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Electronic Arts


SSX Review

By: John Doe

The PS2 has a lot of launch games, but this one should definitely make the trip home with you. SSX is the most ambitious snowboarding title on the market. It shreds past Cool Boarders, MTV Sports: Skateboarding, Rippin Riders on DC, 1080 on N64 and even the excellent Steep Slope Sliders on the Saturn; it leaves them all choking on powder. SSX is an excellent hybrid of boarding, racing and stunts that will captivate you with it's depth, control, sound and beauty.


When you start up the game, you will have the usual suspects to start with; 4 characters all with varying degrees of abilities. The difference is that in most games, this is purely cosmetic; not so in SSX. Because SSX emphasizes racing as much as tricks, you'll need to find the most suitable boarder for your style. If you want to play more aggressively, you should pick someone with excellent stability etc. Casual gamers who just want the thrill of moving their onscreen man down the mountain, will suck instantly at this game. This isn't a casual gamer lobotomy festival; you'll have to really work to beat, not only your opponents, but the environments, which often times pose more of an immediate threat to you.

In a cool arcade-like moment, SSX features an Adrenaline Meter, which is filled up (almost like the Boosts in games like Hydro Thunder) by pulling off tricks. You can access this Adrenaline with the square button at anytime, which moves you along the track faster, but if you fall a lot or refuse to pull off any stunts, then that meter will disappear faster than fans of New Kids on the Block.

The first thing you will notice when you reach the second Mountain, is how incredibly long the tracks are getting. And it just gets better from there. I didn't time it, but I swear the second track took me, like, 8 to 10 minutes to get down. Maybe I'm nuts. The other cool thing about SSX, is that there are serious amounts of hidden areas to find. Sometimes, it may involve just heading off the main path and dropping down a vertical side of the mountain, other times you'll have to use your head and almost backwards engineer how to reach certain paths. Needless to say, you can spend a lot of time experimenting with the best ways to get down the mountain the fastest. If you aren't into finding shortcuts, you'll fail miserably. They are a prerequisite for finishing first. But shortcuts alone won't do it. You better have all your eggs in one basket and be a triple threat: Great trickster, great passer, great boarder if you want to cut the mustard.

The control feels very strange and awkward at first, which might turn off people who pick up the game at EB and try it for two minutes. Don't let it scare you; we are all in the same boat. We are all so used to the trick controls of Tony Hawk that anything out of that norm feels alien. Give it a chance and you will see that, although inherently different from the Hawk's control scheme, this works. And works well. For example doing spins requires you to press either left or right on the digital pad (or analog) while in air. And tricks are not executed via the buttons but rather the shoulder buttons. Weird. But give it a night or two and it will make sense.

Graphically this game is pure PS2. Aside from some moments of slowdown on turns, this game is out of this world. Unfortunately though, you'll have to be so darn good that only the best players will see the real eye candy in the later levels. When you reach, what I call the Pinball Stage, you'll know that PS2 was worth every penny. Even the earlier stages are beautiful. Heck, I was amazed just watching my board cut a path through the snow. Maybe I'm easily amused.

Musically the game is excellent. Hip Hop & Techno isn't my first love, but it really works for this game. At least it's not filled with Japanamation fueled screeching guitars. Shudder.

The two-player game is fantastic. Going head to head with a friend down the mountain is a great experience, especially if you've been playing Cool Boarders for the last few years. You won't believe how awesome the graphics are in two player. The two player game would be worth the price of the game alone.

Is SSX a must have? I thought I established that already. But be prepared to work for it. It isn't a kiddy game, it will push you to the limits and bust your hump and your game-playing ego on many occasions. If you are a serious gamer up for a serious challenge, SSX is calling your name.






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