SSX 2012 (PS3)
EA Sports are responsible for some of the most iconic video games ever, including FIFA and Madden NFL. One of these titles first appeared in 2000, initially only available on the PlayStation 2, and was called SSX. SSX was a snowboarding game, offering thrills and spills as we threw caution to the wind taking on the most insane snowboarding runs available.
Twelve years after the first SSX game was released EA have released a new version with the tagline of 'Defy Reality, Own the planet'. SSX will be available on both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 and we had the opportunity to play the PlayStation 3 version ahead of its UK and Europe release on the 2nd of March.
The story in the new SSX is that we are part of an elite team of extreme sports stars whose background covers snowboarding, skateboarding and motocross; hence the moniker Team SSX. Team SSX have a master plan, to ride the nine most deadly descents available on planet earth, stream everything live for their fans and make a truck load of money while having a great time doing it.
Unfortunately one of the team decides he's too good for Team SSX and leaves. As the most recognisable member of the team Griff takes most of the corporate sponsorship with him. Now the remaining members of Team SSX have to find replacements to complete the challenge while racing against Griff.
As noted above the aim of Team SSX is to complete the nine most deadly descents on Earth, accessed as the final run available in an individual mountain range. Ranges are located all over the world and are Africa, Alps, Alaska, Antarctica, Himalayas, New Zealand, Patagonia, Rockies and Siberia.
The first range available is the Rockies and once complete other ranges open up a couple at a time. Each range offers a number of challenges that have to be completed before the final deadly descent can be attempted and challenges include straight up races with other NPC players or a ghost of Griff's run that Team SSX have been able to download from his GPS. Additionally there are trick runs where the target is to rack up as many points as possible before we reach the end.
With some of the more recent SSX games being a touch more reality based it is great to see SSX returning to its roots of insane tricks and incredible air time in this release. To control our character the left thumb stick allows us to steer then tricks are pulled off using the right thumb stick, however it is possible to switch to the old style of using the buttons to execute.
With SSX the key to big trick scores is to link our jumps and tricks together using some ground moves which can be performed using the circle and square buttons. We can also use the R2 button to roll tricks together while we are in the middle of a jump.
As well as jumps SSX provides plenty of pipes and handy terrain that we can grind on. Linking a jump to a grind to a jump is a great feeling and as grinds are simple to pull off we can link several together for a great point multiplier. Racking up the trick points fills up the Tricky point meter and when the meter is full our player gains access to signature moves that can be pulled for a huge boost in points.
Taking jumps to a whole new level we are able to deploy a wingsuit on the more insane gaps we have to cross. This allows us to glide across impossible chasms in the mountainside, while looking as cool as possible. The wingsuit occupies a gear slot which can be used to equip our character with the most useful equipment for the challenge we are faced with. For example in the Rockies we have to dodge the trees so body armour can be equipped to help us if we carve left when we should have carved right. Then for night runs we can equip a head torch which allows us to see. These items all have stat enhancing attributes and upgrades can be purchased from the store with money we earn from completing our runs. We can also upgrade our snowboard and suit there too.
As well as the world tour options where we race Griff to claim the bragging rights on the deadly nine descents there is also an explore mode. This gives us open access to all the mountain ranges and allows us to race or trick our way down any of the runs we want.
SSX will also offer online play, via the Global Events option. The now standard EA online pass system is used here and while we can play without it joining is required if we are to receive any credits for our online gaming.
Graphics and Audio
The graphics in SSX are stunning. EA used real geotagging data from NASA as a basis for each of the mountain ranges and each run feels very real with all having their own style. For example, in Siberia we find vast industrial complexes stuck on the side of the mountain while in Patagonia there are insane drops and chasms that we have to negotiate.
The snow and powder effects are very well done as are the character animations. Each of the characters in Team SSX has a very different persona and these come across in the way they ride or pull of tricks. The player models are also very detailed and the store allows us access to lots of new outfits.
When we move from one mountain range to the next we get a short video package highlighting the key deadly feature of the range. Each of these is very well produced and is done in an extreme sports TV style which fits in with the feeling of SSX very well.
On the audio front SSX features a plethora of in game music and being an extreme sports title this is a blend of hip hop and dance which fits very well with the game. All the tracks played can be edited so if we really don't like some of them we can click them off which is a nice touch and SSX also allows us to import our own music into the game.
As well as the music SSX features audio commentary provided by the helicopter pilot who dropped us off. Though quite amusing at times we did find that their comments became a bit draining over time so we were quite glad to find that we could switch them off in the sound menu.
The latest incarnation of SSX offers everything we have come to expect from the franchise and takes it to a whole new level. From great single player content, allowing us to explore the most iconic mountains on planet earth, to online multiplayer modes that give us the chance to challenge our friends, there is plenty to keep us going.
The gameplay is easy to pick up however to pull of the most impressive combos it takes skill, or at least plenty of practise. SSX looks great as well with rich, detailed environments and very fluid player models... Strap on your boots and grab your board, SSX is the gold standard in extreme snowboarding games.