STAFF REVIEW of SSX (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

SSX Box art Snowboarding Supercross, or SSX for short, has been around for over a decade. SSX Tricky is still one of my favorite snowboarding games ever, though history will most likely forget On Tour and Blur in the series. SSX games have always been extreme at its core. Your goal is essentially to pull off undeniably insane stunts that aren?t even possible in real life, and make it look good at a ridiculous speed. This may have you spinning your board around your neck like a propeller while rotating yourself, or kick flipping your board as if gravity doesn?t exist while trying to land a jump well over a hundred feet. SSX makes the incredible stunts and tricks a breeze to pull off, but the real skill comes from keeping your combo and tricky meter up to obtain even higher scores.

The new tagline for SSX is ?Race It, Trick It, Survive It?, and it certainly lives up to its claim. You?ll be dropping from a helicopter to set your fastest time in Races, posting your obscene scores in Trick drops, or even trying to simply endure to the end in Survive runs. As you complete runs and set your personal bests, all your ghost data, scores, and times will be automatically updated for the rest of SSX?s riders to see and compete against. You may be boarding on the same courses, but you?ll play completely differently if you?re trying to perform tricks or race to the bottom, or even simply trying to get to the bottom, outrunning an avalanche. No matter what mode you play, it really is you versus the mountain, and you?ll need to survive while looking good stringing tricks together.

While a snowboarding game doesn?t really need a story to motivate you to play or enjoy yourself, there is one here, albeit a flimsy attempt at a plotline; but you won?t care, as the gameplay makes up for any shortcomings. Griff, a former SSX team member, says he?s going to be the first to conquer each of the nine Deadly Descents, but team SSX will have none of that and will battle against Griff to prove that they are the best team out there to master the mountains around the globe before anyone else. As I said, the story isn?t going to have you enthralled, but it won?t matter, as playing the game itself will be reward in itself.

Favorite characters of SSX past make a return along with a few fresh new faces as well. You?ll have your beloved Mac, Kaori, Elise Zoe, Moby, Psymon, and Eddie see their long awaited return and you?ll meet Tane, Alex, and Ty for the first time. Each character will be introduced via a comic book style that will fail to make you choose someone over your already favorite character, but at least the attempt is there. Each person has their strengths and will have a big edge if you use them for the proper types of courses that play into their strengths (Mac is amazing at stunts for example).

Regardless of whom you choose for each type of race, they?ll need to be properly geared to even compete, never mind even trying to place high on the leaderboards. For the highest mountains, you might need to equip an oxygen tank to prevent you from blacking out (you need to press RB when the screen starts to blacken), or a thermal suit that will keep you warm in the coldest temperatures which requires you to keep in the sun as much as possible so that you don?t freeze almost instantly. On ice-laden tracks, you may need ice picks so that you can steer properly without coasting out of bounds, or you might need to wear armor to prevent yourself from getting too hurt in the rock-packed Rockies. It may seem odd that you?re forced to use a headlamp for certain courses, but you?ll quickly learn that there are good reasons for each corresponding equipment item and you?ll need to learn to use each one properly if you want to survive.

The greatest piece of equipment you?ll be using though is aptly named the Wingsuit. Holding the RB button once you?ve taken a jump will cause your character to hold out their arms and glide over a massive distance, as if you?re almost taking flight. It becomes very strategic, as you need to decide if you want to glide a little further to find a better landing spot (or railing to trick onto), or you do drop sooner to try and gain more speed. Your Wingsuit isn?t unlimited, so you need to perform your tricks and gliding quickly and efficiently if you want to win. The first few times you use the Wingsuit, you?ll be most likely telling yourself ?oh my god?, as the mass distance you cover is simply awesome, and needs to be experienced, and is quite possibly my favorite addition to the SSX series yet.

In certain modes you?ll also be able to purchase and equip Mods and Geotags. Mods are a onetime use/equipped bonus to whatever stat it boosts. If you want that extra advantage on a Trick course, you can buy a trick mod to give yourself that little boost to hopefully put you on the top of the leaderboards. Geotags is a very interesting addition that I?m finding myself very addicted to. A Geotag is an item that you can drop anywhere you want on your run, and the longer that it?s not found, the more credits you?ll earn. So the trick is to try and find somewhere very hidden and obscure where people won?t find it, so that you can earn the most credits possible. Couple this with a Wingsuit and you can see where the possibilities end up.

