'SSX' proves innovation and adrenaline can go hand in hand
Published: July 18, 2012
Sports games are one of the most tired genres of the video games industry. Whether it’s another yearly addition of NBA 2K-whatever or NFL 2K-will-Peyton-Manning-just-retire-already, sports games are usually a 95 percent rehash of their predecessors. Since its first days on the PS2, the snowboarding SSX franchise has been the proud exception to the rule. Taking three to four years between each iteration, the SSX legacy has never sacrificed innovation for quality or adrenaline, proving that even in one of the most confined, rule-based genre of video games, the right minds can make all the difference.
While some might argue the snowboarding genre is based upon the same principles that guide notable skateboarding games like the Tony Hawk franchise, the minds at Electronic Arts were keen enough to play up the chaos of insane trick-pulling rather than letting physics dictate how much a player can get away with. On these slopes, the SSX team will shred, grind, and literally fly away with impossible stunts and tricks that are sure to make Sean White blush.
Tearing a page from the Big Book of Stereotypes, the backdrop of SSX revolves around a founding member gone rogue with claims of being the best in the world. Determined to prove him wrong, the SSX team travels to nine separate and distinct peaks across the world and race against Griff, the white-haired douchie nemesis we all love to hate. It’s not a complicated premise, but it doesn’t have to be — SSX not only embraces the thrill-seeking mentality snowboarders are known for, but goes on to play off of such tones with a subtle wit and humor. Yes, this is an alternative universe where snowboarding is a globally-loved sport, get over it and have some fun.
And fun they have by the mountains. Each of the nine areas are distinct in their challenges, requiring special gear and tactics (body armor? Ice hooks? Check and check) to survive. From outrunning an avalanche, moving from one sunny spot to another to avoid hypothermia, to using a wing suit to fly from one part of the course to another, every track carries a new challenge that sometimes requires ample practice before you’ll conquer it completely.
For long-time fans of the SSX series, the new “Mt. Eddie” DLC-pack comes with tracks reminiscent of the game’s PS2 version SSX Tricky, as well as classic costumes and boards for some of the original SSX characters like Zoe, Griff and Mac. SSX already comes bursting with dozens of hours of snow-shredding addiction, but the DLC shows that EA is committed to keeping this SSX in gamers’ consoles for a long time. It'll take time to get comfortable with the full trick system using the analog stick, but the learning curve drops quickly after that. Ultimately, SSX is about delivering the thrill of pulling off the most fantastic, impossibly awesome tricks possible, and in that respect it succeeds beautifully. The innovation, humor and hundreds of challenges are all icing on the cake that continues to make SSX a shining beacon of sports game beauty.
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