It’s easy to be mislead by memories of grandeur, tricked by nostalgia and deceived by your own mind as you recall your favourite franchises in years gone by. “They’re still as good as I remember”, you repeat in your head in an effort to convince yourself, like an addict in denial. Take off those rose-tinted glasses and often the simple truth is that no longer are they the gems that our memory recalls, ravaged by time and outshone by so many that have followed. Whether the same holds true for snowboarding hit SSX is irrelevant now as the previous subtitled Deadly Descents not only manages to live up to the image engraved into our memories, but brings it to the current generation with resounding success.
Many a year have passed since the last snowboarding title hit consoles, with Shaun White attempting to become the Tony Hawk of the frosty genre to no avail. The return to the center stage for SSX could not have been better timed; fans were clamoring for another outing for the successful franchise and with little competition in the market it couldn’t have had a smoother ride. Regardless, Electronic Arts were always going to have a tough time living up to the expectations of fans, the same fans that will have the previously mentioned images at the forefront of their brain from the moment they hit start.
Not that it matters though, as you’ll quickly feel the memories of old washing away, replaced by the thoughts and feelings of pure enjoyment, slick presentation and a wonderfully crafted trick system as you race down the world’s deadliest mountains. Whether it’s the NASA-data assisted slopes of Mount Everest, the plethora of tricks and combos, or the addictive feature set within RiderNet, SSX is an absolute blast from the moment you pick it up until the moment you lay your controller to rest; many hours later.
“Map design is exquisite, with every location filled with multiple routes, shortcuts, killer drops and epic jumps.”
Never a series to go the route of simulation, this is as arcade at its finest. Packed full of tricks that seemingly “defy reality”, you shoot down the mountain ranges at blistering pace, performing spins into the thousands of degrees as you plummet off drops of a fatal height, kicking off helicopters mid-flight as your competitors grind down hundreds of yards of railing. Performing tricks are as satisfying as they are simplistic; with two controls schemes at your disposal – classic buttons or the newly added analogue stick system – granting you the ability to select which side of the board to grab and with which hand(s). You quickly settle into a rhythm, a go to set of your favourites, a preferred rotation and providing you get your jump spot on, they can be devastating to your oppositions chances of out-scoring you. Chaining tricks together is the key to success though, with multipliers earned through performing trick-after-trick and points geometrically increasing as a result; so ensuring the minimising of duplicate tricks, mixing in grinds, obtaining maximum air time and nose-grinding in between are all essential to racking up a high score.
Alternatively, you may need to try to hit terminal velocity as you zip down the mountain face in an attempt to finish top of the pack, making the most of any shortcuts you find and not getting too caught up in the spectacle of performing. It’s about being efficient with your lines, effective with you usage and choice of tricks to earn some much-needed boost, and avoid failing off the cliff face. On the other hand you may just need to survive as you race down the most hazardous routes with limited rewinds – a feature that costs you time and points but allows you to avoid impending death. These three modes make up the entirety of the Deadly Descents game mode, the core of SSX.
Whilst the name may have been dropped from the game’s title, the dangers of the mountains are still very much a focus of the primary campaign, with each Deadly Descent focusing on a particular threat. This could be the sudden drop in temperature, lack of light, dangers of gravity or ample amount of obstacles, but with each comes an accompanying danger which is where some of the variety is injected into SSX. Unfortunately, whilst none of them are particular bad, they fail to really add anything special to the title, and the Avalanche reversed-camera mini-game ruined the flow of the game and felt entirely unnecessary.
Intertwined by a quiet frankly unnecessary plot, the Deadly Descents will challenge even the greatest riders as team SSX attempt to beat fellow rider Griff Simmons. One moment you could be racing down the sub-zero glaciers of Antarctica or tricking it from the staggering heights of the Himalayas as you avoid ruthless drops, it not only introduces you to all of the locales, but with the implementation of additional ‘gear’ – on top of just your board – it tries to keep things fresh. The ‘gear’ is a bit hit-and-miss, with the likes of the wing-suit not only massively altering gameplay, but doing so in a fun and enjoyable way, whilst the armour just allures to the fact that your perhaps not very good at avoiding rocks.
“With a cracking visual setup, responsive and satisfying controls and a soundtrack of the highest quality, what’s not to like?”
Map design is exquisite, with every location filled with multiple routes, shortcuts, killer drops and epic jumps. Each of the nine areas has a clear and distinct personality and feature set, so no doubt fans will quickly settle on a favourite. However, the variety is what the most impressed aspect; some will require you to be more careful with your descent, whilst another may be a tricksters playground.
Environments, characters, lighting effects, even the brilliantly absurd Uber-tricks’ particle glow all look fantastic and without a single dropped frame as it runs as smooth as the frozen deserts you cross; all this whilst a gloriously compiled and composed soundtrack plays pumping tunes in your ear. That’s before you even consider the superbly edited and mixed audio for when you enter tricky or use a rewind amongst other things. Cutscenes are impeccably created and the presentation is top draw at all times. It’s a truly beautifully put together title, and continues a recent trend of exceptionally presented titles from Electronic Arts.
Much like Autolog from the recent Need for Speed titles, RiderNet is SSX’s killer feature: altering you to the highscores of your friends, allowing you to send and receive challenges and even partake in global events to compete against the world. Credits are the currency earnt through all of the modes, which are used to purchase new boards, outfits, gear and one-use mods, giving you something to work constantly towards. Away from the core mode, you can ‘discover’ the planet by partaking in one of 150 challenges as you compete against not only the computers targets, but also the highscores of your friends. There’s also ample collectibles and badges to locate and work towards as well, so the amount of potential content here is abundant.
SSX is the ideal reboot. There are a few issues and a lot of the newly added content doesn’t really improve the series much, but the core gameplay utterly superb. It freshens up the market somewhat with its over-the-top attitude and will keep gamers embroiled with a copious amount of enjoyment for some time. With a cracking visual setup, responsive and satisfying controls and a soundtrack of the highest quality, what’s not to like? All that’s left to do now is hit the slopes, it’s not that tricky…