FutureFive NZ - Game Review: SSX

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Game Review: SSX

There’s a first time for everything and I guess snowboarding games are no different. SSX is the latest in a franchise that appears to have a fan-base and also seems to have benefitted from the ongoing social gaming revolution that is coming out of EA.

As a newbie, the game did a good job of easing me into the world of snowboarding. The basics are a walkthrough and you get a glimmer of the swathe of unlockable items and costumes that are on offer. The front end menu is simple and uncluttered, and zooming around the globe looking for new slopes to carve certainly makes for some cinematic viewing.

This is where the Ridernet will become apparent, and most importantly it is a much better name than Autolog was in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. As expected, there is a wall populated with news from your friends and rivals and drilling into friends' records can swoop you around the globe, quickly setting you up to try to shave a couple of seconds off the top scores.

The career mode starts you off with a single character and as you progress, more characters become available, all leveling up through use and earning credit to be spent on new equipment and threads. The limited slots also add an element of strategy.

The World Tour is a good way to get started, dragging you around nine of the globe's 'Deadly Descents’, which are generally not too difficult to qualify for, and usually offer a few warm up events beforehand.

The environments have been well crafted and thought out - ramps, rails and obstacles all crowding the routes for your attention. However, the more realistic players may question why these mountain slopes have such an abundance of grindable rails sticking up out of the snow.

Controls are pretty straightforward, and probably translate the effect of careering downhill quite well, but with this type of game I always find myself relying on the one or two standard tricks lodged in my brain. Learning the full repertoire of moves and when to use them just feels like something I’ll never get right. It's a shame because the game is all about

tricks and moves to boost your meter(s), which in turn boosts your speed. While other players and their ghosts appear to leave the most improbable trails of their runs, I am left mashing my sticks and buttons in the hope that something new and impressive will drop out. Also on the subject of controls, it often feels like you are swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other. In one serene run, jumps and tricks roll out and the route seems built for you, whereas another run on the same slope makes you feel like an out of control rocket bouncing from tree to obstacle.

The game offers three distinct theatres to ply your tricky skills. The first is story driven via the use of incredible egos and some jaded comic style slides. I skipped as soon as I could; it really feels to me that this game is all about the action, so why even entertain the notion of a narrative? The reward for completing the story is to unlock the various characters, each with their own signature tricks and costumes, but I feel this is for the obsessive snowboarders amongst us.

The second is a free roam function allowing you to try out some of the most terrifying slopes before getting wiped out in the story mode. The scale and detail that has gone into these runs is amazing and the way the map swoops around the globe is quite satisfying.

Third comes the Global Events, and this is where I have spent most of my time, taking the social competing that we first saw in Need for Speed and raising the bar substantially. A global event is a competition on a slope where you play for rewards. The more players entering the competition, the bigger the prize pool. The pools are tiered so that there is usually a bracket that you might just scrape into with plenty of retries. With events being time-limited, some of the bigger races attract enough participants to raise the total pool into millions of credits, and credits can then be spent on better kit and more events. Events are not just limited to timed races or trick runs, they have other variants like the survival mode where you need to use oxygen sparingly and run fast to stay alive as long as possible. My personal favourite was running from an avalanche, using a zoomed out reverse camera.

This mode certainly has masses of ‘one more go’ appeal as you race other players' ghosts in the vain attempt to break into the scoring brackets, and even though the offer of credits by micro transacting some MS Points appears a little greedy, I have to admit I was tempted. Especially when you see a big prize pool closing soon with enough space for you to make it into the money ranks. If only there was a similar mode in Need for Speed, I would surely still be playing it regularly.

Overall a good game and mostly fun experience, but it will never be a longterm prospect for me as there is only so far I can go with the minimal selection of tricks and lack of coordination. But I know there are a couple of global events on where I fancy my chances and might just give them a crack before bedtime.

Graphics: 8.5

Sound: 7.5

Gameplay: 8.0

Lasting Appeal: 5.0

Overall: 7.5

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