If you missed the “Snowboarding, Surfer and Motocross” mantra from the classic SSX, this reboot will suffice, but some of the new elements obscure the vision established by its predecessors.
SSX, the wacky, fast-paced snowboarding franchise from the PlayStation 2 era is back in the form of a gritty reboot that retains most of the qualities that made the original trilogy so fresh and entertaining, but with some missteps here and there. If you miss the “Snowboarding, Surfer and Motocross” mantra from the classic SSX, this reboot will suffice, but some of the new elements obscure the vision established by its predecessors.
Right away you’ll notice that the game’s divided into two main modes: in World Tour (this is the new single-player campaign) you follow different members of the SSX team as they use unique skills to try to conquer nine deadly descents around the globe. In the other portion of the game, you can explore global events (through online-only modes,) but you must be connected to the EA servers in order to play.
As you complete events (these include trick, survival and traditional races,) your riders earn experience points which levels them up and the higher the level, the better their equipment and abilities they have. Equipment plays an important role in this game. In the equipment screen, you can choose your riders’ outfit and each piece of equipment comes with its own statistics, such as speed, boost and tricks. The more you keep playing, the more equipment you have access to. There are ice axes, oxygen masks, solar panels, headlamps and wing suits and these pieces of equipment come with some gameplay changes you need to use to your advantage.
Unlocking new gear is nice and all, but SSX is a game that’s at its best when you perform some of the most colorful, bombastic and simply impressive tricks and while some of the other distractions are more than welcome, they weren’t necessary to the formula. Some of the new mechanics don’t make a lot of sense. Having to hold the RB button while you’re trying to do tricks on a cave makes the process of snowboarding feel sluggish and frustrating, deadly descents are an exercise of trial and error and multiplayer modes seem convoluted and you’re never actually playing against people. At its core, SSX is still an entertaining snowboarding game, but I feel like the formula was tinkered with so much that fun moments are few and far between.
There are levels where you’re perspective and controls are slightly changed so that you can avoid an incoming avalanche. In these levels, you see your snowboarder from afar and you need to pull off some tricks so that you can boost and escape your impending doom. These offer a nice change of pace, but they weren’t that entertaining because performing tricks was extremely difficult. Once you’re in the air in these races, it’s hard to judge how far you’re from the ground and there were instances where I couldn’t tell if I was on the ground or the air.
There are also some online modes, but I was completely unimpressed with them. In Explore, you compete against friends’ ghosts and that’s about it. Despite being an online mode, all the ghosts are saved in the Rider.Net servers and this feels like something that could have been integrated into the main campaign instead of having to access it in a different menu.
I feel like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were missing an enjoyable snowboarding game, but sadly, SSX isn’t it. The personality and charm of the original trilogy is nowhere to be found here and the more serious tone ultimately hurts the game. Also, all the new elements (particularly the gear) are detrimental to the experience, making the process of racing and doing tricks sluggish and frustrating. At its worst SSX can be a frustrating and punishing title and at its best it can be a gratifying and electrifying snowboarding game. I just wish that the game had more of the latter.