SSX - PS3 Review
|1/3/2012||EA Games||EA Sports||EA Canada||1||None|
Dave has always been a big fan of the SSX games (as evidenced in reviews of the second, third and fourth PS2 games here, here, and here), so the fact he’s let me review the first SSX game released on the PS3, and the first on a Sony console in nearly seven years is a pretty big deal. SSX games have always been renowned for fantastic visuals, very cool soundtracks and, most importantly, absorbing gameplay. Can the newest game in the series live up to the high standards of its predecessors? Read on…
|Tricks in SSX are wonderful.|
There are three game modes in SSX – World Tour, Explore and Global Events. There is a story to World Tour and it goes a little something like this; Team SSX is being challenged by disgruntled former Team SSX member Griff Symons to be the first to conquer deadly descents on nine different mountain ranges. Unlike previous games in the series the locations are real, and you’ll find yourself racing in Siberia, the Himalayas, the Swiss Alps and Africa to name just a few. Australia doesn’t make it into the game, but there is New Zealand…
In each range you take control of a different Team SSX member, whom you’ll unlock in the opening event in that range. Events come in three forms, ‘Race It’, ‘Trick It’ and ‘Survive It’. The names are quite self-explanatory - you have to win races, outscore your rivals with tricks or simply survive some of the most deadly mountain runs in the world. There are a few warm-up events in each range, but it’s all in preparation for tackling a deadly descent at the top of the range.
Most deadly descents have their own unique perils to negotiate, things like rocks, ice, darkness, gravity, cold and even an avalanche. To help you deal with these threats there is equipment you can buy and equip to increase your chances of survival. For example you’ll want armor to negotiate the rocky deadly descent, a solar panel to get through the cold descent and a wingsuit to fly over the huge chasms in the gravity descent. If you don’t have the necessary equipment before a run you’ll be prompted to buy it, as well as told that your chances of survival are extremely slim without it. Successfully completing a deadly descent unlocks the next area for you to conquer.
|Grinding along the rail, at a height.|
You can also buy other gear, such as new snowboards or ski suits. The suits are mostly cosmetic will find the occasional one with a perk, such as extra rewinds, making them especially useful. Boards are a different kettle of fish as they are rated in three categories, speed, boost and tricks. Faster boards obviously suit races, while boards with a high trick rating increase your rotation speed and make it easier to earn ‘super tricky’ (more on that later). There is a huge amount of gear you can buy, though you’re limited to a selection of four items at any time – you can’t simply browse the whole selection. This adds an element of luck to acquiring the finest gear for each character.
If you’ve played any prior SSX games you’ll be happy to know that you can use the same control scheme here as you did in those games by selecting ‘classic’ controls from the menu. For those who didn’t play those games or aren’t attached to the old setup there’s an all new control scheme. The left ananlog stick moves your character about, you hold ‘x’ and then release it to jump, R2 uses boost and also tweaks your jumps midair. On the ground holding square or circle performs a ground trick, which is perfect for extending your combos when you’re not jumping or grinding.
|SSX is a vitually impressive title.|
One new feature in the game is the ability to grind on any sharp surface, and there are no shortage of grinding options during most events. From the edge of collapsed buildings, to fallen trees, railroad tracks or a rail put there specifically for grinding, you’ll never be short of options. Holding any of the face buttons (other than ‘x’) will perform a grinding trick and stringing these together is a great way to boost your combo counter quickly.
Every time you successfully perform a trick you’re given some boost, and by stringing tricks together in combos you’ll fill the boost bar and earn ‘tricky’ and ‘super tricky’ status (a remixed version of ‘It’s Tricky’ by Run DMC will play too, which is sure to please long-time SSX fans). In ‘tricky’ and ‘super tricky’ you’ve got unlimited boost for a short period of time, which not only speeds you up, but also makes your jumps much bigger, giving you time to pull off some epic moves. In ‘super tricky’ you can perform special moves specific to each Team SSX member for mega points, which is crucial in Trick It events.
|It's even possible to do tricks off the helicopers!|
A couple of new gameplay features this time around are rewinds and avalanches. Many racing games have rewind in them these days and SSX has followed that trend. If you just stacked it during a massive combo you can rewind to just before you crashed and keep the combo going, with a small points penalty. You can rewind during races too, but your opponents don’t rewind as well, so use it sparingly lest you find yourself miles behind.
Avalanches are also new in the game, and they’re a lot of fun to race against. During these races the camera view changes so that you’re looking back at the mountain with your character racing just below the avalanche. It can take a bit of getting used to but the game is user-friendly enough to ensure you don’t crash too often. These events are a lot of fun but they’re few and far between so you’ll have to chase them up in Explore mode if you want to replay them.
|Racing against several other characters.|
Speaking of the Explore game mode, EA considers it to be the main mode in the game (I guess they consider World Tour more of an in-depth tutorial). It’s not hard to see why – there is a huge amount of content in Explore. There are over 150 event drops to participate and earn medals in, which is sure to keep you busy for some time.
