Game Review: SSX
EA Sports has brought back the classic SSX series in this latest installment in an attempt to make it more extreme and bring in not only fans of the older games, but new comers as well. So did SSX do the trick or does it fall flat on its face?
First off let me tell you that as I’m writing this review I have Run D.M.C’s “It’s Tricky” looping in my head. This is what I sacrifice for you guys. And if you don’t know why it’s looping in my head I’ll get to that in a little bit. I should star off by saying that SSX is a fun game, BUT the developers really held this game back from being even more fun to play. While the game is easily accessible to everyone, the decision to make the game edgier and more extreme ultimately hurts the game in what otherwise would have been a great experience.
Like all sports games there is a campaign mode. Campaign mode of course has a story to go along with it to justify why these snowboarders are going to the extreme and riding the most deadly slopes in the world. Team SSX hasn’t been doing all too well and with one of their top riders, Griff, leaving the team for fame and fortune, the team has to pull out all the stops and attempt to snowboard down nine of the earth’s deadly descents in order to gain enough publicity to get back on top. In order to make it down each descent you’ll have to deal with a certain obstacle that the game is nice enough to let you know what it will be with an intense cutscene. Each deadly descent requires the use of specific equipment like wing suits, ice picks, oxygen tanks, etc. For the most part the campaign is fun. You play as a different character in each area of the globe and get a nice little animated comic book explaining why each character joined team SSX. Before hitting the deadly descents you’re required to ride a few tracks, each with their own goals in order to progress. Usually this varies from beating an opponent’s score, beating a time, or winning a race though you never have to place first in the races to actually progress.
The gameplay is simple. Anyone could pick up the controller and easily go at it. There are no complex button combos to memorize. In order to pull of trick all you have to do is do a combination of the left and right analogue sticks in order to pull of any number of tricks. The more tricks and the longer the combo the faster your Tricky meter builds up. Once it does you pull more flashy moves and you’ll have infinite boost as well. Build that meter up even more and you’ll enter a second Tricky mode where you can pull of each character’s signature move and of course a remix of Run D.M.C’s “It’s Tricky” accompanies you until the meter goes back down. The simplicity of the gameplay alone makes the game really fun to play since the player doesn’t have to memorize combos. They can just string together any move provided they stop doing tricks before they hit the ground. Grinding on rails is easy enough and goes a long way in building up your combos.
The levels themselves help in making the game fun to play. You start off simple enough in the Rockies, but then you move on to crazy places like the Himalayas, Siberia, etc where building come into the mix. Though at time these slopes can be a pain to navigate after three runs you’ll get the hang of it. And to help you along the way you have the ability to rewind time by a few seconds in case you make a mistake and take a plunge off a cliff. The drawback is that your opponents still progress down the slope and the clock keeps going. Also you can only use the rewind feature a few times before you run out so it’s best to use it when you really need it. The graphics themselves won’t be wowing anyone, but the levels themselves are beautiful to look at. It’s a good thing that the game is not graphics heavy as it allows it to run very smoothly which is important for a game like this. There are zero frame rate issues when playing so expect your ride to be a smooth and enjoyable one. It also helps that the soundtrack, for the most part, really helps getting you in the mood for pulling off tricks and enjoying yourself. There are some song choices that don’t seem to fit, but those are few. And I can guarantee you’ll have Run D.M.C stuck in your head too.
The biggest issue with the game is the deadly descents themselves. These tracks serve no purpose other than to suck the fun out of the game. Each descent requires you to buy and use a piece of equipment that you wouldn’t normally use in any of the regular tracks. And the only goal of the deadly descents is to survive. That’s it. Don’t bother doing tricks because you’ll just end up killing yourself many, many times. For a game that is built on snowboarding and doing tons of crazy tricks, to take that aspect away from the player makes absolutely zero sense. It doesn’t help that you have to beat these descents in order to progress through the campaign. Expect to throw your controller at the screen at some point due to poor design on these tracks as well. Whereas the other tracks don’t require you to memorize how to navigate them the deadly descents will put you through the age old “trial and error” phase of gameplay. Expect to play them multiple times to remember the path in order to make it down to the bottom.
If that wasn’t enough to frustrate you then wait until you have to purchase items for your rider. God forbid the developers could have designed an actual in game store to purchase all your equipment; instead they took a lazy approach and only allow you to purchase equipment before starting each track. And don’t expect to search around for the equipment that will actually help you and boost your stats. Instead you’ll have to buy the items that are shown to you in order the see more equipment that you can purchase. That means you have to spend your hard earned credits buying useless equipment in order to get to just even see the better equipment. You can always sell the equipment you don’t need, but the player should always be able to see his options. It’s one thing to have items locked until you progress further, but it’s another thing to force me to buy useless items just so I can see better ones.
The online play is the same as what you would do on the campaign except here you’re going up against players around the world. You can participate in races or just outdo each other for high scores. You can set records for your friends to beat and by setting records you leave a ghost of your character which your friends can go up against and vice versa. There are also Global Events which are multiplayer events open to everyone. You earn a rank in these events which determine how much credits you’ll earn when the event is over. Some of these events can last up to a few days though so don’t count on banking any credits you may earn anytime soon. Some of the events require you to put up some of your own credits. There are also some events which involve a challenge such as using a certain type of equipment or not being able to use equipment at all. While the game doesn’t require an online pass to play online, you do need one in order to keep any credits you earn from Global Events, but not to worry whatever you earn is stored away until you do get a pass. Also you use what are called Geotags to help you earn experience and credits. You place these tags anywhere in the tracks for other players to collect. The longer they go uncollected, the more you’ll earn. Of course expect player to put them in places that are hard to reach or require you to take a plunge off a cliff.
Overall SSX is fun to play. Tricks are easy to pull off making it a more satisfying experience and with an awesome soundtrack to go along with the gameplay it’s easy to find yourself getting sucked into it. . But the poor design and frustration of the Deadly Descents and the terrible in game store take away a lot of the fun from this experience. I say give it a play, but unless you’re a snowboarding fanatic, don’t expect to enjoy this game for long.