Songs For Polarbears

You'll be patrolling plenty of snow in SSX.
Author: Scott Rodgers
Published: March 22, 2012
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Some of my fondest memories on the PS2 are with the SSX series. Growing up in South Carolina it wasn’t like I could go snowboarding on a whim so I lived my fantasies through the game. Sure, even if I could snowboard I doubt I would pull off any tricks that wouldn’t end in my ass hitting the ground but the games were a heck of a lot of fun. Between the announcer saying “EA Sports...BIG” at the startup and the “Tr-tr-tr-tricky”s during the gameplay the series and I were inseparable. Then, after SSX On Tour in 2005 the series went dormant. So there was SSX Blur on the Wii but it wasn’t the same. The SSX series, for me, was synonymous with PlayStation. Every time there would be a topic on a forum asking people to post games that you wanted to see sequels to SSX would reside at or near the top of my list.

So when SSX was announced I think I actually wept a bit. Well, I’m being hyperbolic but I could barely contain my excitement. It was as though EA was listening to me (and, well, the other thousands of fans clamoring for the game) and when review time came around, I begged and pleaded to get a chance to play the game. So it may seem odd that I am writing this review to you nearly a month after release. Well, there’s a good reason for that: I have been busy playing the game. I have had a tough time separating myself from SSX and it has hooked its icy little claws in me like few titles have. I take this game to friend’s houses and we play it for hours on end. It also helps that I have been able to play the game in a real world setting instead of relying on limited, scheduled online playtimes. So if you already have the game and have been enjoying it like myself, hats off. If, for whatever reason, you have been waiting then allow me to provide that final push towards a purchase.

The gameplay breaks down to three segments. Racing is obvious, your goal is to get down the path before your opponents. Along the way you can trick your way to boosts and even knock opponents down if you’re feeling particularly spiteful. Trick events also make a triumphant return and once again you can do things out of this world. Thankfully, no one will ever attempt some of the tricks that these characters pull off because they may die trying.

Characters have specific uber tricks that are accompanied by Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” which is much to my delight. Finally, and new to this iteration, is the survival events. These will put you up against the mountain in a showdown mono y montaña. For all intents and purposes they are boss battles because you have to survive to move on to other areas. They’re intense and while I won’t spoil all of them for the few of you who haven’t played the game I will say they are varied enough to present new and interesting challenges. Don’t fret too much if you have a near perfect run going and mess something up, there is a rewind button that will allow you to correct your mistakes. Just know that the race doesn’t stop, though, and people can blow past you and that any tricks you may have had leading up to a mistake will be erased.

The core of SSX has always been strong. EA Canada built on an already tried and truth method though the inclusion of survival missions is a unique twist and something that I have enjoyed immensely. However, the game would fall flat on its face, much like many would be snowboarders, if its controls weren’t fluid. I am happy to say that while there have been times that I have grinded on stuff I didn’t find that the controls aren’t a problem. The left analog stick controls the movement while the right stick (or buttons if you prefer) allow you to pull off jumps, tricks, grabs, and anything in between. The classic controls are also present for the purists.

There are some sections that the controls are taken out of your hands like those dealing with avalanches. These flip the camera from behind your character to being in a safe distance away and take some time to get use to. Then again, this is but one area and if you end up hating it you can always beat it once and never return. Just know that the characters do have weight so sharp turns and not landing flush after a jump can lead to wipeouts if you’re not careful. Another nice little assist that was put into the game is the appropriately titled “Helicopter Buddy.” Basically this person sits in the chopper (which you do not need to get to) and gives you guidance, lights the way with flares, and serves as a trick opportunity. If you gain big enough air you can kick, flip, or even grind for extra bonus points. Just don’t get chopped in half by the whirling blades (no, this doesn’t happen but it should).
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