Some Games are easy to get, like casino, but I’ve never really gotten why people like Sports games. It seems to me that the target audience of sports games would much rather go and play the sport itself then a simulation of it. But Sports games do sell like hot cakes so there’s obviously something I’m not getting. I believe the further removed from our reality a game’s setting gets the more worthy it is to play. This of course brings us to SSX.
SSX has always been the golden star in Snowboarding games, mostly because every other snowboarding game wants to keep things “realistic”. SSX has made never any attempts to be realistic in any sort and it has worked amazingly. Pulling off physics-defying tricks on awesome courses with cartoony characters has always been SSX’s selling point. But since SSX 3 this series has been kind of listlessly rolling around in the dirt, and not a lot of people were happy. But this year we’ve got a brand new game that EA assures us will revitalize the franchise.
So first off we have the story, if you can call it that. Zoe, a past SSX character, decides to create a team of the world’s greatest snowboarders comprised of past SSX members and is named “Team SSX”. Why? We’re never really given a reason, so just because. Things are going swell until Griff Simmons, last seen as a twelve year old in SSX 3, decides to go solo making him the villain by default. Actually we’re never really given a reason why he’s such a villain, other than kind of acting like a douchebag. So? Kanye West has acted like a douchebag and his music is still goddam amazing. But I digress.
So it’s a race between Team SSX and Griff to scale the world’s most deadly peaks and descend them intact. There are more than 25 different courses and you can’t blame the game for lacking in variety, as the courses take place all over the world in nine different locales. Each location has a different “Deadly Descent”, a sort of “boss” course. Each of these courses has a unique challenge depending on the locale. For instance, the Rockies have a lot of trees you need to avoid, Siberia has ice you need to navigate on, and the Himalayas are so high up you need an Oxygen mask. As serious as these challenges may seem, they never really got in my way too much. They’re just sort of there, just another obstacle to overcome and not a serious business sort of thing. At worst, they’re kind of annoying. At best, they’re kind of interesting.
Now my problem with SSX that seeps into many different aspects of the game is something I thought would ever touch the franchise. It’s surprisingly “pretentions at realism”. The addition of the somewhat unnecessary deadly descents is proof of this, as well as how the game handles characterization. Instead of the ridiculous costumes and personalities that gave previous SSX plenty of style, everyone here is dressed practically with heavy jackets, helmets and goggles. The only costume customization is what color your suit is and if it has lights or not. It also seems that the more realistic clothing has made the characters blander. Most of them have little to no personality. Luckily the tricks they preform are still ridiculous which lightens things up.
There’s also no split screen multiplayer, which is rather lame. Instead there’s an online mode where you compete with ghosts for the fastest time, most tricks, etc. And this feature is really what saves the game in my opinion. SSX does perfectly what any good sports/pseudo-sports game does: it makes you competitive. Despite any nitpicking I could do on the characters or the music, whenever I see that a friend has taken down my high score on a course I go into competitive mode and can spend hours trying to get the few point necessary to topple them.
The saving grace of the game is the perfected mechanics, and that’s what makes SSX awesome. It’s a flawed but addicting game, and if you don’t mind the competitive frustration, there’s a lot to like. My initial skepticism gave away to sheer joy and determination, and eventually I threw away my notes all together. Take this is a hesitant recommendation.