SSX: Hits and Misses

Posted March 7th, 2012 at 9:30 am

The SSX reboot from EA Sports faced the difficulty of living up to nostalgic feelings bred from earlier entries in the series while taking advantage of the advanced technology available to in turn justify its full price on the 360 and PS3 with a wider-ranging experience. The new game had to appeal to those earlier fans while reaching new ones – and it entered the marketplace during a period where arcade-style games have found little traction.

Despite some bumps along the way SSX largely succeeds by providing the potential of immesurable value with an innovative online experience.  


•Exhilarating and Varied Gameplay
There is a rush that comes about in SSX that is rare to find in games anymore. The danger of cruising down a mountainside is fully realized – whether it be simply from the speed or other challenges that get mixed in. Whether it’s the races, trick events, or simply survival runs there is something new to be found in each event.

The environments all feel different – the nine Deadly Descents offering unique elements of their own to face. Having different goals and challenges on each run really mixes things up well. Throwing in new gear to utilize based on those environments can be really fun to try out also with the wingsuits in particular but a few of them turned out not so positively.

Still there is never a sense that SSX is going to run out of steam – there’s always something new to achieve and how to do so will provide the challenge. The fun factor has the potential to be off-the-charts and it reaches that level at times.

•Social-Based Online Play
Though SSX doesn’t feature traditional head-to-head online play what it does deliver in terms of a social dynamic is brilliant. Not only does it provide great incentive to continue playing and improving but it eliminates the headaches that would come by playing against live opponents and avoids the wait times needed to gather for such events.

RiderNet always keeps players alert of their friend’s activity. If time or score on a drop is beat it immediately informs of that and in doing so provides motivation to go back to recapture the lead. Global Events can include up to 100K people and offer a huge pot of “credits” depending on the final bracket that one’s time or score finishes in. Some of these events cost credits to get in but it’s relatively easy to make them into winning propositions. There is also what amounts to a side-quests with “Geotags” which can be placed and captured for credits.

Make no mistake about it – SSX is most rewarding due to its online integration. The offline mode of World Tour pales in comparison to the value online delivers and the “Online Pass” implementation is much better than just blocking people out. Knowing how important the online modes are to SSX as a package is surely the reason why it was designed that way.

•Technical Achievements
SSX utlized NASA data to craft the real-world mountains. While most would have no idea just how accurate the final product is to the actual topography that is just cool in itself. The controls are a tad loose but responsive and the feel of going down the mountain comes through in exceptional fashion. The graphics are crisp and look great throughout the numerous environments. The menus are well-designed and promote more play through smart navigation and notification options. SSX just feels like a completely next-gen experience from top to bottom.


•Moments of Frustration
As fun as the game can be it also reaches high on the frustration scale. In some situations it can be difficult to orient and that results in turning the wrong way or loss of momentum or even heading off a cliff. On occasion characters have gotten completely stuck though that isn’t as prevalent an issue. Falling into a void is about as bad as things can get and it happens often. SSX makes sure disaster will strike by throwing in a lot of cliffs, attempting to outrun avalanches while having to do it backwards on the controls, and limiting visibility severely.

The Deadly Descents can be incredibly tough and not necessarily for the right reasons. The unique elements to deal with make them exciting and some are quite fun while others are just irritating and not worth the time and struggle that comes with it. Given that the game provides the user with the ability to skip any run after failing three times shows the devs were obviously aware of that. This is more concentrated on being a problem with World Tour and isn’t really as much consideration when it comes to RiderNet or Global Events.

For a game that offers an organic challenge in trying to beat your own marks, and throws in some stuff just to make things especially difficult at times, there are also elements that seem too simple. Grinding is the main one…just ski on over near a rail and the work is done. The “Survive It’ runs also lose something because there is no downside to going as slow as possible and that doesn’t feel real natural to do in a game of this nature.

•Restart, Restart, Restart
Be prepared to restart drops often – there’s just no way around that. The “Rewind” feature is useful for correcting quick errors (and placing Geotags) but it won’t be found worthwhile in escaping devastating ones. When trying to beat a time or score one crucial mistake can be all that’s needed to ruin a run and that leads to restarts.

SSX has the potential to be an exceedingly fun game with a very addictive nature if one is able to get past the frustration that accompanies it. The tolerance level to those moments will ultimately determine how much value is gleaned from the product. Excellent on a technical level and delivering a fantastic socially-driven online experience makes it worthwhile to check out at the very least.