|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: EA Canada|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: February 28, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p – 1080i|
by Becky Cunningham
If you're anything like me, the mention of the SSX series immediately pops great music and memorable quotes into your head. The arcade-style snowboarding series hit its peak on the PlayStation 2, where SSX Tricky and SSX 3 thrilled gamers with colorful characters, over-the-top style, and accessible yet deep gameplay. After several disappointing follow-ups to those titles, the series has been quiet for a number of years.
That's about to change, as a new game simply titled SSX is scheduled to come out in January. It's a bit of a reboot, but also an evolution of the series to reflect technological improvements and current snowboarding trends. Originally titled SSX: Deadly Descents, one of the big selling points of this game is that the team was able to access NASA tools to topographically map actual mountains from around the world, and a large selection of these mountains will become the setting for the new game. Despite this fact and the re-design of the characters to wear more practical-looking snowboarding gear than they have previously, the developers insist that SSX isn't forsaking arcade action for gritty realism. They've dropped "Deadly Descents" from the title and are now fully emphasizing the three main pillars of the game: racing, tricks, and survival.
One of the major design goals of the new SSX is to give players the freedom to play the way they like on any part of the mountain that they prefer. Players will be able to choose drop sites on various parts of the mountain. The higher drop sites will feature more severe weather and "survival" elements such as dealing with avalanches, while lower drop sites will feature more interesting trick setups. Either way, the developers are dedicated to making a snowboarding playground out of the real-life mountains they're featuring, and there are already signs of whimsical additions such as a Colorado mountain that features a train line buried by an avalanche. The snow-covered train cars and broken tracks become launching points for tricks and add regional flavor to the mountain.
The selection of mountains on which to play is looking quite diverse. The team has shown off maps of the world with mountains featured on every continent, even Antarctica. Early reports stated that the team was aiming for 70 different mountains, though we don't have a current official confirmation of that number. Each mountain will feature different topographical features that have been exaggerated in order to present players with fun places to race and trick, as well as challenging shortcuts to take. The characters will also have access to new toys that facilitate the game's focus on pushing the extremes of the sport. The one that's been shown off the most so far is a set of "glide wings" that attach to the character's snow suits, allowing for greater air time and crazier tricks.
The cast of characters is always a big part of SSX games, and the new SSX has held votes on its Facebook page to help determine which series veterans would make the cut. Most of the game's characters have now been announced, and their basic character designs have been shown. The characters are older and are wearing more realistic boarding gear now, though their individual personalities still shine through. Returning characters include Canadian actress Elise, ultimate boarding champ Mac, speed demon Zoe, crazy bad boy Psymon, cheery yet determined Kaori, all-around cool guy Moby, and now-grown kid boarder Griff. Three new characters have been introduced as well: Ty Thorsen from Norway, Alex Moreau from France, and Tane Mumea from some location that sells tie-dye hoodies. EA says it's not quite done introducing characters, so there should be a few more surprises for fans.
There are still a number of questions about SSX. Will the characters be fully voice acted and as verbal on the slopes as they were in Tricky and SSX 3? Will there be plenty of the color, style, and catchy music that series fans expect? Will the development team be able to create a truly diverse and interesting set of tracks from the real-world mountains they've mapped? Most importantly, what will multiplayer be like? So far, only single player gameplay has been shown. Multiplayer gameplay will be unveiled at Gamescom this August, with the developers promising the introduction of a "very unique multiplayer mode."
Series fans remain cautiously optimistic about the new SSX, but it's hard not to gain enthusiasm for the title as more information is released. The development team has said that they're determined to woo skeptical fans. They've even promised that a playable demo will be available well before the game's release so that gamers can make up their own minds about the game ahead of time. It's definitely enough to have piqued excitement in my household, where we're looking forward to the return to our crazy Zoe versus Kaori races and our pathetic attempts to pull off crazy tricks without wiping out. This is definitely one to keep an eye on.
CCC Contributing Writer