The past few years have seen a number of nostalgic titles such as Driver, Medal of Honor and Twisted Metal reimagined on modern consoles with varying degrees of success. However, how will Electronic Arts fare with their revival of classic snowboarding game SSX, is a 5-year lull enough time to craft the perfect comeback or will it end up face down in the snow?
If you come into SSX expecting a serious simulation game then the initial tutorial will teach you that SSX is certainly not that. Players are launched from a helicopter and taught the basic controls while seemingly falling to their doom. Don’t worry though as this is all part of the titles appeal and something that you’ll come to relish in as you land physically impossible, gravity defying tricks on your tour of the various slopes on offer.
All of the lavishly detailed mountain ranges are based on real world locations such as The Alps, Patagonia, The Himalayas and even Antarctica. Each area presents its own challenges with ice, huge crevasses, trees, caves and buildings giving players plenty to navigate as well as bust massive combos off. There are a few frustrating moments where the multiple route nature of tracks almost dooms riders with sudden hazards that are hard to avoid at high speeds. Fortunately there is a new rewind feature implemented, but this doesn’t come without its penalty to pay since adversaries continue going forward while you go backward.
Despite the often inelegant course design, all the tools are given to riders to shred through the snow and break out some serious tricks that can be chained together in a way that’s highly reminiscent of the Tony Hawk’s skating series. The movement is smooth and manages to mirror the carving nature that gives real world snowboards their momentum. Tricks on the other hand are far more eccentric and regularly see riders detach from the board for some extremely crazy stunts. It’s exhilarating to play, yet deep enough to allow a dedicated gamer to far outclass a newcomer in slopes that demand a high score.
Main modes are split into three distinct sections in the form of World Tour, Explore and Global Events. The first two are singleplayer in nature with World Tour setting players on a mission to assemble a crew of riders to beat a rival who is trying to ‘conquer’ all the slopes in the world. It’s a very thin premise and one that’s entirely forgettable, however on the plus side it doesn’t manage to outstay itself welcome. Explore is more of a freeplay mode giving players the option to pick any unlocked slopes and play whatever game type they wish to their hearts content. Overall it offers a significant wealth of content to be explored.
Extra variety, short of races and highscore modes, comes in the form of survival levels. These give certain conditions alongside simply getting to the end of the slope such as only having a certain oxygen allowance, avoiding a speeding avalanche as well as using a wingsuit to glide huge distances across drops. Initially these are enjoyable but some end up feeling gimmicky after a while and being more of a chore than a welcome break from the norm.
SSX has all the mechanics in place to make for an engaging online multiplayer affair, after all what’s more fun than showing off your skills to your friends for bragging rights. Unfortunately EA have missed a huge opportunity and excluded real time player versus player racing. There is online competition, but it’s in the form of ghost racing where you take on a replay of your friends, AI and random people when on the slopes to set your own best record. This is also posted to your Ridernet system which pops up with notifications when your friends have beaten your time/score, which although nice just doesn’t feel as compelling as a traditional lobby system.
SSX is a solid revival that makes the adrenaline fuelled gameplay of previous titles relevant once again with insane gravity defying tricks and nail biting speed. However amongst all its improvements the developers have managed to create a multiplayer that will no doubt divide opinion with its blatant lack of traditional matchmaking.