Another key aspect of Explore is the ability to race against the ghosts of your friends and rivals, which leads us to the multiplayer part of the game. In a move that is somewhat shocking, there is no local or live multiplayer in SSX. You can’t sit down with a friend and challenge them, and you can’t line up a live race with a Playstation friend either.
The news isn’t all bad for multiplayer fans though because the game records the times and points scored by all of your friends and rivals and encourages you to challenge them. While you’re not on the track together, you will see their ghost during events so it’s almost like they’re there with you. The game does a great job of directing you to your friends’ most recent times and scores when you enter Explore mode, so it’s never difficult to find and compete against them.
|The (newly introduced) wingsuits are fun.|
A downside to this setup is that only your Playstation friends show up in the game, so if you don’t have many friends you won’t have many people to compete against. You can’t manually search for and add friends in-game either, you have to add them as Playstation friends first. It’s worth doing though, because SSX is a lot more fun when you have friends to compete against, and the more friends you have the more challenges you’ll receive when you boot the game up next.
The last game mode is Global Events where you can take on the entire SSX community in a wide range of events. Some of these events have an entry fee (in game credits, not real money), while others are free. The more people in the event, the bigger the prize pool you can share in. Global Events are a great way to rack up credits, though you’ll need an online pass to claim them. That’s the only time you need an online pass though – even without one you can participate in all multiplayer modes, which I think is great for such a multiplayer-driven game.
|SSX is out now on PS3.|
Aside from the somewhat clumsy multiplayer implementation there aren’t too many issues with SSX. Probably the biggest issue here is that the game is a little too easy; it’s hard to crash into objects like trees and rocks, you’ll simply swerve around it automatically. The emphasis here is almost entirely on speed. Shortcuts used to be a key part of the SSX games, but they too feel a little unnecessary here. You still need to find the best racing line to shave off seconds in races, but the shortcuts of prior games are absent here.
The clear highlight of the game is the excellent visuals. Apparently EA used satellite imagery from NASA to generate the mountain ranges in the game, before adding their own touches. As mentioned earlier in the review, there is a big emphasis on speed throughout the game, and it looks fantastic in motion, running at a smooth 60 fps at all times. Characters look fine, and they excel performing tricks, especially when ‘super tricky’ is active. It’s safe to say the moves aren’t totally realistic but that’s not going to worry you as you marvel at your characters’ skills.
Music has always been a strong point of the SSX games, and while this version doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors it’s still very good. The music is provided by bands such as Junkie XL, Danny Byrd, DJ Shadow, Nero and covers genres from funk to hip-hop and electronic beats. Most importantly for long-time fans of the series (Dave in particular), ‘It's Tricky’ by Run DMC (remixed by Pretty Lights), is in the game. The music selection suits the game well, but if it doesn’t appeal to you it’s possible to import your own music into the game.
The characters don’t say a lot to each other as they make their way down the mountain, unless they happen to run into each other, at which time they exchange pleasantries. There is a commentator of sorts, and he gives you advice on what’s coming up so you can avoid danger. The commentary isn’t dazzling but it keeps you from getting lonely out there on the slopes, so it’s appreciated.
|Detail levels in the slopes will impress.|
Overall SSX is an assured remake of a much-loved franchise. The deadly descents feature some of the biggest additions to the game, such as avalanches and wingsuits, and are a lot of fun to conquer. The multiplayer implementation is entertaining once you get over the disappointment of there being no local multiplayer, with no shortage of challenges to complete. This SSX is a little easier than previous games in the series, and that might turn a few people off, but it shouldn’t. SSX is lots of fun and has enough depth to keep you coming back for weeks. If you’ve enjoyed previous SSX games this is well worth checking out.
Review By: Mike Allison
Talk about SSX in this forum topic now.
|GRAPHICS||The highlight of the game, running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second throughout. The level design is solid throughout too.||90%|
|SOUND||The music suits the game well, but there aren’t enough tunes for my liking. Being able to import your own music is cool and should be in more games.||81%|
|GAMEPLAY||Not as challenging as prior SSX games, but still a lot of fun to play. Wingsuits and avalanches are great additions. Bring back local multiplayer!||81%|
|VALUE||There is a heap to do, but you’ll get much more out of it if you have a lot of friends.||82%|
|OVERALL||A very assured remake of a much-loved franchise. The biggest knock is the lack of local multiplayer, but even without it this is a highly enjoyable game.||83%|