SSX Review

My description of SSX: Too real for unreal.

Back when I got my first original Xbox I got it with SSX Tricky. It was one of the defining moments of my video game lifestyle. Before SSX Tricky I was addicted to RPG’s and adventure games. I never even flirted with the idea of playing a game where the story wasn’t one of its core qualities. Then I played SSX. The rush I got playing it kept me hooked for weeks. My brother and I would play for hours. There were hints of a story somewhere in there, but for the most part it was an arcade-like-Fusion-Frenzy-esque-downhill–party. Every player had their own strengths and weaknesses that could be molded to your style by using different boards and points available. In the end the primary goal was to get your rider to the master level while having some fun.


Fast forward to 2012 and what do we have, a gaming industry almost devoid of extreme sports games. But here’s the good thing people: there’s a revolution coming! For the past three years developers who aren’t Activision are realizing that as our genres melt more and more into every game that the games and series that defined these genres are gone. Now some of gaming’s most recognized genres are making a return with games like Super Street Fighter 4. But this isn’t just a reboot like SS4 or Mortal Kombat. EA Canada went all out, taking the head of the extreme sports genre, erasing the face, and drawing a completely different one in its place.

  No matter how you skin it…this is just amazing.
That’s where things get sticky, as the very things I love about this game may be gone for good. Let us start at the core of the SSX Series: The Speed. As the all-knowing voice over of Tricky stated almost every slope: Tricks=boost, Boost=speed. That’s the formula at its most basic. You know what is absolutely devoid of speed? Tutoials. In the case of SSX 2012, you’re locked out of the whole game until you complete two of them. Ten minutes more of my life I couldn’t spend playing the game fast and furiously.


Now for the trick section, which received a massive overhaul. There is the option to play with the classic controls, but for the sake of all the new players reading my review, I played with the new ones. I regret my decision. The new controls add a layer of…thought to the game I really wasn’t looking forward to using. I really won’t get into it too much, all I have to say is if you’re picking up the game to develop some godlike skills and then go destroy all of your friends high scores in explore mode you couldn’t be happier with them. If you want controls so simple and thoughtless you can get lost in the virtual world you’re staring at you’ll want to shoot for the classic controls. From what I’ve seen SSX was made to go one of two ways. A player can sacrifice points in order to enjoy the scenery and fantasy or vice versa.
  Is this SSX I’m looking at or Skyrim?

One point I’m thoroughly sold on are the locations. No amount of creativity was spared for these huge drops. Some of the drops are played at night, and this fact alone brings a layer of beauty to the already gorgeous locations I fell in love with at first sight. Skyrim got a lot of gamers talking about how the landscape can help make a game. The same is true for SSX, and the postcard ready shots were award worthy. This is one part of SSX that completely blew me away. The fun cartoon-like graphics on the original Xbox fit nicely, but the landscape in SSX hits you like a heavyweight’s biggest haymaker.


Another area that got a major facelift in the series was the music. In Tricky there was not a very large or complete soundtrack, but there was enough to be…a soundtrack. That all changes in SSX, where EA must have thought that sometimes SSX is about more that over the top reckless speed and craziness. (They were wrong btw!) Don’t get me wrong, there’s around thirty songs, and once again there’s a 50/50 split. About fifteen of these are the same fast and furious songs the SSX fan base is used to. But there’s another side. A deep, alternative/techno side of the soundtrack. It’s this side that helps the player fall into the game. It’s quite simple really. Along with race opponents that might as well not exist and a slope that’s been tailor made for chaining huge combos and landing the biggest trickys the soothing songs make the game less of a comptitition and more of a pipedream. When those three things come together right the game is at its most unreal state, finally helping players visualize the This-isnt-really-possible-but-snowboarding-could-get-this-extreme-with-time mentality they’ve been searching for all along.


