Published on March 5th, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Developer: EA Sports (EA Canada)
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3
Release Date: Feb. 27, 2012
SRP: USD $59.99
After the dynamic trailer that we saw from E3 2011, there was no doubt that SSX was on the rise. It looked as though the revisit to the franchise was going to be the most over-the-top and environment specific snowboarding titles to date. Sure, Cool Boarders was “cool” until other snowboarding titles pelted the market, SSX being one of those. Now, the only real competition SSX has is—itself.
Just like prior titles in the series, there are a couple familiar game modes. The Trick-It and Race-It courses are back. A new face in the challenge crowd is the Survive-It category. This is where the wingsuit or selected armor come into play. Weigh your options as to which gear you are willing to shell out the points for, and suit up to take on the brutal beast known as Mother Nature.
The game opens up with the introduction of our first character, Zoe. She is a familiar face in the game’s history and kicks off the games big adventure. After losing Griff for his solo career, the team is heading out to tame the elements on a live stream to raise funds.
The game divulges character information in the format of a comic book strip. It moves the story along, but it never really goes back to touch on the friction between the main premise of the game and the “antagonist”, Griff Simmons. I would have liked it to revisit this tension and would have added the feeling that I was stickin’ it to the dude, bro. As we learn all about the exploration, we are also taken on a tour of the newly introduced control scheme.
Generally, most skateboarding and snowboarding games follow the same classic setup for tricks. Most older games favor the button only style and the newer ones incorporate more natural feel utilizing the right stick (RS) and left stick (LS) to mimic the type of movement the board makes in real life. Even so, there are only so many things you can do with the standard controller setup that was different than the last layout. One newly introduced button/action is the use of gear. The ‘RB’ acts as a trigger for the use of oxygen or the wingsuit. If you think soaring through the air like a flying squirrel looked kickass in the trailer, it is.
The game settles around the use of the ‘RS’ and ‘LS’ for steering and grabs. The ‘RT’ and ‘LT’ are used for turbo and tweaking grabs. The ‘A’ button is also used to jump, so the choice is yours whether you want to use buttons, or wind up with the ‘RS’. Even with the new control scheme, I would have like to keep the ‘RS’ locked and my character crouched even after small dips and hips in the snow.
Breaking the ‘RS’ into quarters and using half turns in certain directions will make your player grab different portions of the board. For example, if you want to grab the right side of the board and tweak it, the motion would look something like moving the ‘RS’ first down to load your jump, to the immediate right, and then a half circle upwards. There is also a classic mode available, but I didn’t feel like it supported the new gameplay engine.
The new engine feels a lot looser and allows for more swivel in your turns and sharper carving. At first glance, the moves seem like they will work out as specified. The moves look great it the tutorial, but when it comes down to actually pulling off the tricks in the midst of a mountain blitz, hello button mash city. It wasn’t until I became seasoned in the moves that I felt that I really had some control.
There is a different feel to this revisit to the franchise. Due to graphic limitations, the older titles in the series, although open, didn’t feel like you could boast the same “trick off anything” motto. From giant drainage pipes, to icy mountain sides that could whip you to your doom, there was a great feel of control when navigating these aerated terrains. At times, it was almost too much control.
There were certain areas of the map where I felt “attached” to the mountain as if some magnetic force was pulling me in. At one point on Mount Belukha East, the “mountain-sticking” even allowed me to hit the turbo after rolling to the underside of a cliff, wrap around it, and spit me back up on top of the ledge avoiding the fall.
In some midair situations, I hooked to nearby ledges and curves, pulling me into the grasp of the snow. At times this feature could be linked to make some gnarly combos, but in others it interrupted them and caused me to use a rewind to fix it. It was somewhat of a double-edged sword. It allowed me hit jumps on the varied landscape, or make quick corrective action on a down hill sprint. Although these worked well, it also hindered my coiling up for an anticipated jump by pulling me to a random curve.
The gameplay of SSX encompasses the exploration of mountains throughout the world. Prior titles isolated the game to a single mountain fronts, but explored every nook and cranny of its courses. In this version we hop from mountain-to-mountain and travel the globe. The exploration in this aspect did however offer quite a few changes in what you can expect on a level-by-level basis. From front-facing camera views to immediately changing gears for a wingsuit survival map, it keeps the gameplay varied and fun. There are nine mountain ranges to venture to over the course of the game and unlockable runs to utilize the Geotag feature. Here are the available mountain chains in no particular order:
Traveling to each of these locations also opens up a new player in the lineup. There are nine riders to the SSX team, and even a few collectible. Characters can also level-up by completing runs and there is an abundance of equipment to use. This gave the game more depth than just your typical conquer the mountain to win money and show how B.A. you are. Although this was cool and all, I do feel however that it did have its limitations and could have been expanded more. The developers could have possibly even included an “Arcade” mode and a “Campaign” to further imply that development of equipment and character was a necessity. It was broken down in the revisiting to maps, and with other skill upgrades, but I never felt like my character was truly developing.
Traveling to each mountain is also something that is included in the online mode for the game. Players can journey to each mountain and put their learned skills to the test in online competitions. Even with the at times troublesome mechanics, the online mode did however shine through the faults.
The modes are the same, and there are even some customization aspects to these modes. At any given point there are multitudes of riders taking their crack at a given mountain. Players can compete on these leaderboards and keep their name at the top of the list. If they tear the course apart, their name stays on the leaderboard until the countdown is concluded. If you are lucky enough to hold out, the winner gets the goods. The goal is to take on these speed or trick bandits and knock them out of their ranked position. Survive, trick or speed better than your competitors and you will have a nice lump some of points under your belt.
After spending quite some time with SSX I still don’t know if I could claim, as Games Radar put it, “[It’s] One of the most wanted games of the year.” Sure it’s got actual mountain ranges that were created from geotagging data thanks to NASA. It’s also got more natural movement and almost all real life moves you can expect when carving a mountains’ fresh powder. It has also got some epic moments of winged flight and enough killer tracks to keep your toes tappin’. These would all be great if the gameplay didn’t drive me crazy.
SSX is not a bad game by any means. EA Canada gave the game unprecedented style and flare. The fresh new game face could have easily used a few things in the controls department that gave it a more polished feel. The online mode will bring players back to test their skills and the unlockables and upgrades in the game drive it home with some major depth. Some final tinkering with character development and controls would have easily brought me to jot down SSX as a must have game on my year’s bucket list.
+ Online multiplayer
+ New features to the franchise