Review by coyotemoon722
"SSX - A look back at the franchise, and a Review"
SSX is a long standing time-tested franchise that continues to reinvent itself to avoid getting stale. But does that formula equate to more fun?
------A Brief look back at the Franchise-----
The original SSX was an amazing game that brought something new and fresh to the Tony Hawk and clone-riddled game pool. It featured over-the-top snowboarding with colorful landscapes and brilliant effects. The gameplay was tight, and the courses were well-polished and memorable. Snowboarding down a city-scape and having the ability to hop from rooftop to rooftop, or grind a cop car all while racing down at a fast pace was just one of the cool new highlights of this breakthrough game.
Then Tricky came out, and though it was only a remix with a couple of new tracks, it felt like a new game because of how good the original game was. Things were looking good for the series.
SSX 3 was a marvel in gaming. For the first time, you could snowboard from the top of the mountain, all the way down, meeting challenges along the way, and entering a race or two (if you felt like it.) Or you could just board. The graphics were being pushed pretty hard on a waning system (PS2) and gave some great seemingly HD-looks at a now established franchise. The lights and colors added a brilliant splash to the crystalline snow, and you could tell that a LOT of care and effort was put into crafting the game. The multipliers in Trick mode, the outrageous half-pipes, the breakneck-pace race tracks were now a staple, and were tighter and cleaner looking than ever. SSX 3 remains in my top 5 games ever.
SSX: On Tour took a departure from the series for an "edgier" look. Gone were the fabulous lights and colors and fresh white powder to usher in some brief flashes of punk-style doodles scribbled over washed-out looking snow to mark your progress. The graphics look like they took a serious hit as well. How can this be in a sequel? Some of the courses were decent, but most were bland and uninspired. Gone was the PDA which let you travel all over the mountain, and gone was the fun and over-the-top nature of the series. The game for me became quickly unplayable as I lamented for the SSX 3 experience I longed for.
I have not played much of SSX Blur, but I did get to play it a bit, and it looked like a lean back in the right direction.
Which brings us to the current SSX game. I was really looking forward, as most were that a new SSX game was coming out, even though my excitement was naturally curbed. In previews, the game looked great. Nice lighting effects and nighttime tracks. I'm a visual guy in case you couldn't tell, and this extra eye candy is always appreciated. But, after playing the game for a few days, I noticed most of the glaring flaws which make the game almost unplayable for all but the hardcore gamer.
One of the reasons I loved the SSX series, and especially SSX 3, is that it appealed to the casual gamer in me. I enjoyed relaxingly sailing down the carved and marked paths while effortless busting huge spins and tricks at a whim. Though the game was probably too easy for some, I enjoyed that aspect of it. It was still a challenge to beat some of the tougher tracks on Peaks 2 and 3, and the challenge continued as you tried to get all of the Big Challenges peppering the mountain. The game FELT like snowboarding in a snowboarder's paradise.
SSX took this formula and did the exact opposite. There's no smooth sailing in SSX anymore. In fact, the developers do everything they can to ruin your experience, all in the name of challenge. The first time I went over what was a clearly marked ramp that lead into a chasm, I was appalled. It kinda stung a little, because I'd now gotten used to them messing up the game and it was like, wow, really? Then when a RAIL lead me into a chasm I started to feel like the game was unplayable. It's not occasional either. It's everywhere, on all mountains, and very tough to avoid in most instances. Many of the natural paths take you right into a blind chasm, and it really feels like a "Haha, gotcha!" by the developers. SSX has become a game of trial-and-error and memorization, the mark of hardcore games since the dawn of time. And a game with somewhat loose controls can't afford to take that approach.
That's my biggest gripe with the game and it prohibits me from having fun. Let's take a more bulletined look at the rest of the pros and cons:
More tracks - Or at least it seems that way. There are a lot of mountains, with three or more tracks each, and I haven't stopped to count how many there actually are. Let's just say there is a lot of content here.
Tricky's Back - Tricky was a great feature back in the day, and it shines in this game as well. It makes all your tricks way more over the top, and your snowboarder glows with a cool orange glow. If you land an insane trick with like 10 flips and spins, the whole ground will ripple upon your landing. Cool additions in this mode.
Colors/Graphics - The lighting in this game is pretty good. I'm a visual guy and this stuff is up to par. It's not up to SSX 3's standards, but again, that game is on it's own echelon in relation to the series.
Online Rivals - This is an AWESOME feature, even though I only have 1 guy on my list that owns the game. Every time someone on your list sets a record between the two of you, it lists it on your game. I felt myself really wanting to beat his score after he had beaten mine.
Right Analog Stick - I didn't like this at first, but it grew on me. It's a great way to replace the button mashing from the older games.
Levelling Up/Equipment - This is a decent feature. I mean, everyone likes a little RPG splashed into their games, and they do an okay job with it. I will say that some of the equipment itself is just too much and detracts from the experience, as I will mention below.
Track Similarity - Part of the charm of the older games was that tracks looked and felt unique. While this may have not been super-realistic, the game never was pushing for realism, so to do it here seems inappropriate. The tracks in SSX are mostly very bland, and fairly indistinguishable from each other.
Track Difficulty - I know I already mentioned it, but it bares repeating: This game is NOT for the faint of heart. There's no relaxation to be had here. If you mess up once, you may as well hit start, and restart the race. Think R-Type on max difficulty with one life.
Half Pipes are Gone: Really? You couldn't squeeze a couple in?
Horrid, Horrid Storyline: SSX now stands for the favorite sports of Mac, Zoe, and some other dude, Moby I think. Snow, Surf, Motorcross! Huh? You're doing this 12 years after the first game's release? On top of that they cast now grown up Griff as the main villain...it's just not even worth caring about. Luckily you only see the storyline at the beginning and they don't mention it again.
Overpowered AI: The AI in this game rarely make mistakes, and if they get a lead it's practically impossible to catch up.
ZANY Equipment!: Infrared goggles and wingsuits are fun for approximately 1 minute and then they feel gimmicky and stale.
Reverse Track Riding: Wow...this has to be the most absurd addition ever. I can't imagine someone thinking this was good, let alone a team of developers. It is just so utterly stupid I nearly fainted when it started happening.
Rewind: I'm listing this as a con. I don't WANT to rewind every time I hit one of your cleverly-placed chasms. I want my Select button back.
Lack of Split-Screen: I don't play SSX split-screen, and I hate split-screening in general, though it's tolerable for some games. That said, it's kind of a feature most are used to getting, and there's been quite the uproar about its lack of inclusion.
All of that said, SSX is a fun game, mainly because well, it's SSX. Even though I hated SSX: On Tour, it was still fun for a while. But even On Tour was better than this. Every time I get suckered into a chasm, I lick my wounds and restart, or quit to go find a more fair map. This game will be in my system for about a week, and then I'll go back to playing Halo Reach or Skyrim or whatever good game I was playing. And then, when I get the urge for SSX, I'll dust off that copy of SSX 3, throw on the tunes, and cruise on down the mountain.
If you're a hardcore SSX 3 fan like I am, I advise not paying 60 bucks for the game. If this is your first entry into the series, I recommend finding SSX 3 on ebay for 10 dollars. If you're just an SSX fan who has enjoyed all of the games up til now, this is a must-buy for you, but be prepared for an immense challenge.
Final Score: 6.9
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/12/12
Game Release: SSX (US, 02/28/12)
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