can think of. It’s exciting, exhilarating and darn right scary all at the same time. Would you really have it any other way though?
Spread throughout the entire game is the ability to connect with friends through RiderNet, which is basically a Need for Speed ‘Autolog’ inspired feature, allowing you to connect with friends, find out scores and respond to challenges. This is also complimented by the Global Event mode, where you can jump in and post the highest score or fastest time you can. You’ll even see other players doing the same as you try your best to gain a medal, although in a sense you aren’t really competing against these players, but rather against the world. If you are looking for a more traditional style of experience, then you can invite friends, although even if this isn’t possible, you’ll still be able to compete against them via RiderNet.
For all the options SSX provides, to me the game is all about the action. The first time you get out on the snow is the real test of how well this game relates to what made the original so good and in my opinion it pretty much nails it. There is no greater experience in this game than racing down a mountain, be it in Patagonia, Siberia or any of the other regions, as you try to get your way into first place against the various competitors. This becomes even more exciting when you are tricking it up, trying to rack up a higher score than your opponents.
Pulling off tricks is a lot of fun, whatever event you play in. Each time you pull off tricks you’ll see a trick bar fill up, once this reaches it’s peak you’ll then have the ability to pull of some super tricks. Each character has their own unique moves here and seeing them in action is quite spectacular. There’s nothing quite like descending down the mountain, pulling off these tricks, it’s quite an experience.
As you’d expect, each of the mountains is packed with hazards with plenty of rails, broken trees and all other manner of things to grind on. Massive jumps are a given, therefore you’re sure to have plenty of air time to pull of whatever tricks you can muster. There are also many other hazards which block your path or provide the need for split second thinking, such as fallen trees, hidden tunnels, branching paths and more. Thankfully EA has included a (limited use) rewind option, so if you do mess up you can take a step back, although it’ll be at the cost of some points.
There is no doubt that SSX is a fantastic looking, feature packed game. The ability to take part in unlimited events both online and offiline, coupled with the ability to level up your characters and equip them to the hilt thanks to the in-game credits you’ll earn, is fantastic. RiderNet also adds to the experience, adding a competitive nature to the title that you can experience any time, not just when your friends are online.
To me, with this new release, EA’s captured the SSX that I know and love. It’s a fast paced, over the top, competitive game and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After the first game the SSX series took a path I wasn’t particularly happy with, however now it’s gone back to basics, albeit with a modern twist and it’s all the better for it.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
SSX is out now on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. You can order your copy here (PS3) and here (Xbox 360).