A few weeks ago, I was invited to take an early look at the upcoming revitalisation of one of gaming’s favourite snowboarding series, known simply as SSX. The event was held at Red Bull’s Headquarters, where the media was allowed an exclusive peek at the early levels of the game, which offers players the ability to ‘Race It’, ‘Trick It’ and ‘Survive It’.
Even with a range of new features and additions to the gameplay, the latest SSX shares more with the original that launched the PS2 than just its title. The game feels really reminiscent of the series’ roots with a focus on pulling off spectacular tricks with ease, as well as grinding along improbably-placed rails and splashing snow in the faces of your many racing rivals. There are some massive drops throughout the many courses available, which take you around the world for a variety of snowy locations. Most of the levels I played centered around (mostly) natural courses, with rocks, trees and falls presenting the biggest hazards, although one level did involve grinding along the rooftops of a few buildings.
The first of the big changes to SSX‘s gameplay is a new control system for tricks. The right analogue stick is used for both jumping and pulling off tricks while in mid-air, although you can also use the face buttons for a more traditional experience as well. Pulling off tricks successfully will build up your Tricky meter, which in turn allows you to get even more points for your Run DMC-ing pleasure and makes your tricks look even more spectacular. A Super Tricky mode can also be activated which ignites your boarder’s hands and allows even more ridiculous poses while tricking in mid-air. You can perform ‘presses’ which are similar to to manuals in skateboarding, that allow you to slowly build up your trick meter while on the ground, which is a good way to start off combos as you approach ramps and drops.
Perhaps the biggest addition is the wing suit, which is used frequently in some levels, particularly ones which have very harsh drops and little ground for your snowboarder to ride along. This piece of kit allows you to glide along in mid-air, crossing huge distances you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to cross and allowing you to get the drop on your rivals. The shift from controlling your boarder on the ground to gliding in the air is a little jarring at this stage, and it takes a lot of getting used to. A ‘rewind’ feature similar to games like Forza is also included, which is great for getting you back on track after suffering a horrendous derailing into a canyon. Just be aware that your opponents don’t rewind with you, which while looking hilarious can mean you could lose a race.
RPG elements also seem to have snuck their way into the SSX franchise with a levelling up system in place that increases your stats the more you play, as well as requiring you to equip your boarder with better gear to access further levels in the game. For instance, if a course is considered potentially dangerous, your boarder will need to have enough in-game cash to spend on armor, which then has to be equipped before you proceed. There’s also a bunch of collectibles strewn throughout the courses called ‘geotags’, which look to provide a nice bit of challenge and incentive for repeat playthroughs.
SSX certainly feels very fluid at this stage, and fans of the original games on PlayStation 2 will likely find this latest game right up their alley. That classic SSX feeling is present throughout everything I played, although I didn’t get the chance to try the third level-type advertised in EA’s promotional material – namely the ‘Survive It’ stages. However, the tricking and racing are certainly quite fun at this stage, and if players can get used to the new wing suit mechanic, SSX could very well become a new addiction for ‘just one more go’ trickaholics. Look for SSX when it hits store shelves on 1 March, or download the demo now to give it a whirl yourself.