Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SSX Review

No matter how much time I invested into GTA San Andreas on the Xbox, there was always one game which was played more than SSX Tricky. That game defines the last generation for me and became the go to game for me and my friends for so many years. Crazy tricks, amazing locations and Eddie doing the worm once you reached tricky created a game that never got old. Not to mention the soundtrack by Run-DMC that for me is more iconic than any other video game song before it. So when EA announced that they were reviving a series that had been left out in the cold for far too long, its safe to say that I was more than excited. I believe I even pulled out the old Xbox and played SSX Tricky and SSX On Tour for a good few weeks while my backlog of games built up around me. The pressure was on the developers to keep the nostalgic experience of Tricky for childhood fans like myself, while bringing a new and exciting experience that will be attractive to new players. After the original Deadly Descents trailer the game seems to have had a complete overhaul as requested by the fans, which is great to see. And god, they sure pulled it off!


SSX is a beautiful game and is the first thing you will notice once you actually play it. Videos of gameplay before release don't do the title justice and you won't be able to fully appreciate the scope of SSX until you see it at full speed. What made the older titles so successful was the slickness of the animations and how there were no frame rate issues which made such a smooth process like snowboarding into a jagged mess. This has continued in SSX and whether you are racing down a mountain with an avalanche in hot pursuit or pulling off crazy tricks in the air it all looks spectacular.

Gone are the days of amazing creations like the iconic Tokyo Mexaplex from SSX Tricky as a more realistic approach has been taken, to creating the tracks at least. Mountains in the game are modelled off real world peaks and feature the biggest in the world such as Everest and Kilamanjaro. With the help of NASA they have created mountains which replicate the gradient and ferociousness of these slopes, while also adding in a variety of jumps, ramps and rails to make it interesting. Unlike Tricky which had bright red rails revolving all through the land, this title takes a more subtle approach by trying to make as many items as possible simply blend in. When in China you will be jumping off parts of the Great Wall, where as finding yourself in a cave will have you coming across old mine tracks to grind on. While I missed the extremeties of past titles, it was all soon forgotten by the sheer beauty of the tracks as well as the extra detail put into the nine deadly descents. That being said, a lot of time and love was put into crafting each slope in the game.

A fan favourite line-up of riders has returned and a few new ones have been brought into the franchise. Despite my anger when realising that Eddie was a pre-order incentive that I've now had to purchase off eBay, its great to see the riders I spent days and days racing with having spiced up haircuts and outfit choices. Gone are the days of Elise's tight lycra or Psymon's singlet, everyone now rocks the classic baggy pants and jacket that snowboarders are known for. Whats great to see is the uber tricks for riders returning. Getting 'tricky' is easier than ever so you can perform these uber tricks at will unlike perform where dedicated timing of jumps was required to get these off. They all look spectacular in motion and the intense speed that they are performed doesn't detract from the awesomeness of taking the board off your feet and spinning it around in your hand. Neither does grinding off a helicopter in the air mind you.

The one bright shining light out of all the awesome aspects of SSX is definitely the soundtrack. It's obvious to see what the developers were aiming for when they went for the electro-dub score featuring many popular artists such as Example and Nero. The beats are bumping and the bass drops regularly which all sets the game up perfectly for the exhilirating run down the mountain. The classic "It's Tricky" is back but only if you go to the menus and choose it over the new dubstep remix by Pretty Lights. As much as I love the original, I chose the remix as it fits in well with the rest of the songs and is a damn good song at that. They have mixed the songs into the game well, adjusting perfectly to your situation just like in Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. When you fill your tricky metre 'It's Tricky' starts playing and really spurs you on.


By now I'm sure you have heard of SSX's slogan of Race It, Trick It, Survive It. These are the three modes in the game, expanding on the two of previous titles. These events can all be played in either Global Events (SSX's take on multiplayer), Explore or Deadly Descents which is the main story mode in the game. For the first time they have tried to incorporate some reasoning behind snowboarding and in particular why the SSX team wants to conquer the nine deadly descents. It is quite an odd storyline because a whole team of elite snowboarders are trying to beat one single person to conquering all descents, which either way I look at it seems to make Griff out as the better snowboarder. Nine snowboarders onto one is quite unfair but its fairly irrelevant as no one is here for the story, it's all about carving in the snow!

Deadly Descents are mountains that have treacherous qualities that are unique to that slope and require special equipment if you even hope to survive. These range from giant rocks in the way to the regular tendency of avalanches or even the lack of oxygen if you don't descend fast enough. These all offer an unique challenge and definitely do well to mix up the formula. I came in expecting to hate this new addition but they have made sure to put it in the game, but not make it the focal point (Hence why Deadly Descents was dropped from the title). Explore mode basically opens up the entire game and lets you compete on all 153 race, trick and survive events to try and achieve bronze, silver or ideally gold medals. Unlike Deadly Descents which I completed with no troubles or repeated plays to level my character to complete tracks, I found that the gold medals actually offer a challenge and encourage multiple plays in order to achieve the high scores. A lot of time can be quickly sucked away from playing through explore.

While there was no online play in earlier titles, it sure was a social game for me. Myself and my three similarly aged neighbours would spend rainy days inside competing for glory on SSX Tricky. I was hoping that we could continue this with SSX, especially online, but it hasn't appeared in the form I was expecting. Global Events lets you compete for credits which are the currency for buying boards, gear and suits (These are also available to earn in the other modes) by coming in different rankings. Your time or score is ranked against other peoples time and competitions run for only a certain amount of time. Featuring all the runs of explore mode there is a lot to do here, but racing ghosts lacks the same intensity at racing people in real time. Friends can post times up that you can attempt to challenge kind of like NFS' autolog system which adds the competitive nature. A stock standard online component is what this really needs added on top to make the complete package.

When it comes down to it, SSX is just so much fun to play. I found myself doing runs multiple times and never taking the same path twice. Little collectibles called Geotags encourage you to soar high and look low to earn more credits and levelling up your characters will take you a while to max out. Most of all, after that it's good to see the game still have that classic SSX fun factor. Simply put, I enjoyed racing and doing crazy tricks for the fun of it in a game that doesn't take itself seriously and is created as a completely arcade snowboarding game. It is smooth, reliable and the trick stick works great for pulling off a large array of tricks.


Apart from the lack of true multiplayer, SSX has lived up to my lofty expectations and has delivered everywhere that I hoped it would. This would be close to my most anticipated game for 2012 and that isn't downplaying the quality of this years lineup but merely reemphasising the respect I have for this series. Snowboarding is as fun as ever, the deadly descents are a big risk that have been pulled off to great success and this game is probably bigger than ever with the multiple routes on the 27 mountains available. I want everyone to buy this game so the series can be revived and once again prove why it is the king of extreme sports in gaming. SSX is back baby!

Graphics - 9.5/10
Sound - 10/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Overall - 9.5/10