High-flying insanity. SSX is the epitome of this phrase, from top to bottom; in this case, from the top of the unbelievably steep and dangerous mountain slope to the bottom, where any normal human would be thankful to be alive. But little about this reboot is “normal” and therein lies its addictive style. There’s no doubt that this is SSX through and through, with an emphasis on smooth, death-defying tricks and gorgeous environments that continually force you to reevaluate your approach.
The game really does look great. The effects from your constant carving are meticulously designed – the snow visuals are excellent – and each distinct backdrop is breathtaking. You’ll go just about everywhere, from the craggy cliffs of Patagonia to the iconic Great Wall of China, and each location puts this title’s high production values on display. Everything is colorful and sharp, and I only wish I could’ve had more time to focus on the scenery…I was usually flying by it at light speed, so I couldn’t afford to stop and meditate on the view.
EA Canada kicks things into high gear with a great soundtrack that will satisfy both your speakers and your eager ears. We require a music selection that matches the off-the-charts style and flair of the action, and we get just that. We’ve got stuff from The Qemists, Run-DMC (“It’s Tricky” plays whenever you increase your combo), The Naked and Famous, and Noisia, which means that the available tracks are both diverse and extremely fitting. The audio effects sometimes get lost in the shuffle, but that’s okay. All in all, SSX looks and sounds fantastic.
Believe it or not, there is a story behind this new effort. We’re not talking about a lot of character development and dialogue, of course, but it’s there: basically, team SSX is out to rip through the nine Deadly Descents. But a former team member, Griff, says he’ll beat you to the punch, so it’s a race to see who can carve the most snow in the most dangerous locations on earth. And why is it so damn dangerous? Not just because it’s always steep, but because there are all sorts of environmental factors to consider. Ever grind an Alaskan pipeline…?
As mentioned above, there are just so many awesome locations and each of the intricately designed tracks are oodles of fun. There’s always something to see, and you will occasionally receive new equipment to deal with fresh obstacles, such as an ice pick for extra grabbing ability and an oxygen mask when you’re up super high on Mt. Everest. And don’t get me started on that wingsuit! The best part is that every course boasts branching paths, which offer multiple opportunities to best your opponent(s). For example, the correct path can be crucial when involved in a straight-up race.
And because there’s a combination of speed and tricks, you won’t always be focusing on one or the other. However, as you might expect, the crowd-pleasing aspect of SSX has always been – and continues to be – the outlandish mid-air tricks that dazzle the eyes and boggle the mind. After you land your first set of combos, you’ll realize that this game is just dripping with special style, and you’ll be dying to get back to the top of another mountain. Pulling off trick after trick is a satisfying and not overly challenging endeavor.
You can opt to use either the right analog stick or the face buttons to execute your maniacal mid-air stunts, and the key is keep your combo high throughout. Doing so allows you to hit Tricky level and eventually Uber-Tricky, which can be quite difficult but success results in a gigantic score. If you’re a long-time fan of the franchise, you can also select the classic controls, but I don’t think they withstand the test of time. The new controls just seem more responsive and intuitive. Overall, the entire process of going downhill is a fluid, entertaining experience.
The only problem is that after a while, the game starts to get a little unforgiving. Firstly, few races can be won in your first few attempts, as you really need to memorize the courses. That’d be fine if it wasn’t for the perfect AI, which means you really can’t be taking too many risks. Secondly, that flawless AI kicks in big time during later trick-based events as well, which can be even harder to overcome. However, the die-hard fans are probably expecting a certain level of difficulty, and anticipate a fair amount of practice time.
But the action never stops and the ceaseless pulse-pounding stunts will keep you playing. Plus, the new Survive It courses are all about intense, hectic, edge-of-your-seat gameplay; that wingsuit is used quite often on such courses, and you’ll even have to outrun avalanches and brave tremendously hostile terrain. When you’ve had your fill of the single-player fun, you can participate in multiplayer Global Events, a continually updated series of events that will test you and your friends. Furthermore, RiderNet will keep track of your progress and give people a chance to top your best performances, which in turn gives you incentive to improve.
The only significant downside is that there is no traditional multiplayer, which feels like a definite lagging. There’s no split-screen option, which would’ve been great for the old-school arcade fans, and would’ve made this game more of a party title. I mean, why eliminate split-screen from this one? That doesn’t make much sense to me. Still, the combination of RiderNet and the Global Events greatly expand the game’s longevity, and given the increasing difficulty of the single-player events, you could really spend a ton of hours with SSX. If you get hooked...
As I said at the start, it’s just high-flying insanity to the max. The control is reliable and responsive, the courses are expertly designed, there’s great variety in both the locales and the events, the satisfaction level is crazy high, and the production values are equally high. Yes, it gets unforgiving (and frustrating), there’s no standard split-screen option (still a bizarre omission), and the AI makes almost zero errors, but above all else, there’s no mistaking the entertainment factor. It’s not only evident, it’s oozing from the damn screen.
The Good: Great-looking, great-sounding. Beautifully designed courses. Nailing tricks is very rewarding. Control is smooth and responsive. Various locales and events keep everything fresh. Global Events and RiderNet enhance longevity.
The Bad: Difficulty can get frustrating. AI is borderline flawless. No split-screen multiplayer.
The Ugly: “Well, it’s nice to see you’re perfect…guess I need a lot more practice.”
3/3/2012 Ben Dutka