Gather round my friends and cast your minds back to a simpler, more innocent time.
A time encompassing a single moment which brought glee and unadulterated excitement to the hearts and minds of boys and girls of all ages, races, nationalities and creeds across the planet. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and remember that magical moment when you powered on the Playstation 2 for the very first time.
You will probably remember a certain demo disc which arrived with your brand new PS2 and if you do, you will probably also remember there were only two things worth looking at on that disk. These were the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo and a plucky little snowboarding title, which would soon grind its way into the hearts of gamers all over the world, cementing itself as the undisputed champion of the snowboarding genre.
Remember SSX? Well it’s back, and then some. The franchise has returned for its fifth instalment and for, surprisingly, its debut on current generation consoles. It’s been a long seven years since an SSX title was released, allowing ample time for inertia to take its toll.
Dated gameplay mechanics can pose a threat to the reception of any modern game, but with a franchise such as SSX, there is only so much you can change. What’s more, developers EA Canada run the risk of treading too far from their roots, in a bid to satisfy the industry’s lust for innovation.
Happily for all, EA Canada have managed to strike a perfect balance between innovation and the features that make SSX great. That’s not to say they don’t miss the mark on a few counts, but in its entirety, SSX is a worthy return of a timeless classic and one that all fans of the franchise should consider picking up.
The single-player revolves a grudge match between Team SSX and their mouthy rival, Griff (that’s right, the same douchey kid from SSX 3). The victor will be the first to ride and survive the nine deadliest descents on the planet.
The concept of survival has been incorporated into the gameplay, with the player being able to choose what equipment they take with them to best survive the elements which make these descents so deadly. This choice matters, as a wingsuit will often be infinitely more useful than a headlamp when launching yourself across the 1,000 feet deep crevasses of Patagonia.
The incorporation of equipment is a first for the franchise and a welcome addition as all of the tools are fun to use, even when you make an ill-advised selection.
The game design hits that mystical sweet spot of being challenging but not frustrating and rewards you with a sense of genuine accomplishment. Using your last tank of oxygen to make it to the bottom of Everest, or desperately searching for a patch of unspoiled sunlight to help you not to freeze to death in the Antarctic is exhilarating and does not get dull.
Of course, tricks are back and in a big way. They’re still at the same level of insanity that they always were, though the control scheme has been tweaked slightly, to make it more intuitive for beginners. This is SSX at its heart.
Do tricks, earn boost. Do enough tricks, enter ‘Tricky’ mode. Do enough ‘Tricky’ tricks, enter ‘Uber Tricky’ mode. After reaching this, you’ll be performing acrobatics which break every law of physics and make you feel smug, accordingly.
There are a few technical issues here and there. Occasionally, your rider will inadvertently choose to perform a grab, seconds from hitting the floor and if he or she is feeling particularly smug, may opt to phase through the floor entirely. But these hiccups are few and far between, never detracting from the experience as a whole.
The music of SSX is one of the reasons why people gravitate to the franchise and this installment only reaffirms that. While playing, you’ll be treated to mixes of indie rock, chill rap, electronica and dubstep all of which are remixed on the fly with Run D.M.C songs to correspond to whatever action you perform in game. The end result is something inoffensive, enjoyable and technically impressive. Songs will fade out while in midair so the player can hear the ripple of their wingsuit soar through the sky and once you hit the ground, the bass will be turned up once more, its ferocity directly linked to how wild your landing was.
SSX is as timeless as it ever was. Once again the franchise has set the bar for what all snowboarding games should aspire to be and aside from a few technical glitches, is a fully enjoyable experience. When it comes to snowboarding games, we all know, the only way is SSX.