On odd occasions I have people walk up to me in the street and ask me bizarre questions like: "Where did you get those socks?" or "I'm supposed to be meeting my wife at the morgue, can you point me to it?". I usually respond casually, hand them money if necessary and move them on their way, but if someone approached me and asked me what I thought of the SSX series, I would sharply respond with a big: "SO MANY FOND MEMORIES, DO YOU HAVE ALL DAY SIR?".
It's fair to say that I couldn't really go into the review of the new, recently released version of SSX level-headed because I loved the series so much as a child. So much so that when the logo appeared on the load-up screen I did a little dance and squeal around my room, acknowledging to myself I was an absolute idiot. The only thing missing from the start of the was the "EA SPORTS... BIG!" 'jingle' if you will, but times move on and small company off-springs can't all last throughout the years.
I wasn't disappointed when I'd calmed-down from the excitement to press start and get on with actually playing the as you can't take anything away from the glorious look of this game. The menus are very inviting and simple to navigate so jumping straight into the isn't a problem thanks to the handy Rider Net engine/director/helper thing, guiding you to your next logical mountain drop when you have lost all hope as to where to go next in the monstrously vast game.
The opening tutorial is a bore if you have played the demo but if you choose to continue with it as opposed to skipping it, you are ushered through the various tricks and moves you will need to understand to fully appreciate the game, for if you think this is simply a racing snowboard you are strongly mistaken. Once you complete the mid-air trick and on-snow boarding tutorials you can proceed into the main game.
Controls work exceptionally well in the game and are a credit to the EA Canada development staff. They work exactly the same as the previous in which the buttons on your controller works tricks however multiple button presses or alternative button presses, one after another, apply slightly different moves - though nothing too complicated. If you want a change you can use the right stick for tricks - I would recommend testing the two out to see which is more natural to you.
Shredding through the snow is just as satisfying in this installment of SSX just as much as all the other titles before it. Back when I first started playing racing like Mario Kart I would physically move into every turn, as I've grown up I've stopped doing so but for some strange reason, every time I take a harsh turn in this stunningly fluid I can't help but drift my body from left to right - a sensation I can't stop myself doing. I think the reason I do this is simple, SSX is such an immersive experience it's hard not to get physically involved even if you have no reason to.
Arguably the main mode of SSX is the World Tour mode where you are part of Team SSX, trying to dominate your rival Griff at the 9 Deadly Descents (you see what they did there?). Each descent has a stand-out hazard from Trees to Ice, Altitude to Darkness. You can kit your character out with the best gear in an attempt to survive but you get more rewards for not using them at all. For example, to help you shred better on the ice you can use ice picks. You can't go straight into those descents as that would rapidly reduce the longevity of this game, so you need to build up your reputation in the specific areas before you get a chance to try out the life threatening drops.
Explore mode allows you to compete for all 150+ gold medals for each and every drop in the game using various characters, not just the ones you are restricted to in the World Tour mode. This will take you a very long time to achieve as the scores and times are no small feat to attain.
The characters of the game have just as much personality as they did in every single game before, mimicking best those of Tricky. All of the favourites are there, bar one or two that can be added through the wonder of DLC of course and the voices are still there, just as amusing as before - a nice nod from the EA developers to appreciate the older lovers of the series.
The Online mode is something that has had many critics either ranting or raving but I'm indifferent. This is the only part of SSX that loses marks from me because it doesn't have live multiplayer and it doesn't have split-screen. When I heard about the "jump in and out tournaments" I instantly thought of Trackmania, where you could race live against players and you are given a specific amount of time to complete your best run. Alas, EA have made it so you complete tournaments over the space of a day or two, some with credit buy-ins, some free, but nothing is actually 'live'. If you submit a time or score that is within a certain bracket then you will receive in-game currency at the end of the tournament dependant on how you have done as an average; the highest paid players will be those that are in the minority (the top 1% or so) and then the rest of the pot is split between the lower scores/times until you could drop out altogether.
One fond memory of SSX for me as a young boy was the multiplayer - this was before the days of Xbox Live and the PSN so split-screen was the only option but if you are going to remove that then at least have a live online multiplayer to participate in. I wouldn't even be annoyed if you had live ghosts to go against, much like in Mario Kart! You download a set of progressively harder ghosts, race against those and then post a time, just to give you some legitimate competition, rather than the randomly appearing ghosts that appear in the middle of your run that you can't keep track of. How are you supposed to improve your time if you can't see what people are doing better than you, other than the obvious that is Googling: "Fastest time/highest score on X (name of track)". As you can tell it's a sour point for me.
On the other hand, Geo-Tags are a nice addition. Allowing players to place custom 'flags' that other users can obtain either in online modes or on the single player modes (as long as you are connected to the Internet of course). You can place and collect Geo-tags that earn you credits depending on how long they are there or how many you pick up. The idea being that you put them in the most remote place on the map or in clear sight at the highest point at the top of a huge jump to tease the on-coming boarders. It's a nice and original touch but doesn't give a good enough alternative to the distinct lack of 'proper' multiplayer.
SSX might not be perfect but it sure as heck fills a massive gap in my console collection. It's a game that I will be able to come back to again and again that I hope will never age. However, once the online ghost servers get pulled (in what could be less than two years judging my EAs recent form) it may have a shorter life-span than it should. The music and stunning visuals add to the great experience regardless of how you play; offline or on. SSX as a series is a classic and deserved a decent 'now' generation revamp for the new generation of gamers that those older gamers can appreciate too, and it's certainly got one, even if it does have some draw-backs.
- A great series re-vamp
- Stunning graphics
- Fluid, intuative movement of your board
- Excellent music
- Lack of split-screen
- No 'live' multiplayer