SSX – The PS3 Attitude Review
SSX – three letters that take us back to a time when we had butterflies in our collective stomachs as we un-boxed our shiny new PlayStation 2 consoles.
An original launch title for the PS2, SSX was one of those games that you put on show to everyone who came around your house the sheer power of your ‘next-generation PlayStation’ (as it was back then). Following up in typical EA style, SSX Tricky was delivered a year later as a multi-platform title and featured a host of stars providing the voice talent.
It wasn’t until SSX 3 however that EA gained decent sales with the franchise, which was then unfortunately watered down again with the release of SSX On Tour. Still, a loyal band of SSX fans continued to fly the flag for video-gaming’s premier snowboarding title.
When the PS3 launched, most people expected to see an SSX title almost straight away, but it didn’t transpire. Now, twelve years after the original release and with memories of Merqury City, Tokyo Megaplex and Untracked still fresh in our minds, does the SSX reboot carve out an exciting new course, or fall disappointingly into the powder?
First of all, let’s be clear. This SSX is not the SSX: Deadly Descents that was shown back at the Spike Video Awards in 2010. You’ll remember the trailer for that, right? Dark tones and an overriding sense of menace were the order of the day. This SSX is not like that at all – they have thankfully lightened it up and brought it back to the SSX feeling we know and love.
When you first load the game, you will get an overriding sense of doom as you sit, waiting patiently, with just the message ‘Loading…’ for comfort. Worry not, dear gamer, for this appears to be an initial install that seriously reduces load times on subsequent launches. It would have been helpful for them to show a video or even a progress bar to make this obvious, but it is a minor issue.
Instead of the fictional courses you may already know and love, the 2012 SSX title uses real-life locations such as Alaska, Patagonia, the Alps, Siberia and the Himalayas – including Mount Everest of course. EA Canada used geo-data from NASA to create 28 courses from several real mountain ranges across the globe. Of course, EA added their own fictional level design data on top of that base, but that doesn’t make the process any less impressive.
All your favourite characters make a return in SSX, plus a couple of new boarders thrown in for good measure. Elise, Mac, Kaori, Moby, Zoe, Griff, Eddie and PS3 Attitude favourite Psymon all feature, as do three new characters - Tane Mumea, Alex Moreau, and Ty Thorsen. Real-life snowboarder Travis Rice is also available as a playable character. As you unlock each boarder you are treated to a cartoon-strip montage explaining their back-story.
Graphically, SSX doesn’t disappoint. It is, as you would expect, the best looking SSX title to have ever existed. Everything is slick and well-produced, and the level design is sublime. Every course has multiple paths and a real sense that you could take hours to discover all the possible routes and short-cuts. Levels in general feel more like the ‘back-country’ tracks from SSX 3, and like those courses you will be challenged with the occasional natural disaster, such as an avalanche.
Since SSX Tricky the series has been known as much for its soundtrack as the game itself, and SSX doesn’t disappoint in that respect either. The iconic track from Run DMC makes a return (as does the Tricky system for unlocking uber-tricks and super-uber-tricks), plus you’ll find full-length audio from the likes of Skrillex, Nero, Foster the People, Flux Pavilion, DJ Shadow and Wretch 32. Make no mistake, the music and sound effects throughout will keep you boarding into the early hours.
Add to that a full commentary from DJ Atomika, who has returned from the heat and burning rubber of Paradise City to narrate your run on the slopes of Antarctica (what a fool), and you have a comprehensive soundtrack to your snowbound adventures.
The controls in SSX have been through a big overhaul, and this is the area that veteran SSXers will notice the most. There is much more emphasis on using the analogue sticks than ever before, with different right-stick gestures being used to control the arm you wish to use and the area of the board to grab.
For example, starting the right stick with a move to the right means you will use your right hand. Then, if you sweep the stick around to the 6 o’clock position, that means you will use your right hand to lift the rear of the board. A press of one of the triggers tweaks the grab for better effect.
These combinations are ultimately very easy to get used to and pull off, plus there are all sorts of other button combinations available for extending combos with ground tricks, grinding environmental features such as ridges and pulling the all-important super-uber-trick once you’ve filled up your Tricky meter.
Can’t shake off the old button combos? No problem. You can switch to Classic SSX controls any time you like.
But you must be thinking “hang on there, my Attitude Towers-based buddies – where’s the innovation?”
You’d be right to question this. Everything we’ve revealed so far is classic SSX fodder. Where are the new features? Where is the sizzle for the steak?
In this reboot, the main innovation comes from the inclusion of wing suits. You’ve seen the videos of these crazy sky-diver types that can fly through the air at 220 mph, looking like a flying squirrel at an 80′s rave party, right? Well, you can do that – to an extent – in SSX too.
Some courses require you to wear certain pieces of equipment, such as a wingsuit or armour, in order to complete them. The wingsuits are particularly good fun, helping you elongate big jumps to reach areas of the course you couldn’t previously dream of reaching. Less convincing are the ice picks that help you turn corners on tracks that feature our favourite drink-cooling equipment heavily – they just don’t seem to make much of a difference to the mechanics in the game, but they do still look good.
And while point multipliers don’t really feature in the same way they used to, there are still collectibles to be had all over the course. In addition, you can choose to drop a geotag in an area you think will be hard for people to find.
In addition to the brilliant single-player story, which sees SSX member Griff going rogue, making it your job to beat him to the task of conquering the world’s nine most deadly descents (yes, they kept that element in there from the 2010 video), there are multi-player options, although some people will be disappointed that they can’t race their friends down the mountain in real-time.
However, you can challenge your friends and try to beat their race times, survival distances or trick scores, so while not a ‘live’ experience, it still comes close. Add to that the Global Challenges that give you a chance to rule the mountain online against all-comers, and there is enough in SSX to keep even the most competitive boarder happy. The built-in RiderNet system will keep you updated on what your friends and doing and how well they can carve the mountain constantly.
Some hardcore SSX fans will miss the bonkers nature of courses like Pipedream from the Tricky days, and others may feel the title doesn’t have the same ‘soul’ as previous editions, but we think this is the game the PS3 has been waiting for. Sure, we’d love to see real live multi-player, more customisation options and a few more game types, but SSX always gives you that ‘one more run’ feeling whenever you play it, and that is always a good benchmark for whether a great video game has been created or not. Besides, they’ve got to keep something back for the inevitable sequel, right?
SSX is a stand-out title for the PS3 and still does to us what its original namesake did for the PS2 twelve years ago. Go on, kick that annoying protege Griff in the 1080 melons with your snow boots and grab a copy of the game today. You won’t regret it.