SSX – Game Analysis & Review
By Patrick Newman
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Genre: Sports (winter)
Modes: Single-player, asynchronous multiplayer
Rating: E for Everyone
Bringing a much-needed kick of energy to console gaming’s dying extreme sports genre, SSX lives up to its expectations and then some. There hasn’t been an offering in this franchise since 2005 (with SSX On Tour), but this new installment for a new generation of gamers proves itself well worth the wait. Offering numerous, diverse playing environments with tons of complexity in terms of route and visual detail, the game is bursting at the seams with content that rewards multiple play-throughs. With an affable playing style that is easy to learn but difficult to master, SSX is a must-buy for anyone who appreciates console racing in all of its forms.
The story involves home snowboarding Team SSX racing around the world in order to conquer the nine Deadly Descents – the most deadly mountain ranges in the world. A former teammate named Griff has a head start on beating the mountains, and so it is a contest between the two snowboard-addicted parties to take the world record. The game contains its races in a presentation of impeccable visual polish and sound design. The mountain regions were based on real-life satellite surveys, and the soundtrack is thick with impeccably chosen music cues (Run DMC’s “Tricky” returns) that fade in and out seamlessly with the gameplay.
The maps traverse wildly contrasting snowscapes throughout the world, at locations such as Mount Kilamanjaro, the Great Wall of China, and the cliffs of Patagonia. SSX pulls off the incredible feat of maintaining a steady frame rate (a staple of its PlayStation 2 predecessor) while also capturing photo-realistic weather conditions like snow flurries and sunlight, even while snowboarding across the map at racing speed. Though some of the cartoonish design elements of previous games have been upgraded to a more realistic standard, you’ll still be able to do tricks off of a low-gliding helicopter or grind on the Alaskan pipelines.
Success while playing the game, as always, depends upon the ability to pull off as many tricks as possible, even during racing mode, and it is here that the intuitive control scheme comes in handy the most. An accumulation of trick points causes the player’s boost level to rise, giving terrain-savvier racers the edge. Also to that end, every course is well-stocked with alternate racing routes, which not only put racers ahead of the game via hidden canyons and tunnels, but sometimes saves them from the harsher elements of the map’s terrain (avalanches, suffocating heights and jagged obstructions constantly thwart your advance).
The newest addition to SSX’s large stable of modes is Survive It, which rewards players’ ability to race the Deadly Descent challenges without faltering or dying. Among its many perks is a wing-suit drop on Patagonia’s Fitz Roy, which turns the racer into a giant flying squirrel, of sorts\. World Tour mode is the best way for gamers to familiarize themselves with the environments before diving into multiplayer mode, which, despite its lack of local racing options, is vast and highly enjoyable. Built on the same Autolog feature so successfully used in Need for Speed, the real-time (no lobbies) multiplayer mode allows up to 500 people to compete over the same mountain in global events.
The once-essential SSX series has been out of the limelight for 7 years, and now that the game has seen release, we can see that the absence has clearly been used to refine an already impressive racer into something extraordinary. With peerless mountain ranges, an eclectic soundtrack and enjoyably over-the-top gaming mechanics, SSX has surpassed expectations to ace any previous entry in the genre.
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