- Street Date:
- February 28th, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Chad Goodmurphy
- Review Date:1
- March 6th, 2012
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Electronic Arts
- EA Canada
- ESRB Rating:
- E (Everyone)
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that 12 years have passed since the first SSX game was released as a launch title for the PlayStation 2. Since then, the gaming community has evolved quite a bit. Popular franchises have come and gone, with some notable revamps failing to catch ground. The extreme sports sub-genre, which was once a saturated market, also hasn’t been heard from much as of late. Perhaps that’s a sign of the times, or just a lack of quality; both ideas can be debated. Regardless of circumstance, one thing is for sure: EA Sports is hoping that it can wow longtime supporters, as well as a new generation of sports game enthusiasts, with a series revamp that is simply known as SSX.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Many snowboarding enthusiasts have dreamed about speeding down a steep mountain at speeds far exceeding 100 miles per hour. After all, that type of a once in a lifetime event would be an incredible thrill ride. However, the fact is that most riders are nowhere near qualified to handle the danger that comes with boarding in those types of remote areas. That type of terrain requires an immense amount of skill and one must always be prepared for a potentially dire emergency to come up. Thankfully, video games let us experience those thrills digitally, from the safety of our homes.
If one were to ask a longtime SSX fan about the brand, his or her answers would highlight its course-based, edge of your seat action. The series’ previous releases used a mixture of high-speed thrills with outrageous tricks that X Games athletes wish they could pull off. Combine those two elements with split-second decision making meaning the difference between a disastrous spill and a last second victory, and you have the magic recipe that made this franchise a hit last generation. We’ll overlook the slight misstep that SSX Blur was when it became an early Wii exclusive.
Keep in mind that this version of SSX is not a remake. Although it features the same name as the iconic launch title from the year 2000, this experience is somewhat different. The visually spectacular tricks are there, along with the edge-of-your-seat speed we all love. In fact, both elements’ dials have effectively been turned up a few notches, delivering even more over-the-top content than before. However, one major design element has been removed. That would be courses, which have been removed in favour of much more sinister environments based on real-life mountain regions. This notable change forms the basis of the game, providing an opportunity to board on those aforementioned deadly descents.
In order to come out on top, one must master at least one of the two available control options. It’s possible to play using button-based inputs for tricks. That standard design still works well without any notable faults, but it’s one-upped by a new scheme that uses the right joystick for the majority of the included trick book. Tweaks can be added using the right trigger button, providing a chance to score even more points.
As one would surely expect, the goal is to be creative with your tricks, no matter which control option is taken advantage of. Outrageously spectacular spins and flips can be pulled off with ease, thanks to a system that has seen notable improvements in order to allow for great accessibility. Winning requires tricks to be completed at almost any provided opportunity, filling the player’s boost meter based on point totals earned. Once the meter is filled, a Tricky indicator and uber tricks will become available. When it’s filled a second time, super ubers can be pulled off for a limited time, using a combination of inputs. Its availability is signaled by Run DMC’s popular song, It’s Tricky.
This time around, a story mode is present instead of a basic career mode. It revolves around Zoe Payne, a returning character who assembles a star-studded group of snowboarding enthusiasts under the banner of Team SSX. Their plan is to tackle nine deadly descents found around the world, including the Canadian Rockies, the Swiss Alps and Mount Kilimanjaro. However, just when everything seems to be in place, Griff Simmons defects and decides to outdo his peers. As a result, our good intentioned group, which is made up of quite a few returning faces, sets its sights on outdoing its opponent. All of this is broadcast to fans, with occasional commentary from series’ veteran, DJ Atomica.
It can be said that Zoe Payne is the main character here. Though, the game is set up in a way as to make players use every avatar, with all of them having statistical specialties. Close to ten good guys duke it out against the rival defector on the nine separate ranges. One new member of Team SSX is introduced in each location, allowing his or her skills to be showcased during several events before the next boarder gets a turn to shine.
Players’ aforementioned trip around our snow-covered world is dotted with three types of events: Race It, Trick It or Survive It. The first two variations focus on competition between up to four different riders who are all trying to come out victorious at the finish line or on the score sheet. Where they differ from what we saw in previous SSX games is in environmental design. There aren’t any more laps to contend with. Instead, each run is a downward trip from the top of a mountain to a certain plateau where a helicopter awaits. That same pilot is responsible for dropping your rider off at the peak, with quite a few events beginning with a visceral drop from a mechanical bird.
Over the course of this six to eight hour-long single player mode, players will battle it out for podium spots in a large amount of one off events. Most of that run time is comprised of the two aforementioned scenarios and their goal-related objectives. For the most part, a great mixture of fun and difficulty is presented within. Though, there were a couple of areas where frustrating track design affected things. With those tracks, blind crevasses were a repeated source of anger. The rewind feature helped, but one fall can mean the difference between a first and last place finish in races where turning back player movement does not affect other riders.
In the backcountry, the potential for avalanche activity is never a forgotten factor. Snowboarders can trigger one without knowing, putting themselves in an incredible amount of peril. This natural occurrence was taken advantage of in two specific race events, where the camera switched from a behind-the-back perspective to an aerial view, which faces the utilized avatar on a slight upward angle. The goal is to use an ally’s commands and a limited view to steer through oncoming obstacles as large amounts of snow pile downward. Those two scenarios became a neat diversion from the norm. It took a moment to get used to their reversed gameplay mechanics, however.