The true stars of the game are the locations and mountains though. You?ll be shredding across the planet, from the Canadian Rockies, Alaska, the Alps, Siberia, Antarctica, New Zealand, and more. Each area will have multiple mountains to traverse, each with numerous runs to conquer as well, making for many different courses and runs to learn and master. You?ll obviously have certain courses you love and hate, but the ones you love, you won?t get tired of them anytime soon, as it seems I keep finding new pathways and better routes to go every time I play.

Most players will probably get the most entertainment from Trick It courses, as this is the heart of the SSX series. You?ll be linking any tricks you can together in combos to try and get those record setting scores on the leaderboard to boast over your friends. Fill your Tricky meter and you can pull off the Uber tricks that would make any person sick to their stomach to perform, if they were even possible.

Race It courses will have you trying to perform tricks as well, because once you fill your Tricky meter, you have unlimited boost for that time, so it becomes a balance of speed and tricks so that you can cross the finish line as fast as possible. With multiple paths, an open mountain face, and no invisible walls to stop you, you?ll have to repeat races many times to try and learn the best possible route for your play style.

New to SSX are the Survive It courses that will have you ripping down some of the most treacherous and dangerous descents on the planet. Rocky terrain, avalanches, whiteouts, freezing temperatures, and pitch black tunnels are just some of the obstacles you?ll need you overcome as you simply try and reach the end alive. This mode can be incredibly difficult, and even impossible if you don?t wear the proper equipment for each run. These can almost be viewed as a boss stage, as they usually come last, and require a vast amount of skill to complete and conquer. While it may not be for everyone, dodging trees, jumping lava pits, and making it through a completely black tunnel is very rewarding once you finally do survive it.

Built into SSX is RiderNet, something that will be very familiar to those that enjoyed how Autolog worked in the recent Need for Speed games. No matter what you?re doing in SSX, all your progress is tracked and uploaded for everyone else to see, race, and compete against. You?ll always know what your friends are doing, and can even take on recommended challenges RiderNet suggests, based on what your friends are doing.

There are two things you need to know about multiplayer before I go any further though. First and foremost, multiplayer in the traditional sense isn?t here. There?s no inviting your friends into a lobby then all shredding the mountain together. Actually, there?s no lobby system at all, as you don?t truly race people ?beside? each other. If you?re on a course and someone else online is nearby, you?ll see them, but you can?t bump each other or anything like that. While this may initially turn some people off, the built in integration of RiderNet makes it so easy to see that my friend just beat my top score on a course, and I can go and try and beat it almost instantly, which they will see and do the same after I best them.

Because there?s no intrusive lobby system, there are global events that anyone can take part of that is essentially an ongoing tournament for each mountain and course. Global competition is constantly happening and you can choose which events to compete in. Some events are free to enter while others can cost up to a million credits just to compete. The more players in an event, the bigger the prize pool becomes, and if you place high enough to win, your initial investment can be massively multiplied. Each event has a time limit that ranges from minutes, to hours, to days, and at the end, the prize pool of credits is divvied out to the people that place in the top brackets, even if you?re offline.

While a lack of traditional multiplayer is a slight disappointment, you?re still able to invite friends into a custom event and race ?alongside? each other should you wish. Some may be deterred from the lack of splitscreen multiplayer as well, but the integration of RiderNet truly does make your solo experience almost feel like you?re always racing against others.

For those wondering, there is an online pass included in new copies, but your access to online multiplayer won?t be hindered if you don?t buy it new. The catch though is that you won?t receive your credits for anything you do online until you buy that online pass (all new copies have it included), though it will save the banked amount until you do purchase it.

The SSX series has always had a stellar soundtrack of licensed music to go along with the atmosphere of the game, and SSX this year is no different. The staple ?It?s Tricky? song by Run D.M.C. returns, though it?s the new ?Pretty Lights Remix? version. While not as classic, it still fits the game well and will go alongside the other songs in the massive playlist, such as ?Houdini? by Foster the People, ?Scatta? by Skrillex, and many more songs from numerous genres. Granted, nothing will beat your custom soundtrack though.

There is a fantastic amount of track variants, given that Trick, Race, and Survival play completely different from each other. It?s been many years since I?ve enjoyed SSX Tricky, but the wait is finally over for its true successor (to be fair, SSX 3 was quite good as well, though just not as memorable to me) and I finally have a new SSX game that I?ll be playing for quite some time. There?s nothing quite like outrunning an avalanche or grabbing onto a flying helicopter and doing an Uber trick off of it after using my Wingsuit to soar across the sky. SSX is finally back and the wait has been worth it.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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