The name SSX is seemingly symbolic of the entire early ‘00s as a whole, conjuring up images of early extreme adventures on the PS2, and for anyone interested in snowboarding videogames, it was just about the best way to see them in action. But, like with so many of our favourite franchises, it then seemingly dropped off the radar, only to emerge in the resurrecting fires of Reboot, that has taken so many other things in the last few years.
The question remains though, is this a faithful return to what made the series great to begin with, or is it merely a cheap cash-in?
DEVELOPER: EA Canada
GENRE: Sports – Snowboarding
PLATFORM: PS3, XBox 360 (reviewed on PS3)
AGE RESTRICTION: PEGI: 3
SSX does have a plot, in the loosest sense, revolving around a team of extreme snowboarders attempting to conquer the 9 deadliest runs down famous mountains before a rival has the chance too. This works nicely as a framing device sometimes, like why for instance you are racing against a ghost, when the aim is to beat your rivals previous times. But aside from this, the story is largely superfluous, and plays a very distant second to what everyone has come here for: sheer snowboarding excellence.
In this field of gameplay, SSX does excel. If this review was necessarily brought down to one question: is the game fun? The answer would have to be yes, as hurtling down a famous mountain is an experience like very few others on a gaming platform nowadays.
The nine different areas are very distinct, and span the globe, and races usually consist of either attempting to get to the bottom first, or to make the most points before reaching the bottom. What makes the progression system in each area especially fun is that each area has a predetermined “danger” that permeates all the slopes in that area. This ranges from low oxygen levels in the Himalayas to massive gaps in Patagonia. The way to solve this is that each area carries a specific tool to use in that area, such as in the aforementioned Patagonia, your character is equipped with a flight suit that can be deployed over short distances. Each tool is used in an interesting way, and allows for each area to feel a lot more dynamic and distinct during play. I was actually playing a lot of the time to see what tool I would get next, as all of them were rather interesting.
The races themselves progress nicely in each area, from easier to harder, as the player becomes accustomed to what that area holds, although countless restarts will be inevitable, as one major mistake is often enough to ruin a run. A rewind function is there, but that is also not to useful, especially on point runs, as using it minuses points from you. If the player is seriously struggling, they are allowed to skip the course, which is a nice enough touch in such an unforgiving game.
One of the biggest features in SSX, as far as atmosphere is concerned, is the superb music list set out for the rider to enjoy as another mountain is conquered. From dubstep to Indie Rock, theres a wide range of really very catchy tracks designed to set the tone perfectly, in a manner very reminiscent of how the Tony Hawk series was during its heyday. Overall, the music a perfect description of the game: cool very often supplants practical, and a stylish display is more dominant than a realistic depiction of snowboarding. This is by no means a bad thing, but something to be aware of if you are very much into this sport.
SSX also offers a very competitive and well-structured online mode, that is designed to carry the post-game experience after the single player, and can provide a very enjoyable time for those who feel that the campaign wasn’t enough for them, or if they want to see how good they would be against a human player.
SSX provides hours of very cool, stylish and addictive fun. In the circumstances, I feel that that is really all a game could be expected to give. It’s a great party game, even just taking turns, as it makes for a good spectator experience, and the low availability of any snowboarding games make it an intriguing prospect for interested fans. It’s a good continuation of a franchise, and it will be interesting to see if EA does anything more with it now.