Reagan Morris grinds more than his teeth as he straps on his snowboard, grabs an ice axe, zips up his wingsuit and breaks out some dub-step…
The SSX series has been around for quite some time – almost 12 years in fact – and despite the first 3 titles being commercial and critical successes the franchise has been rather quiet for the past 6 or so years in which two rather disappointing sequels hit, one of which was Wii exclusive. EA had been unable to capture what made the series so great and gamers had resigned themselves to realisation that maybe SSX3 would be the last great SSX game released.
Then the teaser hit. A snow capped mountain, helicopter flying past and gritty realism and a shaky cam. EA logo. Some brushed this off as possibly the first Battlefield 3 trailer but others knew better and soon enough EA announced to the masses that a new SSX title was in development and that it’d be a reboot of sorts. Almost a year later SSX has released; no subtitle and no number preceding it, this was indeed the reboot EA proclaimed it to be. But could it possibly live up to what the series originally was?
For the few gamers out there that have never experienced the early chapters of this franchise, SSX was all about carving down snowy mountains on snowboards, getting insane air and pulling off ridiculously impossible moves. It’s fast paced, it’s exciting and it’s extremely fun. The 2012 release takes everything that SSX3 had grown from and embraces it. While SSX does come with a new control scheme that relies on using the right analog stick to trigger tricks this can and should be changed to one of the other options. Having the tricks mapped to the face buttons works infinitely better, and there’s even the option to change the classic controls that SSX fans will know all too well.
Most of the crew that made the franchise what it is have returned and each are introduced with their own little comic-book style back story. While you start the game with only Zoe at your disposal, as you conquer “Deadly Descents” you start to unlock new characters to take on the different challenges.
And there are challenges galore to be found on the mountains of SSX. While the main game modes are your typical “Race it” and “Trick it” – fastest to the bottom and the higher the score respectively – where you’re racing comes with its own set of rules and challenges. While one mountain may require you to stay out of the shade for fear of savagely dropping temperatures others may require you to equip one of the franchises newest gadgets: the wingsuit.
Sadly, the wingsuit manages to highlight one of the biggest problems with SSX. In previous iterations of the franchise it was all but impossible to fall to your death and have to restart. Usually restarts would happen because you didn’t quite take the perfect line thus were unable to beat your previous time, but this time you can fall to your death, and falling to your death can and will happen often. Most mountains have sections littered with cracks, crevices and canyons that require your jumping to be perfect. Approach the jump at the wrong angle and you’ll either not have enough speed to make it or you’ll hit it at the wrong angle and fly way off target.
EA have incorporated the ability to rewind time (but still incur time penalty) so you can retry a missed jump or imperfect turn, but this feels more like a plaster on a gameplay wound. The wingsuit was obviously meant as a means to ensure you can make large gaps that some mountains have, but the control of it is far from perfect and will cause frustration in even the best SSX racers.
Apart from that there’s really nothing wrong with the game. There’s a multitude of slopes to choose from including some of New Zealand’s own – although I’m not quite certain they’re geographically accurate – and the music the accompanies you down each run keeps the feel of the previous games in the series. My only gripe here is the inclusion of a dub-step-ified version of Tricky when you activate the Tricky meter. Dub-step seems to have really infiltrated the gaming scene – usually contained to videogame trailers – but hear it’s part and parcel with a specific game mechanic. While it makes more sense when the main track playing is also dub-step, for the most part it’ll interrupt a perfectly good rock song. A big congrats goes out to The Naked and Famous for getting one of last year’s big hits into the game.
While it’d be nice to see a little more craziness to the layout of the slopes come back and the removal of gaping crevices of frustration, SSX is a great addition to the franchise and marks the great first chapter of a reboot for the series. Plenty to unlock, the ability to race ghosts of your friends/rivals and the addictive nature that is SSX makes this a game more than worthy of your game collection.