You know when your uncle tries to dance or your dad tries to rap? That’s me when I try to understand snowboarding. All the gnarly lingo and flippy floppy acrobatics look fun though, even if I’d be a danger to fashion, myself and anyone around me. Thank heaven, then, for the return of SSX.
SSX, or seriously sexy extreming or something, I dunno, it doesn’t matter, is a remake of the classic snowboarding racer. This time round, the publisher, EA, has made sure the radical boarding action title is dripping in 2012’s coolest buzzwords, irritating thumping tunes and is topped off with wholly obnoxious characters.
The likes of Zoe and Susan, with Mac ‘I act like a tool’ Fraser and Toby ‘kickable’ Jones, have gathered up to race around the world against the toughest snowboarders a humble PS3 processor can simulate, all in a fluster of big graphics and cheesy voice-overs. To what end I don’t know, I mashed ‘skip’ on the control pad. It was either that or I threw up my eyes balls.
The core gameplay of SSX is sound. It was sound 12 years ago with the first SSX, then with SSX Tricky and SSX 3. What’s new here is the addition of all the presentation farts.
Maybe you’re special enough to filter out all the bits of a game which don’t make up the meat and bones of the gameplay. I am. It means SSX is a palpable as a jolly cup of tea for yours truly. For anyone else it will be a Pepsi Max advert.
The controls aren’t too different from the likes of SSX Tricky, with the main difference being the right hand-stick taking the place of the button mashing for effortless mid-air moves. It’s a lovely mechanic, be glad it’s there, even if you choose to ignore it and go retro with your controls.
The tracks are far longer and wider than in the previous SSX titles, with huge glowing arrows, bright red railings to grind and illuminous trails left by the punchable twats you’re racing against. There are jumps everywhere and most lumps in the ground can give you huge air, so scoring high is very easy.
An SSX vet will throw some serious mid-air shapes, notching up an impressive score first time around. It’s great, this is what SSX always did well; making any novice with thumbs feel like they’ve been shredding this game for months.
It’s an addictive game because of this. ‘Just one more mountain’, you think, on the way home but don’t be fooled. The learning curve is pretty steep, rocketing up after the first few slopes as the game introduces sandbox mountains, covered in ice with enormous deadly drops. But keep at it, SSX is a rewarding game to concur if you can put up with it.
For old SSX fans the addition of the ice-axe, the squirrel suit and freefalling will seem like superficial additions to an already perfectly adequate game mechanic. Thing is, these are fairly logical additions to the whole snowboarding-only approach, I know this, but they’re still in the way.
The ice-axe in particular is a ball-ache; causing you to turn wide and slow – they take a lot of getting used to if it was even a thing that needed to happen In the first place. Maybe this is why we don’t need a brand new SSX. Maybe all we needed was a high-definition remake.
Taking SSX online is a little less thrilling than Zoe and company’s gnarly attitudes would suggest. Dropping into a multi-player thrill-race with half a dozen or so other players, uh, doesn’t happen. Instead, you’re invited to participate by picking a run and racing down it as many times as your patience allows.
Maybe you win earnings, maybe you don’t and along the way you can gather a list of ‘rivals’ who have also raced down it. You can come back and race these fellow SSX fans when you’re both free, if you can be bothered. All in all, very clumsy.
Also, as with other EA titles, you can’t have complete online fun unless you have one of EA’s online passes. These come with every new copy of SSX but if you like your games second-hand you’ll have to buy one. Cha-ching. Don’t worry, if you already have an online pass you can still spend money on equipment for your riders or buy credits, which you could just earn yourself, lazy, to unlock other parts of the game.
This new SSX should be suffering from a nasty bout of style over substance, but it’s SSX so it’s very playable. With this remake, though, EA has thoroughly modernised the franchise with the kind of rubbish too many modern games suffer from. Then emptied a box of bells and whistles onto it.
Who’s looking embarrassing now, SSX? Hm…? Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s still me.
SSX is available now on PS3 and Xbox 360.