Years ago, when “next-gen” meant the PS2, I was introduced to what would be one of my favorite sports franchises of all time when I played the original SSX back in 2000. I still remember the commentators telling me that “Snow plus Dream equals SnowDream.” From then on, the franchise has always had a soft spot in my heart, which really means that I’ve bought every game since then and played them to completion. Though the franchise took a couple of missteps (SSX On Tour wasn’t as fun as the third installment, and Blur was kind of a mess) and fell off of the map completely, its newest installment has finally been released. And with some hiccups in some places, I’m happy to say that the franchise is back on it’s sturdy feet.
The game’s story is rather forgettable, but is a great place to recapture your skills. Apparently, the little kid in SSX 3, aka Griff, has broken away from everyone else and thinks that he is the best in the world. So Zoe and the rest of the cast are going from peak to peak across the world to prove him wrong – by doing each of the nine “Deadly Descents.” Really, I could care less about this story. The whole thing is basically a tutorial for each place and a showcase for the each of the nine characters in the game. Each place requires a certain type of equipment, like a wingsuit or a headlight. Some are actually quite useful, while others are just kinda there (the oxygen tank is only useful in one level).
So who are the characters? Most of them are the fan favorites, including Moby, Elise, Psymon, and Kaori (who I’m using right now). There are a couple of new guys, including Alex (the French model), Ty (the Norwegian test rider), and Tane (a surfer, who I really hated for some reason). Each character has their own Uber Tricky move, which is what makes each truly unique. Some are awesome, some not. But that all depends on who you enjoy playing with.
The maps are beautiful. Using some sort of NASA technology, each mountain looks absolutely gorgeous. Africa, however, happens to be quite different, as you don’t go down a mountain per say, but inside of it. I don’t thing that’s really a thing (maybe I’m wrong), but that creates a lot of problems when you hit a ramp and hit a ceiling. Each mountain has a Deadly Descent level to it, which are basically racing tracks between yourself and the elements. Some battle darkness, whiteouts, and the diabolical tree. One that was AWFUL, was the avalanche level in Alaska. The camera pans to the front of the rider, and follows him down the mountain being chased by the avalanche. This one level took me FOREVER to beat, as I flew into crevasses in the middle of the map or off the map completely.
I know it sounds like I don’t like the game, but let me be clear, it is incredibly fun. The controls feel the same as they always have, making it one enjoyable ride to another. I do wish it was back to one mountain and one thirty minute ride to the bottom, but going from nine different locations isn’t that bad.
The music, which is normally really strong, was just ok this time around. Foster the People and The Naked and Famous are just some of the highlights on the playlist, though I rather play with my own. What’s awesome about that is that as you snowboard, the music (whether it be yours or the games) reacts, like repeating a part when you spin enough, or falling from high spots and having the music fade out. It doesn’t reverse when you reverse (another new thing to the game), but that’s just nitpicking.
SSX has it’s flaws, but it’s just flat out fun. It reminds me of my younger days of shreding the slopes and kicking some serious butt. No local multiplayer? No problem. The online features here are awesome, as you can post up scores to whatever courses you play, and see if your friends can then beat you. You can also join tournaments to make tons of fake money to buy new gear and boards. SSX has plenty of replay value to hold me down until their next endeavor guided by DJ Atomica. And let’s start hoping for another one soon.
Final Grade: B+