It’s been years since players have had the opportunity to swoosh down snow covered slopes, edging between rocks that spell certain death, and tricking my way through impossible maneuvers. With SSX releasing on Xbox 360 and PS3, it’s good to be back. SSX has returned with improved physics, new game modes, a story, and additional features that compliment each other in unexpected, entertaining way.
After stripping away all the additions, the story, and the deep customization, players are still left with a game that’s simply fun. Which is a good thing because, despite EA Canada’s valiant attempt, the story and added features are unnecessary in a game that relies on speed, tricks, and a combination of the two as a selling point. SSX has been modified to appeal to today’s current audience of gamers and with great applause. So much is added in this installment that purists yearning for the games of old may find themselves alienated and standing in the midst of situations unlike anything they’ve seen before. SSX is an evolution to the series that borders on a revolution. And it’s amazing.
Gameplay is, to be simplistic, people screaming down hills on plastic boards trying to flip, spin, and trick their way to the best score. To get deeper, different game styles are introduced to provide players with an objective that differs from, “flip, spin, and trick” at every opportunity. Snowboarders can participate in trick events with an objective of racking-up the highest score using jumps and grinds, races where all that matters is finishing in first place, or even trying to outrace an avalanche as it bears down on you.
The additions to SSX are welcomed, but feel as if EA Canada are trying to cater to RPG fans. Different “gear” is available, each ranging in quality and focusing on different aspects of gameplay. As you complete events, currency is earned and spent on boards, wingsuits (more on that shortly), and other items that range from “average” to “legendary” and carry different colored text to indicate the rarity of the item, a la World of Warcraft or any other MMORPG currently on the market.
As mentioned, a new ‘wing-suit’ has also been implemented that adds a mechanic never-before-seen in the snowboard genre. As players leap over crevices and gaps in the mountain range that would normally be too wide for anyone not wearing blue tights and a red cape, the wing suit can be initialized to allow for gliding to increase distance. It’s a wonderful change of pace and, for those who can master its use, allows some to extend tricks or shave valuable seconds off of race times.
The most impressive feature in this year’s SSX are those that aren’t readily noticeable: the mountains. Strangely, that’s where the entire game takes place and it’s the most overlooked portion of the game. While players focus on rails and jumps to trick on, EA Canada used data obtained from NASA to generate terrain from actual mountain ranges, giving players an opportunity to experience snowboarding in a quasi-realistic way.
SSX does a great job of incorporating new additions to the snowboarding genre, a genre that has been strangely absent in the last few years. Giving players an opportunity to compete via leaderboards and even geotags, player-placed nodes that earn money as they sit in the world undiscovered, is implemented wonderfully and adds a level of direct and indirect competition among friends. The frame rate keeps surprisingly constant, even in the races with multiple participants and weather effects and the additions are fun and interesting, though some feel a little out-of-place. Finally, the story itself is apparent to players, but not needed. The game hinges on its mechanics and gameplay, so a deeper objective isn’t needed, though it is forced upon players. Overall, it’s an exciting installment into snowboarding and will grab players familiar with previous installment or those looking for a new outlet.
Overall Score: 8 out of 10
Disclaimer: EA provided a copy of SSX for review purposes