Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SSX PS3 Review


It has been a very long time since the last SSX game has graced the gaming world, now with the new SSX we have once again returned to the unrealistic mountainsides full of of overly comic snowboarders that take snowboarding to its most extreme. If that all sounds bad to you then you should probably step away now, because if you are looking for a realistic snowboarding game that focuses on real physics, life-like snow, ice storms and unexplored regions then this is not your game. If you've played the original SSX games then you shouldn't be surprised by it's defining characteristics and the game does use all it's over the top gameplay to overall betterment of the series. It definitely isn't a perfect experience, but it is clearly a positive one.


Basic Info: SSX came out on March 1st for PS3 and Xbox 360, it is a $60 game created by EA Canada and published by EA Sports. The game uses a one-time use online pass, which may be purchased for a decent price if you buy the game used.

Online Overview
There are a great many things that SSX does well, but one of the biggest changes they have made to the series with is Ridernet. Ridernet encompasses the entire online world of SSX, whether that means competing in events against other random players from all over the world or beating the race times or trick scores of your rivals, which are incidentally the people from your friends list. Every time you log into SSX you will be immediately greeted by updates on your rivalries and global events that you are participating in. There are three main modes in the game, Deep Descent (single player), Explore (Singleplayer and Multiplayer mixed together) and Global Events. Global Events are the meat of multiplayer and one of the best ways to earn currency, currency that you use for new snowboards, modifications, suits or special items that are unique to each character.


Global Events let you search through all the tracks in the game and compete directly against other players for cash prizes. Some of these events will be trick events, race events or deadly descents, which I will go into later when I talk about singleplayer. All of the events have different entry costs and different prize amounts, some of the toughest challenges have billions in prize money, but that also means it attracts thousands of competitors. The whole global event system, and Ridernet in general,works very well and it rewards you for having a ton of friends who also play the game. I've been distracted from the singleplayer experience many times because I've logged in to find my records broken by rivals and new global events with huge rewards to tempt me. Ridernet is impressive and always keeps you in the loop. Even if you manage to run out of events to compete in you can easily search the world for new ones or use the recommendation system. As you can tell I am quite fond of Ridernet, Global Events and Explore mode, all of which made online play more interesting, but I don't love it.

I dislike several things about Ridernet and online in general. One of the biggest complaints about the game, something that I also loathe, is that there is no normal online racing or trick events. The majority of online has you racing against the ghosts of others and if you really want to do some old school basic multiplayer racing you are out of luck. Global Events let you see actual corporeal players on the same course, but you have no control of who you are racing against. Another thing that really hurts online is the lack of split screen. Not only can you not play split screen online, but you cannot do so in singleplayer either. Fans of the series were used to split screen being an option and to have the removed hurts the appeal of the game. Other than those few complaints online is designed quite well and it is made to incorporate players into the action that is constantly taking place on various courses throughout the SSX world. Online also does a good job being persistentby always working in the background and remembering your scores, track times and everything you have affected. Take a look at Ridernet in action below.

Singleplayer is likely what you would expect it to be, but it is centered around Deadly Descents and they are entirely new to the series. There are nine Deadly Descents, each of which on nine different mountains from nine different locations around the world. Each location has you unlock a character and each character can be leveled up through use, online or singleplayer. You can buy these characters if you don't want to go through each singleplayer location in order to unlock them, but going through the entire singleplayer will reward you with a good deal of money, all of the characters, unique equipment and plenty of experience for each character. Each character is tasked with dominating the mountain and conquering the Deadly Descent for the area. Most of the Deadly Descents are really interesting, challenging and a welcome change from the vast amount of trick and race courses in the game. The trick and race courses are created with the old games in mind and generally feel like they should, but the Deadly Descents are one of the few things that make SSX feel unique compared to the previous games in the series.


As seen above each Deadly Descent transforms the mountain. The one in the screenshot above is called Thin Air and the challenge for that one, besides an already challenging course, is the air. You are snowboarding so high up that you have to use oxygen or you will black out. The most memorable Deadly Descent would have to be avalanche, in which you have outrun an avalanche and it changes you camera view so you can see the avalanche crushing down behind you. As seen below.


There are also a great deal of memorable and well done Deadly Descents, like Whiteout, Volcano and Darkness, but they are all fairly unique. Without the Deadly Descents most people would fairly quickly tire of racing or doing trick events, but they add a much needed variety to the game and they are designed well. All of the Deadly Descents are challenging and visually exciting. They absolutely capture the over the top extreme sports tone that shows you a world were nothing is impossible, which matches the story and tone from the previous games as well. Singleplayer is challenging and enjoyable, but it would be very little on it's own without the two other modes, Explore and Global Events.


One of the last points I wanted to address was sound, presentation and controls. Unfortunately for naysayers there isn't a whole lot to be negatively said about any those three topics. The menu's are easy to navigate and everything is easy to access, like your profile which can be accessed at nearly anytime by pressing select. The game also controls quite well, allowing you several different options for control and you may even select a control mode that is similar to older SSX games. The one problem with controls is that it has a very light weight feel to it, almost as if your character isn't a person that actually weighs anything. I really don't like the feeling that your snowboard isn't actually grounded, but despite that it generally controls smoothly and it is easy to get used to the controls. The sound in the game is moderately good, but it could use a bit of work to make you feel more embedded in the environment. I do wish the sound of volcanoes resonated more through the caverns that you ride through and avalanches made you hear the weight of all the snow rushing towards you, but some of the soundtrack choices during Deadly Descents are spot on and voice acting is appropriately cheesy. Music is a mixed bunch of songs and you can add in your own music if you have any on your hard drive. My hat is off to EA for adding in the simple feature of allowing you to customize your own playlists. 

Last Comments and Score
SSX is not an excellent game. It captures the world of extreme snowboarding very well and makes you feel like you can conquer any mountain, plus it mixes online and singleplayer in a way that makes you want to keep playing for a long time, but it doesn't excel at anything. Singleplayer is fun, interesting and has some unique courses, but it doesn't draw you in all that much and it often feels like you should just be spending your time on multiplayer instead. Multiplayer provides a great deal of gameplay and it feels great to challenge your friends, without a doubt it is the strongest aspect of the game, but even with that it is missing a bit that could make it a lot more enjoyable in the long run.

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I wanted to love SSX and I was not disappointed by what EA has created, but for now I just merely have high hopes for a new SSX with even greater variety, smoother controls, a less frustrating rewind system and a more comprehensive online mode. I can easily recommend to anyone who is a fan of the series and knows what they are getting into it, but if you don't like the idea of floaty controls or a super extreme snow covered world full of unrealistic, but gorgeous, courses then you shouldn't takes the plunge just yet. If the idea of continually competing against friends and topping the charts of Ridernet has enough appeal to make you want to play for a game for a very long time then you will find SSX to your liking. No other game has done this genre well in such a long time that it is hard to pass it up.

Violent Score: 8.5 (out of 10) 
In the end SSX does a lot new and well, but not enough to make it great or excellent.  

-Written by Sean Cargle


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