Genre: Sport Developer: Publisher: Classification: G Release Date: 1st Mar 2012 Platforms:
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Iíve always felt that there are two major schools when it comes to extreme sports. There are those that skate or die in Tony Hawk and the crowd that would rather spray powder in the otherís face. I definitely favour the latter. I was the guy who lost countless hours to Cool Boarders while everyone else was fapping over Tony Hawk and when SSX (and SSX Tricky afterwards) came along it changed and pretty much consumed my life.
Maybe itís because Iíve been skiing pretty much since I could walk but something about it resonated. Whether it was the massive air, the gravity defying tricks or the banging soundtrack I donít think Iíve ever garnered as much joy, exhilaration or controller snapping frustration from a single title before or since then.
I have to admit that when I first tried out this revamped version of SSX I wasnít a fan. Like a baby fawn approaching something foreign I sniffed at the preview code timidly, hesitantly wondering what could be contained within. I immediately dismissed it for abandoning the outrageous craziness of SSX Tricky for something more along the lines of SSX on Tour, my least favourite incarnation of the franchise.
What I neglected to understand or acknowledge were the implications the new subtleties to the control scheme brought and the overall refinement. Once you come to terms with the significantly more intuitive thumbstick controls (though you can use the buttons as well or a combination of the two) mimicking designs seen in other EA titles such as Fight Night Champion or Grand Slam Tennis 2 youíll be sashaying down the slopes like nobodyís business. Hey, Iíll admit it. I was a little too quick to judge. This is the SSX reboot fans have been waiting for and as an old school die-hard fanatic Iím pretty damned satisfied with the end product.
Thereís not a whole lot to the story. Griff has abandoned Team SSX and is conquering the planetís most treacherous terrain in front of a World Wide Web audience and SSX Ė lead by Zoe - is recruiting to take it back. To this end youíll be shredding your arse off down some of the craziest runs ever seen at nine differing hotspotsÖ errÖ coldspots all over the planet. Itís crazier still if you consider the basis for these snow-capped peaks was provided by geotagged data (thanks NASA!) from the actual locations and the development team took artistic licence from there.
Rather than choose your favourite rider each region has a specific boarder attached to it and youíll have to best them at the start of each new area to use them to play through. Returning to each run affords you the opportunity to play through with your favourite character from an expanded roster of franchise staples and new faces.
The core of SSX hasnít changed all that much. Youíre still greeted by DJ Atomica (in sparing doses thank god) and thereís an outstanding selection of tunes to own each run to comprised of hip hop tracks, electro beats, dance and wub-wub dubstep with none too obtrusive regardless of your musical taste.
Gameplay remains a subtle balancing act between performing mental stunts for a boost assist and finding that sublime racing line to rocket down the mountain like a bat out of hell. Pulling off signature moves, heli-grabs and grinds (which are so freakiní awesome) and nabbing snowflake collectables littering the slopes nets you extra XP unlocking better boards and gear bringing with it an RPG Ďgrindingí element. Even something as simple as a quick boost at the finish line can significantly up your XP.
Where SSX takes it up a notch are the signature events. It wasnít previously called ĎDeadly Descentsí on a whim. These are gamechangers. Each has itís own particular hazard; be it trees, ice, insurmountable crevasses, thin air or bone-shattering cold temperatures, and are both a test of endurance and your nimble fingers and, most importantly, making sure youíve got the right equipment to take the job on.
Youíll be kitting yourself out with durable and health regenerative armour to make it down some of the more treacherous runs as trees fall around you, outrun avalanches (the popular thing to do in EA games as seen in Need For Speed The Run), equip ice axes to gain more traction on the ice ice baby, take to the skies like a flying-fox in your wingsuit or breathe a little easier via oxygen tank as you fly down the mountain.
You see, you need oxygen due to the thin air at extreme altitudes - the Himalayas run is a variation on a burning lap where you pump oxygen from your tank to avoid blacking out with your vision becoming more tunneled the closer you get to losing consciousness. Crazy! Youíll even don some thermal protection in Antarctica to get your blood pumping with temperature drops in tunnels and shadows enough to chill you right to the bone.
Each descent is extremely challenging as you use controlled bursts of boost for precision turns on ice, completely going against your natural tendencies as you juggle between tricks and boost just to survive. It can get frustrating with some sections requiring more than a few replays to advance or a calculated retreat to other game modes like Explore to level up and grab some shiny new items from the shop to increase your chances, but the rewarding experience from conquering each mountain makes it all the more worthwhile.
Rewinds (as seen in Forza Motorsport 4) also get a look in and itís very much a risk versus reward feature for time doesnít stop for other racers. If you muff it up you do get a reprieve, but it often makes winning an even tougher task if itís a regular race. If youíre tricking you lose your combo multiplier so use them wisely and sparingly, or try not to put yourself in that position at all.
The further you progress the more and more it starts to feel like the primo version of the series SSX Tricky as you strategise to find that bueno racing line while picking and choosing those moments to grab some air, your board and let it all hang out. If youíre finding it particularly tough the game actually lets you opt out if you fail too many times. Itís almost impossible for any seasoned gamer not to persevere as you can almost hear the game mocking you with ďOh, you poor uncoordinated gamer you. Is this itty-bitty widdle wun too difficult for you? There, there diddums. SSX will make the hard stuff go away and you can play with some crayons. OK petal?Ē Hmmm. Or maybe itís just meÖ
While many gamers will enjoy SSX throwing the gauntlet down and pushing them to the limit the punishing difficulty spikes will definitely unnerve others and almost feels like they were designed to frustrate newcomers. Personally, I liked bashing my head against a brick wall for an hour until out of nowhere a Zen-like moment would descend upon me and before I knew it I was doing the bull dance, feeling the flow, working it, working it. Every trick was ďTrickyĒ as I threw out more combinations than Chris Brown on a date. When youíre in the zone it can be quite magical. When youíre not though, it can be a stone-cold *****.
If youíre an SSX veteran who has been champing at the bit to get another dose of Run DMC styled snowboarding or a hardcore gamer who is up for a challenge, youíll find a lot to love in SSX. The gameplay is fun, fresh, exciting and bloody tough. Newcomers, however, will find the switches in difficulty brutal and unforgiving. It doesnít cater all that well to the casual enthusiast and will surely alienate those without fond franchise memories to sustain them.