As the popularity of snowboarding has blown up over the past couple decades, an abundance of video games tied to the sport has hit the market, from Amped to Coolboarders to Shaun White Snowboarding. Another classic franchise has reinvented itself for today's gamers. EA's SSX series is back, and it packs a punch.
The campaign in SSX is presented through the World Tour. There's a story about a group of gnarly bros wanting to tackle the world's toughest mountains, called the nine Deadly Descents. They're trying to track down a rogue member of their team, the tubular Grif. What it really boils down to is a collection of races, trick challenges, and survival events. Complete the mountain and you move on to another, unlocking new characters along the way. The story is fine, nothing too spectacular. But if you're a fan of bodacious babes and radical meatheads, then the dialogue is for you.
My biggest problem with SSX is the inconsistent physics engine. The satisfaction of pulling off a massive jump and landing a 1920 melon grab is great. Unfortunately, if you approach a ramp just a few inches off center, you will likely end up jumping into a rocky edge of the mountain, or worse yet, into a bottomless crevice. There is a handy rewind feature, but it's different than those found in most games. If you rewind during a solo run, there's a point penalty. If you rewind during a race, you go backwards while your opponents keep on moving. This really forces you to take the perfect line. If you fail just once, that run is pretty much a waste.
Another frustrating part of the physics engine was the abundance of flat areas. If you take a bad jump, you could end up stuck in a flat part of the line covered in soft snow. This brings your boarder to a halt. No amount of jumping up and down will free you. If you're out of boost, which is likely since you just ate it hard, you've got to use that rewind. I found myself stuck in flat or even uphill areas far too often.
When it comes to other options beside the World Tour, SSX offers you the chance to explore any of the game's mountains in individual runs. This is a good way to learn the grueling peaks, and helps you earn credits. Credits are then used to unlock more characters, boards, outfits, and other gear.
Global events are online matches where challenges last for a set duration. These consist of the usual races, trick point challenges, and survivals. In a neat twist, everyone can run the same event, but once the challenge expires, only those who finished with the best time or score receive a credit payout. The total number of credits awarded can range into the millions and even billions. It's another fun way, along with Explore, to check out the game's different courses.
Visually, SSX looks fairly well. There are a few items on each track that serve as identifiers, such as the Siberian nuclear power plants. Aside from those landmarks, the mountains sort of blend in with one another. Additionally, if you're not a fan of dubstep, you'll want to use your own tunes in SSX.
While SSX offers plenty of interesting gameplay modes and features, the foundation of the game is often frustrating. The inconsistent physics engine will have many newcomers pulling their hair out, but if you are willing to put up with it, SSX can provide thrills for fans of extreme sports.
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