Flying off a mountain at insane speeds and meanwhile turning and swirling your body and board in the most ridiculous curves. It’s definitely something else than shooting hostiles or playing a game of tennis. But is the new SSX good as promotion for snowboarding? Only one way to find out…
Where many sports have big combattants in gaming (FIFA vs. PES, Top Spin vs Virtua Tennis, …) SSX has had a monopoly on snowboarding for quite a long time. Or at least since the nostalgic Coolboarders series vanished. The risk in this is the possible relaxation due to lack of competition, something EA Sports luckily doesn’t suffer from.
In singleplayer you get a story that immediately motivates you to finish the descents well. After a quiet start – you need to get the controls under your thumb, and you can choose to do tricks with either the stick or the buttons – it’s time for the real work; end first in the nine Deadly Descents.
The story goes as follows: Griff Simmons, a former member of Team SSX, just left the team and wants to conquer the Deadly Descents on his own. The arrogant prick needs to be stopped and it’s up to you to get Team SSX to the top. Ok, the story may be as thin as a piece of paper and adds little value, it is a fun little extra that can give some added motivation.
For these descents, where you get a different challenge in front of you each time (ice, cliffs, …) you get some help from other boarders. Each round another character will come to your aid, in the hopes to show off Griff. Each of these also has special gear to increase the likelyhood of survival (and success), ranging from windsuits for crossing cliffs, to ice picks for making shorter corners. The different tracks – and there are quite a number of them – are so extensive and have so many possible routes that you’ll play them over and over again without ever getting bored.
The tracks also have different goals. In one you’ll just need to finish first, another will have to gather as many points through tricks as possible. Now and then, especially during the Deadly Descents, your mission will be even simpler: get down without getting killed. And that’s where the rewind button comes in handy. If during a great run you make a small mistake, you can rewind a bit and continue. Always handy! Beware though, as this will result in your points decreasing so it’s crucial to score high enough to be able to undo possible mistakes.
SSX takes you along to Patagonia, Siberia and Alaska and as such delivers beautiful and different snow-covered settings that come with a great soundtrack. Dubstep, drum and bass, electro, all musical tones that perfectly fit and even run into each other seamlessly during your run. It’s, just like the storyline, a nice addition EA Sports included.
Another crucial elements in games like this one; multiplayer. It’s not as classic as you might think as there’s no split-screen but instead Ridernet has been included. This is a system that can be compared to Autolog which is used in the Need for Speed series these days. You can buy new gear and equipment with points gathered on- and offline, and with that you can show off to the best boarders. You get to display your skills in two modes: Global Events and Explorer.
In the latter you each time get a different goal for during your descent. In the beginning you get an AI-controlled ghost next to you, and as the game progresses you get real opponents. The advantage of this is that no everyone has to be online all the time. In Global Events you get a similar system but here you encounter everyone in the hopes to get the big jackpot when the deadline of a certain track runs out. The classic head-to-head challenge may have disappeaerd, Ridernet does manage to make up for that lacking.
SSX is a more than solid reboot of the succesful snowboarding series. Although the story is a bit thin, EA Sports performs a flawless track and crosses the line with a beautiful backflip. SSX may not be like a FIFA game with early updates, but that makes it’s also refreshing. Both new as well as veteran SSX gamers will find their thing in this new iteration in the series and enjoy the over-the-top game SSX has become.