With the different waves of snowboarding games we have on the Playstation it was a bit of a controversial step for EA Sports to create another snowboarding game, especially because all of the other ones were just barely above average. Sony's own Cool Boarder series tried to do what 1080 Snowboarding did for Nintendo 64 back in '96. Cool Boarders 1 was a pretty good game with standard first generation graphics, the second one was similar but was missing something. The third one is claimed to be the absolute worst of the series, which was because of the reason that UEP Systems left and went on to develop for the project known as Katana, which was later renamed to the Sega Dreamcast. The Cool Boarders series picked up some of its momentum with sequel four, but the game was once again lacking. Then we have Capcom's Trick N' Snow Boarder and THQ's MTV Pure Ride. Trick N' Snow is a game that was average at best, with decent graphics but lacking gameplay this Capcom game was about as bad as the third Cool Boarders title was. But on the other hand we have MTV Sports Pure Ride, THQ's second use of the MTV license with a snowboarding concept. The graphics were very nice, with sweet lighting effects and nice environments, the gameplay was smooth as ice and the overall replay value was incredibly solid. To date Pure Ride is the only good Playstation snowboarding game available, and I think that it will stay that way too, since the games entrance was very close to the PSOne's exit. Well, EA Sports thankfully had some cojones to begin developing on what may very well turn out to be the best PS2 launch game to get. Well the wait is finally over, we've got some kicking screenshots for you guys and an in-depth review of the best PS2 launch game, PERIOD.
Frankly Madden 2001's visuals have impressed me the most so far out of any other launch title, but that doesn't mean SSX didn't. When the game was introduced at E3, I fell in love with the awesome-ness that was SSX, at the moment the game wasn't as smooth and silky as it is as a finished product, but never the less the visuals still made a statement. If I had to pick, I would pick SSX as the second best looking game of the launch line-up. The game has destroyed the age old anti-aliasing fable as well as the flickering fable. SSX shows absolutely no jaggies, so the riders are always smooth and never reveal a jagged line. The flickering in both the foreground and background are gone, the environments don't jitter anymore so you picky gamers out there don't have much to worry about. What got me hooked on this games visuals is the amazing eye-candy treatment whenever you pull off some huge air or pass a checkpoint. If you do any of those two, a burst of fireworks will explode from the sidelines filling the screen with a multitude of different looking colors, that ignite the screen with eye-candy visuals, see the screenshots to see what I mean.
Riders are also equipped with many different clothing outfits and a variety of different boards with various logos on them. The clothes sit well on the characters and don't look like they are glued on to them, but instead more like clothing found in a game like Tekken Tag or DOA2: Hardcore. Atmospheric detail is superb, the rider would actually leave trails of his snowboard in the snow and make scratches in the ice. In the deeper snow, that is of course, the snowboard would sink and it actually look like the board has sunk and not just cut off. The sidelines like fence gates, billboards, logos and rails are all wonderfully built, and even though most of them are very minor in terms of gameplay and visuals, they still count. The environments are literally huge, not all of them are linear because many of the 6 tracks have shortcuts that really make a big difference in time and even position. There may only be 6 courses, but these are the longest 6 courses you will ever ride on in your life. Some areas can be 2 minutes long, while others up to 7-10 minutes long, and the best part of those 7-10 minutes is that there is never anything repetitive to stale the experience or even bore you a bit.
The rider detail is remarkable, every snowboarder is made up of what seems like 1000+ polygons for some of the smoothest body shapes that any videogame has ever seen. The sheer detail on the face when the camera would zoom in on you, is incredibly detailed, all riders have realistic looking faces, with great attention to detail paid on the facial features like the eyes, nose, and mouth, overall marvelous stuff. The same can be said for the body structure, there are positively no seams between any body joint and there are absolutely no jerky looking moves either. Riders handle smoothly and pull off their animated moves at a full 60 frames per second. But the game on occasions slows down when more than four riders are on screen, don't worry though because the slowdown is minimal and is only noticeable to the trained eye. Some of you may be wondering, all of this anti-aliasing, no flickering and 60 frame rate, but what about pop-up? Well, what about it, don't you think I would have mentioned it before? Exactly, the final word is that there is no pop-up, none whatsoever. The only reason I prefer Madden over SSX is because the game uses many more character models, with realistically proportioned bodies and visuals that defy any other football game out there.
