Review by THayes

Reviewed: 07/23/03 | Updated: 01/13/04

Superb snowboarding game with great graphics and long, entertaining levels

There have been a variety of snowboarding games released in previous years. Starting off the crowd were Cool Boarders on the PlayStation and 1080 on the Nintendo 64. When extreme sports games were given a boost of popularity with the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in 1999, more snowboarding games were released, including Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder on the PlayStation 2 and, undoubtedly still the best of all, SSX. This is a game which is completely over the top in nearly every way. All eight of the courses are littered with massive jumps, crazy rides through buildings and various routes down steep icebergs.

The game does not have any of the goals or gaps which are commonly seen in extreme sports games these days. Instead, the focus is on a race to the finish line. The levels each have a number of alternative routes and shortcuts, and each level is different from the others. Snow Dream for example, is a peaceful ride down a gentle slope consisting of very small jumps and no serious hazards. Elysium Alps on the other hand is completely different, with a fast placed ride down a steep slope with massive jumps across canyons, huge icy sections and massive full loops.

Other levels all have similar highlights: Mesablanca with a trip through a dry, dusty desert filled where players must weave left and right to avoid pillars. Pipe Dream with the mass variety of rails, quick riding and huge jumps. By far the best of the bunch though is a level named Untracked, a freeriding course down a mountain which has no set path. Some of the biggest jumps and secrets of the game are found here, and the superb design makes this the favourite choice of many players.

The control is similar to that of the first two Cool Boarders series in that the X button is pressed to crouch for the jump, and then a direction on the D-Pad is held to flip or spin in that direction. More tricks can be done by pressing a combination of different shoulder buttons. Although this system may take a while to get used to do for players used to the Neversoft series of games, it feels much more versatile after a bit of practice. You can control the speed of spins and flips in the air, and tricks generally look sensational when combined with some of the realistic grabs.

Grinds are very difficult to do though, and involve lining up perfectly with the rail and using the analog stick to balance. There is a lack of variety of grinds, consisting of the standard 50-50 and boardslide. Considering the imaginative tricks that can be achieved off of the ramps in the game, a bit more thought could have been put to variety on grinds as well. There is also no manual feature in the game, so tricks can't be linked together. Despite this though, the enormous amount of air tricks consisting of flips, tweaks and grabs are incredible. Mutes, mistys, rodeos and methods are all featured here, and all look incredible in the game.

A nice addition not seen in any previous snowboarding game is the Boost bar, which consists of a number of rings and rises according to the difficulty of the tricks that are executed. While a simple 360 may only raise the bar half or one ring, tricks like the 1260 tweaked unethical experiment may fill the bar significantly. At any point in the game, holding the circle button causes the player to get a boost of speed, which allows them to travel down the courses overtaking characters with much more ease and gain much more height off of ramps.

The game has very good graphics, with characters looking exceptionally well animated in both how they move while riding on the snow, and even more impressively in the air. The graphics in the levels are are also fantastic, with effects like ice and deep snow represented wonderfully in the game, with weather effects like snowflakes dropping down in some levels looking equally nice. The sound of the game is great as well, especially the voice acting of the commentator which blurts out how well the player is doing, and even names the tricks that are done. Although this can be slightly confusing in two-player mode, the enthusiastic voice sounds great against the soothing music on the levels.

Due to the lack of challenges or additional bonuses after completing the game, the length of the game is not massive. Each character has new boards to unlock, and a trick book where each character has fifty tricks is shown. Apart from this though, it's only the tricks and memorable levels like Elysium Alps and Untracked which will continue to draw players back to the game. A few more extra levels or hidden features would have been nice to see, but overall SSX remains of the best snowboarding games on the PlayStation 2.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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