Review

SSX Review (Xbox360)

With the modern console era drawing to a close very soon, just about every kind of game has had its moment to shine. Playing brilliant game after brilliant game, I was beginning to need something else, a type of game that the PS3 and 360 was lacking. I couldn't put my finger on what was needed though, and have waited for it to arrive. That missing piece turned out to be SSX , one of the purest thrills you will find in 2012.

I've been a huge SSX fan since I first got my hands on a PS2, seeing the series develop into the industry standard for the genre. SSX3 went on to become a modern classic, the three peak mountain, ridiculous tricks, tongue and cheek style; it was everything you would want from a snowboarding title. With the subsequent sequels failing to reach these heights, all eyes were on the new generation of consoles to deliver an experience that fans and newcomers alike would adore. SSX is exactly that.

Nearly all of the SSX cast return for the new game

Anyone who has seen SSX in action will understand the appeal. Ride at impossibly fast speeds down a mountain full of huge jumps, dangerous terrain and lots and lots of snow, pulling off tricks that are ridiculously over the top. It's a simple and obvious thrill, but one that comes to fruition through some intricate tuning under the hood. You perform tricks to gain boost, mapped to either the face or shoulder buttons or the right stick, using this to race ahead of your competitors, or to set your boarder up for a bigger jump. Which you use it for depends on the event type your playing. Race and Freestyle events have always contrasted each other in SSX , getting the right balance of speed and tricks in the race events being especially tough to master.

Things are a little different here, with the line between the two less distinct. To score huge points in the freestyle events, gold is around 10-20 million for most tracks, you'll need to string together a variety of tricks into a combo. A rolling count will begin, but unlike previous games where your multiplier is defined by the amount of tricks you perform, here it's measured by your flow. Your flow is how smooth you are, moving back up the slope and bailing tricks reduces it dramatically. This means you have to keep momentum going throughout freestyle events. It's a tweak that changes the overall feel of trick events considerably, its more important than ever to keep your combo going if you want the top prize.

Of course it's also important to perform Uber tricks, the series trademark 2 tier manoeuvres. Perform enough tricks in succession and you'll enter Tricky mode, which turns all your tricks into high scoring Uber tricks. Perform enough of these and you'll unlock Super Uber's, Run DMC's 'It's Tricky' starts playing and your score goes through the roof. It's a simple system, that becomes second nature after just a few events, but the music cue is enough to make it feel special every time it happens. Speaking of the music, it's probably one of the best things about SSX . Both the songs included on the disc and any you have on your console are remixed and altered at various points in your run. Do a set of spins on a rail and the song will begin to repeat a section over and over. Get some big air and you can hear the wind and your track being played in the distance, it's a thrilling feeling.

Tricks are ridiculous as ever

SSX takes you across the whole world, unlike the 3 peak mountain seen in SSX3 . 9 different areas of the world, including The Alps, Antarctica, The Himalayas and even Africa open the game up to all sorts of new terrain. Each area has at least 3 mountains, with multiple runs for events to take place on each. This pushes the overall amount of events possible to a series high, the Explore mode for instance features 109 medal opportunities, sure to keep players hooked for weeks. The roughly 7 hour World Tour mode feels like the lesser mode here, a sequence of events that charts Team SSX's mission to conquer every mountain range in the world before ex team-mate Griff. While this is the easiest way to unlock all the characters and earn SSX credits, the currency used to upgrade equipment and in online modes, it doesn't feel as consistent as a whole.

The biggest reason for this is the main problem with SSX , the Deadly Descents. When EA first announced that the game was coming to current generation consoles it went under the title of SSX: Deadly Descents. On seeing the poor reaction to this super realistic vision of snowboarding, they dialed things back to focus on the trick and race sections of the game. Nevertheless, the Deadly Descents remain, and bring genuine consequences with them. Replacing the reset feature with an expensive rewind that drains both points and time in races means that you can lose an event simply by falling off the track.

In the Deadly Descents themselves, you have to survive to the end of the run, using a specific item to combat the treacherous territory. Use a flash light to navigate a dark tunnel for instance, or armour to reduce the impact in a tree infested area. Some of these are genuinely exciting, the avalanche section for instance being one of the best set piece moments the series has ever seen. That said, most feel forced and lose the thrill of SSX all together. The worst offenders are the high altitude sections, where you simply press a button over and over to breathe in oxygen, and the wingsuit. The wingsuit is fun when you use it, but the way that the tracks are built to utilise them makes constant retries an inevitability. The Deadly Descents are brutal, and not in the same way that scoring that extra million points in a run is. They slow down the momentum the game builds as you play, and despite coming close at points, never feel essential to the experience.

Though there's no direct competitive multiplayer on offer, instead RiderNet pits you against your network friends and the world any time you complete a run. You can compete in global events too, with a credit entry fee resulting in payouts decided by how highly you rank among the world. With millions of people playing each of these multi day open events, it's a unique way to experience either series, and one that is sure to improve as 2012 continues.

The wingsuit is one of the more flashy, but frustrating gadgets available

As someone who has awaited a worthy sequel to SSX3 for the last 6 years, SSX is everything I wanted. Though the runs never quite live up to the iconic ones in series past, there are less wow moments this time around, there's countless opportunities to get some serious boarding done. In fact the game does have its fair share of problems, no local multiplayer is a disappointment and the less said about the appalling comic strip sections between events in World Tour the better. The Deadly Descents are the main thing holding this back from being the series best, the effect they have on the overall experience is one you can't help but notice.

All of this said, barrelling down a mountain pulling off million scoring super Ubers is as electrifying as always, and it's nice to have such pure and easy fun in a game for once. In a world where shooters and post apocalyptic RPGs rule this is exactly the sort of game the industry needs. It could have accomplished so much more, but it's hard to complain when SSX is still such a brilliant game.

Top Game Moment: Being chased down the mountain by an avalanche tas you struggle to pull off tricks.

Platform Played: PS3

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