Monday, March 5, 2012

SSX Review - It's Tricky!

Score: 7.75 / 10
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: EA
Release Date: February 29th, 2012

  • Feel of carving down a mountain is unmatched
  • Pulling off insane tricks are simple and appealing
  • Great sense of competition with Global Events and Rival scores
  • Bass thumping soundtrack fuels you to land every move
  • Single player is a lonely, desolate experience
  • No game lobbies mean little chance of playing in real time with a friend
  • New "Survive It" stages put a hamper on the fun 
  • Character personalities have been deduced considerably

SSX was all about insane tricks, gravity defying physics, and a stellar soundtrack while carving down a mountain. With the last true title being released around 2005, it's been some time since we have heard from the series. Now SSX has returned, with a new look that has an overall darker feel. The result is the familiar over-the-top tricks the series if famous for, hampered by the vision to make a more realistic game.

We Came to Rock Around

SSX is not one to focus on story, but EA has attempted to set some precedence for these band of riders to face death defying cliffs. Team SSX was formed to entertain, but one of their members has defected and brought the fan base and glory with him. Now it is up to Team SSX to regain their fans and take down Griff's spotlight through deadly runs down infamous mountains. Though the game tries to hold your attention with brief introductory cutscenes and comic book panel of character profiles, it fails to really establish a basis for a plot. This is disheartening, considering the once colorful cast of characters have been deduced to lifeless husks with little personality besides occasional quips when riding.

While the story remains pointless, the intensity and feeling of SSX is still very much alive. The overall sensation is as close as one could get to carving down a steep mountain and landing an insane trick. This is in no small part due to a fantastic presentation. The sound of ice crunching under your board, the glistening sunlight off of a patch of ice, and the camera shake as you boost to a jump all combine to give off a feeling of speed and adrenaline.

Also making its return is clever track design. SSX is set in a way so that if you miss a jump or bail a trick, there is always another opportunity lying in wait. Tracks are littered with rails and ramps and its ultimately up to the player on their optimum path down the slopes. These work well at times, but later tracks can be downright cruel as the amount of crevices and cliffs has increased. Even with a Rewind feature at your disposal, the penalties are steep for missing a jump or turning the wrong way and you can find your incredibly high combo trashed with the flick of the thumbstick.

With SSX, comes a memorable soundtrack; and this game is no different. There is plenty of variety offered; ranging from the alternative sound of The Naked and Famous to the ever persistent dubstep of Nero. An updated version of Run DMC's "It's Tricky" even returns to accompany your ability to achieve Tricky status. While I found myself yearning for a few classics to return like Yellowcard's "Way Away", the soundtrack is solid, and you will be quick to pick your favorites. 

Hit the Slopes

The single player campaign aptly named "World Tour" spans nine countries, and acts as a tutorial for the basic features of the game. You will compete in the three base game types; Race, Tricky, and Survive It. Completing each event will unlock more tracks on top of netting you a base amount of currency to spend on improved gear. There are no medals awarded in the single player, and it is either pass or fail.

The new Survive It mode is the prime focus of the single player experience, and despite mixing up the expected gameplay, it ends up detracting from the core of what SSX is about. The need to press a button to supply oxygen or watch your health and armor while careening down a mountain come off as less of a challenge, and more of a chore. The most frustrating addition is the new Avalanche mode, in which controls are reversed and the camera is placed in the most unfortunate angle you will ever experience. Not all of them are terrible, as the wingsuit's use to cross gaps or the pulse goggle's outline of terrain in whiteout conditions have potential outside of their intended use.

The only real incentive to play the campaign is to unlock what is offered and move on. Besides a few character unlocks and comic inspired panels establishing character backstory, there is no real reason to dive into this mode considering the amount of content awaiting you just one option down. The fact that you can actually skip an event if you fail it too many times and still net all the credits and unlocks offered just adds reason to stray to other features.

Let's See You Beat That!

The "Explore It" mode is where you will spend most of your time, and there is plenty of content available to keep you busy. In this mode you compete in either Race, Tricky, or Survive It and are awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on your performance. The gold medals are no pushovers, and will require a bit of effort to place your name at the top.

The competitive nature of upkeeping a score is further enhanced thanks to the online competition. Your friends' best times and score will appear for each track, and the game even offers a bounty for overcoming their records. Any of your personal records broken are alerted to you when you first fire up the game, and seeking bragging rights will soon have you returning to perfect a run.

Credits earned from races and events can be spent on gear. The customization has also taken a step down, with the only true character outfitting being a single suit choice. Credits become plentiful and it will take no time at all to outfit a character with a fast board and glowing suit. Credits can also be earned from laying down "Geotags" that you can scatter in hidden places on the course for other players to pick up.

Global Domination

The real appeal of SSX arises from the competitive multiplayer, and the Global Events do a fine job of providing an interesting way to play with others. There are no game lobbies, no long queues; the game just drops you onto the slopes and lets you get to the action. During your run you will see ghosts and images of players actively playing the same map at the same time as you, giving a welcome populated feel to the lonely mountain in a manner akin to Dark Souls.

Global Events have set "brackets" that offer rewards. Player scores and times shape these brackets, and depending on your performance you are put into a range from Bronze to Diamond. Getting into a higher bracket and staying there will net you a hefty amount of credits, with the total increasing with each range.

These events can last anywhere from minutes to days, and the variety and amount offered will promise rewards for practically anyone competing. There are even some events that require you to ante up a couple thousand credits before entering to further weed out a few riders. Whether you are pro or noob, there are events out there that can promise rewards.

The entire multiplayer setup is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you have no real wait times to get right to the action besides a load screen. On the other hand the only way to simultaneously play with a friend online is to time your drops together, though once you being your run you are quickly separated as you each follow a separate path. The most disappointing feature that remains absent is the lack of splitscreen, even in offline mode.


SSX makes a great return where you would expect, but the added realism and lack of single player focus hampers the game from making its mark. The nostalgic feel is there at times, but usually fades the second you retry a race for the fifth time or careen into a cliff. Fans of SSX will have plenty to enjoy, but may be left wanting more.

No comments:

Post a Comment