Monday, 19 March 2012

SSX

I remember a time when all manner of board and freestyle racing games were one of the biggest selling points of the video game industry. The likes of SSX, Tony Hawk’s and Jet Set Radio all introduced variations of their particular sport and had gamers hooked for a long period of time. In this modern generation of gaming freestyle racing has seen a dramatic reduction in popularity due to a surge of more popular genres and of course, a lack of games themselves. Well SSX is here to amend this problem by bringing to the table what can only be described as the most engaging, exhilarating and enjoyable boarding game that has ever been released. Snowboarding has been perfected in video game form and you’d be an absolute fool to miss out on this adrenaline rush.



Gamers who still reminisce over the classic SSX days will be pleasantly surprised as this new instalment takes elements from the past and integrates them nicely with a brand new, modern feel. At the heart of SSX is of course racing down beautiful and dangerous courses while performing as many over-the-top tricks as possible, but the manner in which you can achieve these two seemingly simple goals, is what makes SSX so damn impressive.

Immediately SSX blows you away with unbelievable visuals. Not only do all the courses look fantastic, but also plenty of work was put into the track design and the depth of each level. This gives each location a real sense of magnitude, making you appreciate the vast size of the mountain and the variety of different ways you can conquer it. That’s if the mountains themselves don’t take you down – environments now take on a much more crucial role in SSX’s gameplay with plenty of pitfalls and dangerous coves littered across the maps just waiting to hinder your progress. You can of course rewind yourself out of danger or pay a points penalty depending on what mode you are participating in, but these tracks require time to learn and master to avoid the wide assortment of dangers present.

Of course you won’t have that much time to take in the sights as you launch yourself off a helicopter and propel down these wondrous tracks at speeds that I can’t even comprehend. SSX isn’t simply a racing game because to acquire points and boost you must trick your absolute heart out. The controls are intuitive and very easy to pick up allowing even beginners to get serious air and perform some stunning tricks. Once you quickly learn the basics you’ll be stringing together combos that will eventually lead you to activating “Tricky” mode that gives you unlimited boost and access to super-moves worth loads more points. SSX is all about magnitude and it provides you with plenty of opportunities to really get stuck into these phenomenal antics.

SSX’s beautiful visual design and intuitive controls are complimented with innovative audio design. The game is plastered with a fantastic assortment of electronic music, but how it’s implemented into the game is what’s really impressive. When you perform tricks and get air the music slowly fades out as if it’s waiting for you on the snow and when you land the beat explodes back in giving each and every successful trick such a brilliant feeling of satisfaction.

SSX provides a host of different game modes with World Tour leading the pack. World Tour acts as your campaign mode and gives you the opportunity to experience all the different locations. This isn’t a pushover mode either with AI providing serious challenge to keep you competing for first place. Deadly Descents compliment the World Tour by forcing players to make their way down a map without dying. This fight for survival removes all need for points or tricks and just opts for speed and precise movement to make it down in once piece.



The real competitive action begins when you enter SSX’s competitive multiplayer modes and begin using RiderNet. Reminiscent of Need for Speed’s Autolog system, RiderNet keeps tabs on every single achievement, time and score that your friends put up on the leaderboards and makes sure you know whenever someone has beaten your best. This allows you to get stuck into the various modes including Explore and the absolutely incredible Global Events mode. Global Events is open to the entire world and are timed events, again holding some similarity to FIFA 12’s Cups in Live Season that are only open for a certain period of time. It’s up to you to get stuck in and complete the required goals with the fastest time or biggest score. These results are ranked, bracketed and compared to the world’s best in a user-friendly manner, making competing a whole load of fun.

Unfortunately like many contemporary titles, SSX misses a simultaneous multiplayer mode. This a pretty frustrating blow because it could have rounded off an exceptional package if people could play together on the same console. Alas you can’t have everything and fortunately RiderNet ensures you’ll know exactly what your friends are up to and how they’re getting on.

You might be asking yourself, what do I get for completing all these challenges and competing in all these events? Well throughout your time with SSX you will accumulate a whole bunch of credits that can be used to purchase new boards, gear, locations and other unlocks. Cheekily SSX offers you the ability to purchase credits (tut tut), but you won’t need to with plenty of credits available after you commit some time to the game.

So all of this fantastic content comes together to bring us a truly stunning snowboarding experience. SSX brings back a dying genre and really elevates it to one of this year’s early wonders. SSX is fast paced, engaging, offers plenty of versatility and above all else, is a lot of fun. Gamers who’ve never even thought of playing a snowboarding game in their life should absolutely give this a go alongside fans of the sport and diehard SSX junkies because this is a game for everyone to enjoy.

9.5 | Gameplay | SSX provides plenty of adrenaline-fueled action in a host of beautiful and varied locations. There are lots of different game modes and ways to play SSX making this more than simply boarding down a mountain. RiderNet ensures you keep up to date with your friends and the constant allure of Global Events means you will keep coming back for more. SSX is back in shining form.

9.0 | Presentation | SSX is beautiful across the entire spectrum. Environments are stunning, character models move smoothly and it’s all bundled into one visually appealing package. Of particular note is the terrific use of electronic music as it explodes upon each landing of a successful trick – really upping the adrenaline rush.

9.0 | Replay Value | Global Events and RiderNet ensure there is always a reason to pick up your pad and continue playing SSX. It’s impossible to stop as you progress you can keep beating your scores and times, this is about as addictive as it gets in the video game world. The only negative is a lack of a simultaneous multiplayer mode to play with a friend.

9.0 | Final Thoughts | SSX is like a knight in shining armour for the freestyle-racing genre. It certainly does the SSX series justice while moving it forward to a modern generation of gamers. Incorporating a fantastic multiplayer score tracker to keep players close and a whole host of modes and locations, this really is the complete package. Anyone looking for a break from your standard FPS or RPG needs to take a leap of faith across a giant mountain in this brilliant new instalment of SSX.

Igor Kharin.

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