Now you see, although Madden would have to be my choice as best looking game of the launch, I would easily pick SSX as the best launch game period. Everything about this game screams fun, even when looking at the screenshots you can feel the adrenaline building up in your body. The game starts you off with four riders and two stages. Playing the World Circuit mode and completing it in the top 3, would open one of the four secret riders and one of the four hidden stages, along with new clothes, statistic points, new tricks, and snowboards. The World Circuit mode is pretty much the whole game, this is a season mode in essence, playing this unlocks the four other boarders; Jurgen, JP, Zoe and Hiro. The four secret venues are; Merqury City Meltdown, Mesablanca, Tokyo Megaplex, and Aloha IceJam. The first stage is relatively long, but the second stage takes about five to six minutes to get through. Folks I want you to take note of this, although SSX is a trick based game, it revolves mostly around racing and not points. If you want to show your skills with moves then the Showoff mode is for you. In Showoff you pick a course and then shoot down it pulling off as many tricks as possible before the stage ends. Three multipliers are also present for you to your advantage. In the beginning getting 100,000 points seems almost impossible, it is when your rider doesn't have his stats maxed out. Playing the World Circuit will build your designated rider from a Newbie to an All Pro.
Every one of the eight riders has his/her own riding style, whether it's Boarder-cross or Freestyle the stance makes a difference. Not only is each boarder individualized with his/her own stance, but some of them come from other countries and carry their own accents. Then they all have individual statistics much like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The action once again is more based on racing, rather than points, when playing a competition in Circuit, you are taken through a stage three times on three different difficulties, the three results will then be tallied up and that will determine your medal. In order to strive to number one, you may have to resort to using your right analog stick to shove your opponent out of the way. During a race you will notice a spring like meter to the right of the screen, this is your adrenaline meter. As you pull off moves, the adrenaline meter will then get filled up with rings that can be used for an adrenaline boost by pressing Square, this comes in handy for bigger air and the red trail that it leaves behind is awesome. SSX's two player gameplay is also quite the thrill, it surely adds tons of extra value into the game and this is another reason why SSX is so damn fine. Getting used to SSX actually took sometime for me, about 30 minutes and I was down-sloping my way to fun and excitement, pulling off tricks and grinds. Don't worry though, the game has a very cool tutor in it that teaches you how to do the tricks, grinds and other necessary things. Overall, SSX's gameplay shines in nearly every area, the depth, the thrill, excitement, just everything about the game screams "I'm addictive", and gosh darn it, it sure is. Make sure you have SSX in your collection, you won't regret it.
The audio was created by Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys, it features a variety of techno, a touch of rock and a little of jazz flava'. The sweet menu music is something to behold of and nothing you would want to turn down, in fact this is exactly how Madden NFL 2001's music should have been, techno! Not only are the beats 'dope' but they are specially created to react to the gameplay, for instance, say that my rider is about to hit a big air jump and I'm listening to a kick ass techno beat play, as soon as my rider picks off the ground the music will stop and only the background beat will play, until BOOM, you land and then the whole music track continues, how amazing and innovative is that. The game also features a commentator who will announce your tricks, comment on your performance and tell you when you are repeating the same trick over and over again. The riders also comment during races, it would either be because of a death defying move that he/she pulled off, an opponent is nearing up on him or an opponent is trying to knock the rider of the course. Absolutely nothing is wrong with the sound, Mix Master Mike has done a great job with the EA crew, to deliver some solid audio for SSX.
This game's controls are definitely no Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. Tricks are pulled off using the shoulder buttons, L1, L2, R2 and R1, you can try many different combos, like L1+R2, or R2+L2, or even L2+R2+L1 and if you want to go for the whole nine yards, hit all of the top buttons for a sick move. Grinding is also done differently, you have to ride on the rail in order for your rider to grab it, then you balance on it by pressing left or right. Timing jumps is probably the biggest necessity for the biggest burst of air, but remember you won't be able to control your rider if X is being held down, if you want to speed up, hold UP. The analog movements are responsive and sensitive, and the Dual Shock is a powerhouse as well.
After playing SSX for about 5 hours non-stop and about 12 hours total, I can safely say that the game is the number one launch game to get. I want to make a brief apology if I caused any confusion with my "Top 5 Launch Games To Get" article, I should have put the following games in this order: 5) Smuggler's Run, 4) Summoner, 3)Unreal Tournament/TimeSplitters, 2) Madden NFL 2001, 1) SSX. That was my mistake and I take full credit if I misled anybody, the Summoner hype got to me and I never truly realized the sheer excitement that SSX would turn out to be. I'm not saying Summoner is a bad game, it's actually a very good game, although it does have its problems. All in all, SSX, best game at launch, go buy it!
10/27/2000 Arnold Katayev