Now remember when I said the classic controls were good? They are. Remember when I said the landscape was breathtaking? It is. But a child of both of these things and a little bit of innovation manages to be the exact opposite of good. I’m talking about the new rewind option, which is a chance I wish EA never took. Remember the voiceover? Tricks=boost. Boost=speed. Then why oh why let us rewind? Let me give you my own little phrase. Beautiful landscapes=beautiful tricks. Beautiful tricks=Rewind when you fall off a beautiful cliff. Yes I know it’s not as short and catchy but it’s just as true. My stomach drops every time I have to rewind and get the OPPOSITE of what SSX fans want: SLOW! The games penalties for rewinding are so steep it makes me sick just thinking about it. I’ll leave those a secret, but there’s another penalty you take every time you rewind, and it’s the loss of fantasy. As soon as the rewind starts you’re tore out of the virtual world and back into you’re living room. Boo!!!


What about one of the most high-speed parts of the game? The Tricky section? In Tricky there was a bar along the right hand side that gradually filled with color as tricks were landed. When it filled a big voice would go “IT’S TRICKY IT’S TRICKY!!! TR-TR-TR-TR-TR-TR-TR-TR-TR-TR-TRICKY!!!!!!” Cool techno noises and sounds would slam into the players eardrums. This would unlock Trickys as my brother and I called them. Landing a tricky would colorize a letter in the word tricky. Six trickys later a player would find themselves in super tricky mode, with unlimited boost and trickys. The catch was that the player could not fall between trickys. All of that is gone now, replaced by a much more boring process. As the player lands moves a tiny blue bar fills. Sooner or later the player fills up that bar and the word tricky appears on the bottom. Land enough moves and the word tricky will fill up and become super tricky, which will make the riders hand glow. Wow……(snore). After all that I’m just one fall away from losing my super tricky.

Another highpoint of the game? The equiptment. Now if you’ve ever played SSX On Tour then you know that the series made a push to make customization a big part of the game earlier in the series. This is even more refined in SSX, to the point where every decision can be the difference between breaking that high score and rage quitting. Of course your board is still one of the most important sections of the game, but there’s now more to it than that. Clothes, gear, armor etc. It all comes with levels and trade-offs and everything else hardcore games want. The clothes are purely aesthetic, and with over 100 outfits for each rider it gives our perfectionists out there one more reason to hit the slopes.

 <— It’s a  long way to the bottom —>

Diversity. If there’s one thing Tricky, On Tour and every other game was missing it was diversity. SSX changes all that with its slopes. I said SSX was made to go one of two ways, and the slopes are a perfect example of this. The slopes are split about 50/50 where you’ll either have a slope full of big air and bigger combos or you’ll have a slope full of deadly drops and hazardous obstacles. The game isn’t shy about taking you to the extremes of this ideal either with its wing suit drops that offer players minutes of uninterrupted trick landing and its survival courses that force players to jump duck dodge and slow down all in the pursuit of just staying alive. It is at these extremes SSX shines, forcing players to focus on doing one very simple thing (get points or get out alive) in one of the most spectacular ways possible.

Then there is the multiplayer, something that rivals the landscape for the most improved award. With EA’s Ridernet the game automatically tracks you and your friend’s data and compares them. It allows you to try to beat their high score in explore mode. There’s not really a traditional multiplayer, but with competitive friends the multiplayer can become one of the most diverse and unpredictable sections of the game.


Overall. 8/10. I know this score may seem high based on the tone of the review, but there’s a reason for that. Many of my complaints are in comparison to SSX Tricky. It’s been years since and SSX release, and the formula was bound to change since then. The gamer in me refuses to let go, and has looked down on some of the innovations. But that doesn’t mean the game isn’t good. It is in fact an edgy and exciting twist to better interest its hardcore fan base. At the same time it does something not many game developers have been doing. It took a risk and backed it with new controls, darker twists and better looking turns. The thing that turned me off from the game was its push toward the realistic. I remember a game where players could fall off the edge of what seemed to be a Hawaiian snow land and disapppear in a flash of white light, only to respawn seconds later. I remember a game where Elise could fall huge distances and land on her head and have her only response to the pain be “OW!” Now I’m playing a game where I need constant armor and padding to keep my health up and being thousands of feet above sea level actually means I worry about the thin oxygen. I’m not saying it dosnt make sense, I’m just saying that in a series like SSX, there was no time to make sense; everyone was too busy having fun. I find myself playing a game that is at some of it’s highest points so real it can only be unreal, and at its lowest points so real I wish for the unreal.

P.S. Griff can SUCK IT!

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