In college, there was one game I used to play every night in order to find my calm before working on whatever research paper or homework I needed to finish. This game was just unbridled, amazing fun, and it caused this sense of childlike giddiness in me. It even helped fully submerge my future wife into video games, creating a friendly rivalry between the two of us to see who could finish a race faster or who could get the most trick points. The game I am referring to is SSX Tricky.
Long before trivial Achievements or Trophies were being rewarded, people were spending hours upon hours trying to master SSX Tricky. It wasn’t because the game demanded you complete everything or earn a gold medal in every event—nope, it was just plain fun. I’m sure many people have felt this way about the later entries in the series, which didn’t necessarily match the insanity or absurdity of Tricky. But for me, I was always looking for the next Tricky.
Now, the brand new SSX title is the closest the series has come to recapturing that flame for me.
To start on both a high and low note, there’s something of a story here. The three most successful riders on surf (Tane Mumea), snow (Mac Fraser), and dirt (Zoe Payne) have gathered to conquer the nine deadly descents of the world. They also put together a team of fan-favorite characters from the series and some new faces as well. DJ Atomika (yes, the same DJ from Burnout Paradise) tells you that one of the original boarders, Griff, has left the group in order to do the deadly descents on his own. Apparently, Griff had all of the funding, because now the rest of the team has resorted to live streaming the event in order to get funding from their fans.
As far as stories go in these types of games, this is not a bad one. However, a minor annoyance comes in during world travel. Having to play as the “specified character” for a specific area is a bit of a turnoff for me, and giving certain people certain advantages in equipment is also a grievance. Considering that each rider is different in trick presentation and control, it doesn’t seem that forcing you into specific character choices (during the World Tour event) is the best way to go here. This is the only complaint I have with the game’s story mode; everything else flows in a natural structure of linearity. Of course, having the specified characters in their natural elements will help you make your choice of characters for the game’s other two modes: Explore and Global Events.
The Explore mode is a lot like free play, the only difference being the set boundaries included in every other mode. I personally love this mode; mainly because you can get acquainted with any of the characters (after they are unlocked) and you’ll also still earn level advancements and credits. In a way, it’s a lot like RPG grinding in that respect. Making your character that much better will help in other game modes, even in the story.
However, the game mode to best benefit from the Explore is Global Events mode. This mode has introduced one of the most entertaining and rewarding online experiences I’ve played in a while. Here, you must compete in events to earn a position on the leaderboards. Other online players can come along and destroy your score, and then you, in turn, will attempt to destroy theirs. It’s a lot like old school arcade bragging rights, except there’s no one around for you to point a finger at or scream at. Of course, the better your character, the better equipment and capabilities they will have. Ideally, this would mean your boarder should eventually be able to outperform the other riders in these massive Global Events.
Now, the gear adds a level of customization that will help improve your character’s chances on the runs. For example, one of the first pieces of gear you have to use is “Armor,” which can be used as a shield when going down dangerous runs. Hitting rocks, trees, or the occasional friendly rider next to you will cause you to take damage. The armor gives you and additional “health bar” to better your chances of surviving the descent or event in general. Other types of gear include a headlamp (for seeing in the dark), a solar suit (to keep you warm in frigid conditions), an oxygen tank (high altitude means no air, and this helps—a little), and wing suits (which help you glide over impossible gaps). And these are just a few of the gear options you can unlock. The best thing about this leveling feature is that the gear gets better as you advance. You can also sell some of your stuff back if you need to.
Besides the gear, you can also purchase new boards and clothing. While clothing won’t improve your characters’ stats, it will help them stand out a bit more. These colorful characters don’t need any help standing out, mind you, but it can be fun to add your own personal touch to their signature looks.
Simply put, the environments of SSX contain the best-looking snow ever seen in a game. It glistens and gleans in sunlight, and the powder effects make nearly every impact against the snow rewarding. Blending exaggerated features and realism into the characters was a good move as well.
With this better blend of character models, it is easier for players to sit back and enjoy the over-the-top absurdity of the tricks. The simplistic controls make this all possible. Utilizing either the right stick (as later games in the series did) or the face buttons (as many refer to as the classic controls), you won’t feel encumbered by the control scheme. This setup allows players of differing skill levels to actually be able to compete with one another. In fact, even my six-year-old son could come close to beating my own scores at times.
Of course, EA has never shied away from making a good soundtrack. This one comes across as near perfect. It just feels like any of these songs could be playing on an actual snowboarder’s iPod while they are coasting down the mountainside. While the music selection is great, the voice acting is hit-and-miss. There’s nothing too horrible here, but some of the characters can come off as extremely annoying at times. The snide and crass remarks, however, I extremely enjoy, and want more of them; they help SSX remain fun even when your frustration has been pushed to the limit.
SSX has so many great things wrapped into it that I could hardly be happier. Aside from the way the Deadly Descents “storyline” plays out and the occasional character getting stuck between two rocks, SSX brings back the joy of playing all hours of the night trying to outdo your previous score. In this case, though, it’ll be trying to outdo the scores of the last fifty players who bested you in Global Events. If you’ve ever played any of the SSX games, this is the game you have been waiting to play for a long time. If you are a fan of SSX Tricky, all I can say is that the wait is finally over for a true replacement.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
By far, this is the best snow has ever looked in a game. 4.4 Control
Varying the control scheme for new and old fans provide solid execution pay offs. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Someone did their work and delivered one of the best soundtracks for a game in a long time. 4.7 Play Value
I used to stay up late playing SSX Tricky, and this one has already taken many more nights from me. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best