Published by – EA Sports
Number of Players – 1
Platform – PS3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Release Date – Out now for PS3 and Xbox 360
Genre – Sports
ESRB – E
MSRP – $59.99
Life is a lot like SSX, without Boost the world is drab, slow and fruitless, but while here we can simply back an Idle Thumbs Kickstarter to get our fill, the world of SSX demands more of it’s riders; descending peaks filled with trees, boarding through low oxygen areas and watching our friends destroy our scores.
Unfortunately, while avoiding trees and rocks at breakneck speeds and leaping over bottomless chasms sounds thrilling, these and the other challenges thrown at you in the World Tour mode are annoying and in the case of the oxygen management on Everest downright infuriating. Coupled with the finicky controls and the camera’s habit of getting too close and low to the ground, riding up a bank can obscure your view such that coming down you don’t notice the overhang into the bottomless void until it’s too late. The Explore Mode allows you to choose any of the peaks, though once you remove the ones with the annoying gimmicks your choices are much more limited.
You’ll find that most of the time you’re navigating based on your friends decisions rather than your own via the game’s Autolog equivalent. Via a Facebook style wall you are informed if a friend has entered an event or beaten your run and can challenge them from there. This works well and if need be you can drill down to an individual friend’s runs and challenge them directly.
Global Events as the name suggests pit you against more than just your friends and run for a set period of time. Placement is tiered, rewarding you with a percentage of the pooled entry fee. Your credit reward can be spent in the game’s equipment menu, outfitting your rider with new suits, boards, survival equipment (wing suits, oxygen tanks), mods and GeoTags.
The suits and boards are pretty self explanatory, and while most of the suits grant visual changes only, some do provide bonuses in the form of big hands or increased trick meter. These bonuses suffer from the same flaw as the boards and equipment however, stating a board has +14 more trick than the one I’m using doesn’t tell me anything about how it’ll affect my run, is -12 Boost with a -4 Speed decrease worth +14 Trick. A larger number is obviously better, but this is the first time where I’ve really felt like a rat in a Skinner Box, competing to earn enough credits to get a bigger number on my gear without a clear idea of the effect. This could have been resolved by displaying a MPH speed increase for boards or an increase in time for Oxygen tank use. The one time mods affect only your next run (though thankfully they are not consumed should you restart) and again reinforce this credit spending loop.
The final gear are GeoTags, these are placeable objects visible in everyone’s instance that will earn you credits in stage, an initial sum for placement during a rewind and additional credits over time should no-one else ride over it for it’s 24hr lifespan. Should a rider collect it before then, you will split the bounty, this is a nice feature on paper (and a nice way to reuse a possible QA tool for highlighting trouble areas), but it inevitably means riders just try and place their geotags in annoying places like in between rocks or off the edge of a mountain to ensure no-one can collect them.
This bring us to the rewind system, necessary for placing GeoTags and your only means of recovery should you fumble on your descent. The trouble is, while rewinding in a Trick event to prevent a tumble will cost you points, you don’t break your combo meter so the effect is negligible. In a Race event however, the timer and other competitors don’t stop to wait for you to reposition yourself, so unless you have a lot of time on the other competitors, you may as well restart.
Apart from one or two tracks which weren’t immediately offensive to my ears, the soundtrack is not my cup of tea at all, filled with one of the worst trends in recent history: dubstep. Luckily the game does support creating your own playlist from local or streamed tracks. These are remixed as you make jumps like the base soundtrack, which is novel, but after a while seems again gimmicky and you may just want to turn that feature off and enjoy your music as it was originally intended. One feature it’s worth disabling is the pilot speech, they talk to you over radio as you descend, but their constant chatter comes off as patronizing and unneeded. Before you leave the audio menu, be sure to switch the Super Tricky music to “Loop”, trust me. That one track is by far the best song on the soundtrack and an even better reward than the extra crazy tricks you are granted.
SSX is good at keeping you invested in playing it, with the easy to jump between event recommendations and the urge to loot hoard, but the raw gameplay hook isn’t as satisfying as it could be.
Story: 1 / Graphics: 3 / Audio: 3 / Gameplay: 3 / Overall: 3