Despite being the least prominent challenge type, this mode’s main focus is on the nine included Survive It scenarios. They task gamers with taking on the elements in an attempt to make it to the bottom of a specific deadly descent without dying. Not one of these dangerous drops is the same, which is a great thing, with each one requiring a specific piece of equipment for optimal odds of survival. Examples include using a helmet light to show the way through a dark and treacherous volcano, as well as a fight against a freezing cold mountain and its hypothermia inducing shadows. All of the variety found within these final boss battles, if you will, is outstanding. Thanks to developers who thought outside the box, the end result is a challenging new snowboarding experience, which certainly won’t be forgotten.
All of the mentioned action takes place on various mountains spread throughout the nine available ranges. Unlocking one area means that three different peaks will become available. The first two can include up to three different runs, while the last one is always reserved for those aforementioned elemental showdowns where deft skill must be proven. It’s a relatively basic world map design, but one that works very well here. After all, what would a snowboarding game be without mountains?
Electronic Arts certainly feels as if it has an ace up its sleeve with the Autolog social feature found in the Need For Speed franchise. Allowing for easily managed friend scoreboards and challenges, the design has been ported over to this release, under the title of RiderNet. Within its confines, earned badges (in-game achievements) can be viewed, alongside friends’ successes. It’s only used in the great secondary Explore mode, which brings a large amount of new events to the party. This is where you can compete for supremacy against your friends list, while going for elusive gold medals.
What is a very entertaining core experience is slightly marred by a couple frustrating events, which end up creating an uneven difficulty spike. There are also documented freezing issues and rare glitches that can give players completion medals during failed runs. Both technical problems will hopefully be patched at a later date. At this point in time, anyone with the ability to overlook each of those seldom-occurring faults will find a great snowboarding game within this fast and fluid powder carving design.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Our world is a beautiful place, and mountain ranges happen to be one of its most incredible wonders. SSX does them great justice, delivering a beautiful game that is colourful, detailed and visceral. The stark, white snow reacts like it should, showing impressions from specific movements. It would have been nice if more light flurry activity was shown, but that happens to be a minor gripe.
Every mountain range has its own feel and identity, which is made much more evident by the use of slightly different colour schemes and the addition of special objects. It happens to be those environmental inclusions such as protruding great walls, a snow covered pipeline and a forgotten rollercoaster, which really add character to the rocky slopes. Of course, their primary function is to provide exciting things to trick off of, which is an area where this game excels. Each slope includes various different routes to be taken, each with its own hidden wonders.
When a new member of Team SSX is introduced, it’s done using a motion comic design. They’re all well drawn, but they happen to be somewhat uninspired. It’s too bad that the development team hadn’t come up with a better idea to showcase each boarder’s personality. Conversely, the in-depth cutscenes that detail new environments are very stylish with impressive fidelity.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Sound is a major facet of this experience, as it heightens the sport’s immersion factor, while adding some style. Since you’re speeding down gigantic mountains at incredible speeds, a lot of attention was paid to making the wind sound right. It does, much like the other quality sound effects, which are used to replicate standard maneuvers. Since this is an arcade experience, extra emphasis was notably added. That emphasis is not employed during the game’s somewhat limited voice over segments, which feature a mixture of exaggerated humor and stark realism, the latter coming from its helpful helicopter pilots.
Music, both licensed and original is used for great effect, in order to add the aforementioned style element. Songs from multiple genres are featured on a customizable soundtrack, which includes artists such as Skrillex, Foster the People and Noisia. A neat remixing system is employed, in order to make those tracks change depending on what the player is doing. Grinding, for example, will create skipping noises, while daunting air will be exemplified through volume and effect changes. This design works well, although it did glitch at one point, effectively removing all environmental sound effects before freezing.
There’s a notable trend occurring, where a large amount of gamers have become hesitant to purchase any experience that lacks multiplayer or unlimited replay value. Those folks will be extremely happy with this release, because it’s full to the brim with interesting replay opportunities. The core experience is one where besting yourself or another is the priority. As a result, endless amounts of retries will be used, in order to pursue that goal. That’s where Explore mode comes in handy, with well over one hundred events to go for gold in. RiderNet also complements this design perfectly.
On top of the mentioned single player content, gamers will find a Global Events open. This is the multiplayer portion of the experience, although it lacks the lobby system that we’ve become accustomed to. You simply pick an ongoing (timed) event or create one yourself, and then try to beat scores posted by others. Friends can wait for each other at a drop off point, in order to ride together. Since there are thousands of people online at any given time, this mechanic is extremely effective. Just beware of the fact that the competition is already incredibly stiff, meaning that it will take a lot to win an event’s purse.
Although an online pass is included with brand new copies of SSX, it is not required to access any of the multiplayer competitions. It simply restricts users from cashing in their earned credits, which can be used in all modes to purchase new coats, boards, items and mods for each character. You could use real-life currency to purchase some, but it’s not advised. Even without online victories, credits aren’t too difficult to come by.
Before SSX was released, this console generation lacked a quality snowboarding game. Now, it has one that comes close to being exemplary. EA Canada has done a commendable job, by creating an SSX experience which feels contemporary, while still maintaining the series’ core essence that so many of us fell in love with over a decade ago.
- Dolby Digital 5.1
- Online Co-op
- Online Versus
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