My apologies for the lack of any updates recently; a mix of university exams and my laptop screen breaking prevented me from writing anything. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been gaming, oh no! Been busy procrastinating with Fallout 3 (Game of the Year Edition) and the new SSX game, both for the Xbox360. I haven’t finished Fallout 3 yet, since I’m putting off doing the final mission so I can achievement-whore and play the DLC packs, so a review for that will be coming soon. So in the meantime: SSX.
As soon as I heard about this game’s imminent release I spazzed out with excitement, for lack of a better phrase. The original SSX and SSX 3 had been staples of my PS2-playing days and were very close to my heart (as a side note, I briefly played SSX Tricky but never owned it). I was disappointed with SSX On Tour, and due to lack of a Wii had never played Blur, but this new one, by all reckoning, seemed like it would bring the series back to form.
Spoilers: It does.
Okay okay, obviously this is my opinion and such an opinion needs some justification.
SSX, as a series, is all about reality-defying snowboard insanity. A move to real-world locations in this instalment initially made me wary that the series would be deviating from what makes it great, but the courses for each area have a surprising amount of character to define them, and each presents a unique and interesting challenge. This is achieved primarily through the concept of the ‘Deadly Descents’; the final course in each region which is designed to test your skills against various conditions unique to that region, such as darkness or avalanches. This keeps each region feeling fresh and exciting, not to mention giving you new gameplay mechanics to help you out. For example, in the Gravity region, you’re given a wingsuit to help you traverse the larger jumps. Awesome.
This instalment also features the return of many veteran SSX characters, while adding a few newbies, easily unlockable in the world tour segment of the game, which acts as the ‘story mode’ for the game. All the usual suspects are present, though with a few exceptions which they’ll no doubt release in DLC in the future.
So far as aesthetics and the feel of the game go, it ticks all the right boxes. Graphics are as good as you’d expect from a big modern release, and the soundtrack contains both high-powered dance tunes for when you’re carving up snow at 120kph, as well as more laid back indie tracks which make you really appreciate the splendour of your virtual jaunt in the snow. Also contains fan-favourite “It’s Tricky” by Run DMC whenever you go into uber-tricky mode, which I thought was a nice touch. Controls-wise, I can only speak for the Xbox version, but it feels intuitive enough and helps the gameplay flow easily, even when you have to rewind your progress time and time again after you fell into a crevasse for the billionth time.
The multiplayer aspect seems interesting enough; players take part in timed events to see who can go the fastest, score the highest or survive the longest, and final winnings depend upon where you rank compared to everyone else who took part. I’m unable to specifically review the “rivals” aspect since I’ve yet to convince any of my friends to compete against me. My only criticism thus-far about the multiplayer is the lack of events at certain times of day. I’ve found that during daylight hours of GMT there are very few multiplayer events running, and those which are often have a hefty price tag for entering. Waiting until later in the evening diminishes this somewhat, presumably because the influx of American players necessitates more events. Or maybe I’m just unlucky.
It’s not a perfect game, by any means. Some of the courses are challenging to the point of frustration, and it does one of my gaming-pet-peevs by, instead of just letting you finish the game when you finish the game, pulls a new objective out of nowhere right at the end, which isn’t much appreciated when its 3am and you’ve stayed up all night trying to complete what you thought was the last course. Also the similarity of the courses to each other, in the sense that they’re all on a natural-looking mountain whereas in previous games you could be in a city one minute and an iced-up river the next, makes it difficult to remember the layout of some of the courses, leading to many a time where I find what I think is a good jump and end up flailing down into the dark misty abyss. The rewind option relieves this annoyance somewhat but its often limited in its availability, and there’s nothing quite as frustrating as rewinding and seeing all your race competitors speed past you and leaving you in their powder.
That being said, it’s stylish, fun and has lots of challenges which I expect will keep me playing for some while yet. Definitely recommended to anyone who was a fan of the originals.