SSX Review (Xbox 360)
Electronic Arts’ new entry into the SSX series brings to an end a five-year hiatus since gamers last hit the snowy slopes. This new addition to the now decade-old franchise acts a reboot for the snowboarder, and although polished and certainly playable, certain design choices stop this revamp from truly hitting the mark.
When jumping into the game for the very first time, you’re greeted with a brief tutorial which runs through the basic trick-set. This initial guide takes place in a ridiculous mid-air free fall scenario, following your character jumping out of an aircraft – setting the scene for the game’s return to a more extreme, and somewhat quirky, style of gameplay.
Once you’ve landed on solid ground, you will start making your way through the generous campaign mode. The campaign takes you and your boarding team across several real-world locations including the Alps, the Himalayas and the Rockies. This world-tour is held together with the loose premise that you and your team are racing to beat new rival Griff, however this doesn’t really add much in terms of compelling narrative, and frankly neither should it – you’re here to snowboard and enjoy it.
Thankfully the core gameplay found within SSX does offer a fair amount of enjoyment; performing outlandish tricks is extremely satisfying, and nailing a big combo is definitely rewarding. New modes also add to the game’s appeal, mixing the expected gameplay with fresh challenges, such as traversing the peaks with limited oxygen.
Yet the core experience can also bring a fair amount of frustration. The course design at times seems outright clumsy, with several of the sprawling mountains dotted with huge open crevasses ready for you to fall into. These unpredictable courses seem self-admitting in their confusing design, due to the newly introduced ability to rewind time. This rewind-ability, activated by holding down the left bumper, seems to confirm that players will struggle with the punishing courses on offer.
Outside of the campaign mode lies a disappointing take on ‘multiplayer’. 2012’s SSX does away with traditional matchmaking, meaning you can’t jump online and get into a lobby with a group of friends, hitting the slopes as you may expect. Instead the competitive online mode is made up of Global Events, challenging you to take on a descent and set a record. When a friend beats your record for a certain peak, you receive an on-screen notification to let you know. This social aspect is a nice way to encourage a competitive community. However, despite this incentive to keep dipping in, the overall lack of matchmaking leaves a glaring gap in SSX’s overall offering.
SSX’s asynchronous online direction will no doubt upset many that are looking for a compelling online snowboarding game that they can play with their friends. On the flip side of the coin, this new approach will definitely appeal to those dedicated enough to put in the time to become the master of the mountains, and will no doubt create an online community of seemingly segregated yet enthused players.
Electronic Arts’ 2012 reboot for SSX looks the part, has a fitting soundtrack, and has plenty on offer to keep any gamer busy. Several of the game’s over-the-top moments will put a smile on your face, and for those willing to practice their skills the game is incredibly rewarding.
Yet the mix of thrill and frustration on offer doesn’t feel quite right — at its core SSX puts forward a solid experience, but not everyone will enjoy their time on the slopes.