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SSX Review


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On 05/03/2012 at 10:02 PM by Patrick Kijek

The breath of fresh air in the series has slightly more realism to make this the definitive extreme snowboarding video game.
RECOMMENDATION:

Any fan of the past iterations in the series will be pleased to find a refined experience. If you've always wanted to do impossible tricks on the world's most sublime mountains, there's nowhere else to have this much fun.

The long awaited return of SSX faithfully recreates some of the world’s most glorious mountain ranges and properly evolves the SSX trick engine. This sixth game in the franchise focuses on teams of extreme athletes attempting to conquer the world’s most dangerous cornices to defeat the challenge set forth by a renegade former member of the team. With a World Tour whose plot focuses on getting the team back together, the action within SSX fulfills the wishes of long-time fans who have been dreaming of  diverse characters, high flying tricks and realistic slopes.

As co-founder of SSX, Zoe Payne scours the world’s ten locations and defeats each one through a friendly run to test each character’s ability. You begin the World Tour to recruit members of SSX with only Zoe, nevertheless, you will be able to test recruits’ abilities against her as she moves from location to location. As you defeat her with each character, she will unlock comic books detailing each character’s rise to fame. It's a shame that these comic books tend to rocket by too quickly to take in the quality of the art. While they look like most superhero comics, the artists have created an interesting and apt aesthetic to push the storyline, which establishes the motives for each character and allows players to identify with a specific persona, based on mutual drive.

No matter the motivation, every character and player will be coming for the well-refined Trick It mode. Tricks have been amplified this time around. Once you get into Tricky, your boost ability is unlimited. Score multipliers increase with speed, flow and the number of tricks in the combo, rewarding precision. Using almost all of the terrain, each character can create their own pipes from natural hazards to multiply the number of tricks in a combo. Rather than simply a Tricky meter, players can spin themselves Super Tricky if they combine enough tricks. Combos can regularly exceed 50 tricks due to the natural physics engine. 

Up to 15 seconds can be rewound to improve your run.This mechanic changes the tricky game, because combos are now much easier to string together. Rewinding a segment of your run feels like a DJ scratching vinyl back and forth on a turntable to find the best flow of a song. Although a point penalty will ensue, it won’t hurt as much as falling off the edge of a mountain. Additionally, it makes objectives much less tricky and more fun to achieve. This power strikes a fair balance between helping the player succeed without taking too much difficulty out of snowboarding.

In most of the beginner and intermediate areas, you won’t fall off the edge of a mountain and the controls won’t make much of an impression. However, SSX does not have perfect controls. The initial, flimsy feel to controlling your boarder will occasionally make you so mad. It will take hours and maybe years or even centuries to understand where your character is turning some of the time. That may be hyperbole, but the characters do turn much quicker than possible in real life. Sometimes they even turn from small bumps -- which are tough to identify -- down the alps. Who would have thought your snowboard would have so much chatter in a video game? If you’re the type to throw your controller or yell at the T.V., you’ll have your moments. Gaia knows that I did. Regardless, the steep control curve will eventually subside; there’s too much fun in pulling off hyperrealistic tricks and challenging your friends to dismiss the game for its imperfections.

The locations in the game will be nothing short of nirvana for those wanting to shred real-life places. With a total of ten possible locations, EA Canada’s system of geotagging renders slopes from real world locations to create playable environments. The aesthetic recreates locales like Africa, The Himalayas, New Zealand, Patagonia and Siberia perfectly. Even though EA strived for this realistic approach, they could have amped up the presentation a bit with more differentiated debris like the few helicopters and dams seen among all the white outs.

As for the quality of these tracks, all of them are refined to a point where they seem above average, almost to a fault. Sure they're pretty good, but it's tough to differentiate between them. Out of all ten areas, scenery like Japanese bridges and arches point to Mt. Fuji being the standout track. Unfortunately, Xbox 360 users will not be able to play this one until the exclusivity is unlocked by EA. 

Whereas most of the other tracks can tend to blend together at the beginning of your SSX experience, Mt. Fuji is littered with Japanese obstacles. We can only wonder why so many of the areas are so barren, especially after witnessing an entertaining video that introduces the dangers of each area when players choose their area. These videos usually hyperbolize the dangers in each portion of the globe, yet the slopes do not compare to the presentation.

A new mode with plenty of promise is Deadly Descents , the flagship addition to this year’s rendition of SSX. This mode is the biggest departure from the rest of the series, with more emphasis on natural disasters than past installments. In this mode, your character’s armor will degrade from treacherous avalanches on some descents and turning will be tough on ice in others. Some of the later descents can feel downright masochistic to beginners, yet trial and error allows most intermediate players to complete all of them within a week or two. Then the challenge and fun lies in trying to best your friends’ best scores for the farthest any of you are able to traverse with these environmental disasters as your handicaps. Equipment modifications need to be bought for this mode -- from squirrel suits to oxygen tanks and headlights -- which offer an added level of strategy. Deadly Descents mode succeeds at tweaking the series with a more strategic approach to snowboarding.

One minor bummer in SSX’s Deadly Descents is that the touted, reverse-camera angle only manifests in one deadly descent.  The sublimity of the avalanche during that descent would have benefited the variety if the developers had included the option to create avalanche deadly descents on every slope. Regardless, it should tell you that the developers succeeded. They peppered in just enough of these Deadly Descents offline and online where the player wants more.

Possibly the most rewarding visual cue in the game comes when the player lands an über trick. A dub-step, remixed version of Run-DMC’s classic hit “Tricky”  emanates from the bottom of the player's board and sends a shockwave down the slope. It’s visually energetic, and I can not tell you how many times it made me throw my hands down to flow with the beat.

The music samples have yet again upped the ante for a soundtrack to a video game. The developers surely know how to craft a soundtrack that feeds on these snowboarders’ kickin’ chickens. You’ll be like a leaf swaying side-to-side, down the hill to the likes of “Plastic Smile” by Felguk Featuring Example and “I Stand Alone (Ocelot Mix)” by Theophilus London. The highlight must be the aforementioned remix to “It’s Tricky” by Pretty Lights, since it invigorates a song that should have been dead over a hundred times by now. The 37 tracks are thoroughly enjoyable for house, dub-step and hip hop fans alike. If that's not enough, you also have the ability to customize your soundtrack and dynamically remix it based on your own gameplay. What an audiophilic reward!

There are other rewards for achieving various gold medals. Badges for completing certain objectives are bountiful. Credits for various accomplishments make their return. The newest way to accumulate reward -- and what stands to be the most important, creative achievement -- has to be geotags. Geotags should be placed by a character on the most difficult sections of slopes. Although Geotags expire, the player can gain credits over the period of time where their geotag remains active and in their control. However, friends online can pick up Geotags placed by their owners, wherein the remaining credits shift to their friends’ SSX credit accounts. Multiplayer only happens with this ghost mode through tournaments and geotags. Unfortunately, no split-screen or co-op is available.

Many options provide the player the ability to become a better boarder by using credits wisely on various suits, gear and boards. Each of the boards comes into the characters’ load outs while randomly generating themselves to a number said to surpass 1000 boards. Some of the boards and suits have useful perks, such as additional speed or an increase to boost. Some of them are just hilarious, like overpriced glowing suits or big head perks.

Even though twitchy controls cost it a star, this is the best iteration of the series to date and a fantastic glimpse into what the series can become. The tricks are so outrageous and your character will be so decked out that your real-life fans may have ancillary strokes when they cheer your exploits throughout the spectacle of SSX.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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