Note: This review was done using the Xbox 360 version of the game. It is also available on Playstation 3.
A decade ago, extreme sports ruled the console gaming space. There were skateboarding games, BMX games, surfing games and of course snowboarding games. Out of all the snowboarding games that were released, none was as popular as SSX. However, all dynasties come to an end and the era of extreme sports quickly faded away, leaving only memories of snowboarding runs filled with high speeds and insane tricks. Aside from one mostly ignored title on the Nintendo WII, SSX has been a dormant franchise this generation.
Although there is no indication that the extreme sports bubble is inflating again, after all Tony Hawk games have been in the tank for years, Electronic Arts has deemed the series worthy of a revival and SSX has returned. Thankfully ditching the original concept of SSX becoming a weird hybrid of military action and snowboarding, SSX is mostly the game diehard fans of the series have been waiting years for. Mostly.
The foundation of SSX is built on a symbiotic relationship between speed and tricks. The more tricks you do, the faster you go. The faster you go, the more insane tricks you can perform. This new SSX nails that relationship and with the new analog stick trick system, it has never been easier to do cool things right out of the gate. Doing cool tricks will grant players boost and stringing together combinations of tricks will render players Tricky, allowing them unlimited boost and even higher scores. Going Tricky early and sustaining it as long as possible are the keys to finishing at the top of the charts in races and trick events.
While races and trick events are the core of the game, SSX did not shed all the ideas that stemmed from the original hybrid design. What remains from the paramilitary snowboarding adventure snafu are the all new survival events, which play completely counter to the rest of the game. Survival events toss out high scores and fast times, requiring players to do only one thing, survive.
Survival can be as simple as taking one’s time going down the drop, avoiding trees and rocks, to utilizing specialized equipment like headlamps and oxygen tanks. While it is a unique curveball to the tried and true formula, survival drops tend to be frustrating instead of fun. Unfortunately, the single player World Tour mode is focused firmly on them as every level in World Tour mode is culminated with a survival run called a Deadly Descent.
While the World Tour’s focus on survival runs is disheartening, it fortunately is not the main draw of SSX. No, that honor belongs to the game’s multiplayer modes. Featuring asynchronous multiplayer, instead of direct head to head play, SSX’s Explore and Global Event modes allow for players to race against friends and strangers every time they attempt a drop. To be honest I was quite apprehensive about the multiplayer actually working, after all not actually being able to play friends head to head leaves a giant hole. However, ghost times and the inclusion of the Need For Speed Autolog inspired Ridernet give the game a more competitive draw than many actual head to head games and it can all be done on one’s own time.
Further accentuating that competitive aspect of the game is the in-game economy and character leveling system. Drawing some inspiration from Call of Duty, characters in SSX have load outs that can boost attributes. Using currency earned from drops, players can purchase better boards, suits, equipment and even one-time use mods, all of which can improve player attributes in speed, boost, tricks or up their survival chances. Because these upgrades are tiered based on level there is always a push to get better equipment so as to remain competitive with friends on Ridernet.
As much as some players may want to be competitive, their skills may just not cut it against the best of their friends (like mine). Thankfully, SSX has ways for those players to remain interactive with their friends while still rewarding them with currency to be used to purchase better equipment, which in turn might help make them more competitive. While racing, tricking and surviving are the key focuses, exploration is also rewarded. Geotags, as the game calls them are virtual icons that can be dropped in the world and left for friends, and strangers to search for. These tags earn experience for being placed and found, as well as for the length of time they are left unfound.
Considering the origins this particular game came from, SSX does not really have the right to be as good as it is. The game manages to reinvigorate the dormant series, making snowboarding fun and exciting once again. Aside from the mostly ill-advised survival drops, it stays true to its roots, all the while redefining what multiplayer can be. SSX is a rare game that should not be missed by anyone, let alone fans of extreme sports that should already be playing it.
- Simple yet fun control scheme
- Multiplayer is innovative and fun
- The leveling system and a strong competitive draw keep the game interesting
- Survival drops are more frustrating than fun
5 / 5