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» NINTENDO 64 » HARDWARE » PS2 » PSOne » XBOX » GAMECUBE » HANDHELDS » SEGA
Stephen (Scribbler) Zillwood January 13, 2001 Review Feedback

SSX

 Latest Prices
$37.00 half.com (used)
$47.95 Wired Lounge
$49.99 CD Universe

Are you looking for a game that will not only showcase the capabilities of your new PS2 system, but also plays extremely well? Look no further than EA Sports BIG’s launch release SSX. A friend of mine, who happened to be lucky enough to get her PS2 on launch day, has been telling me that I absolutely need to have this game, so when I managed to finally track down a machine the week before Christmas, I tried to pick up the game at the same time; however, everywhere I looked, it was sold out - this usually bodes quite well for a title, especially

 Software Specials
 
 Screenshots

 
Stats

Genre:
Sports

Release Date:
Available

Publisher:
Electronic Arts

Developer:
EA Sports BIG

ESRB:
Everyone

System:
Playstation 2

considering it had been in release for two months already. I was lucky enough to find they had a copy behind the counter at my local computer store last week, so I quickly scarfed it up and took it home. After a typically excellent and pulse-pounding EA Sports intro, I was ready to kick it into gear and kick up some snow. I haven’t stopped playing the game since.

SSX redefines the term “sick air,” and it does so with style. As you race down the slopes of some of the most fantastic and imaginative courses yet seen in any racing game, you get the chance to grab airtime and pull tricks that defy the laws of gravity - and yet, they’re pulled off in such a way that your suspension of disbelief is never challenged. Using the four shoulder buttons alone and in various combinations, your riders can do fifteen different grabs, including everything from the traditional Indy to more exotic moves like the Japan Air and Canadian Back Bacon. Throw in a tweak move for every grab, and you’ve got thirty different actions your rider can take while in the air. Add to this both left and right spins, and forward and backward flips, and you’ve literally got hundreds of combos to choose from - this game is all about depth.

With all these possible moves, you might be wondering about how the heck you’re supposed to maintain control. It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. All grabs are done with the four shoulder buttons, either alone or in combinations; tweaks to your grabs are done with the square button; and directional control, both on the snow and in the air, is done with either the left analog stick or the directional buttons. Personally, I prefer to use the stick for movement on the ground, and the buttons for winding up for various maneuvers; it tends to ensure that you’re getting exactly the trick you’re aiming for. In addition to these basic controls, there is also an adrenaline button (the square, but only while on the ground), which will greatly increase your speed for short bursts. You get adrenaline by completing tricks, so it’s really worthwhile trying to throw a few spins and grabs into every bit of air you get, as it can make the difference between winning a race, and being an also-ran. And find the opposition getting a little pushy in those tight races? Use your right analog stick to give them a little push back, and it’ll be clear boarding to the finish - unless your opponent hits harder.

SSX is full of unlockables, and nearly everything you do well will open something new up. You start the game with one track and four racers, each of which have access to two boards, two outfits, and a book of fifty custom tricks, rated green circle through black diamond in difficulty. Here’s how the unlocks work:

Tracks: Place in the top three in a race or a showoff event, and you unlock the next track (but only for the type of event in which you placed). To get the final course, “Untracked”, you need to win gold in the “Aloha Ice Jam” racing event, and earn a gold in “Pipe Dream” in showoff - no easy feat, as it requires you to rack up 150,000 points! There are eight tracks plus the Warmup venue, so there’s plenty to unlock.

Riders: Win a gold in a race or showoff event, and you’ll unlock the other riders.

Boards: Increase your rider’s ranking, and you’ll unlock a new board for him/her. Most new boards increase your capabilities, so it’s well worth it.

Outfits: Perform each of the tricks in a given difficulty level, and you’ll open up a new custom outfit for your rider. This is merely cosmetic, but is a nice touch, and added incentive to pull some truly sick air.

Each time you medal in any event, you’re given points to distribute to your rider, choosing from four different abilities: edging, speed, stability, and tricks. Every ability will help your rider to become even better at what they do, so it’s important to keep an eye on each one, and improve in areas that will help you to achieve whatever goals you’ve set for yourself the earliest - thus allowing you to place in more events and receive more ability points, etc. The riders all have specialties (Freestyle, BX, or Alpine) so try to choose one that will appeal to your particular preferences. Just remember: Alpine riders specialize in speed, Freestyle in tricks, and BX (Boarder-Cross) in a combination of the two. You must unlock each of the tracks for each rider individually in the World Circuit, so there’s a ton of replay value here. One nice touch is that any track opened by any rider is available in Single Event mode, so you can take on your friends or practice by yourself after taking just a single rider through the Circuit. Every track features loads of ramps, gaps, and grindable objects (such as pipes, trees - heck, even the stands if you want), so playing through them never gets boring. Guaranteed, if you’ve only run a track nine or ten times, there are areas you haven’t seen yet - I still haven’t found the ice caves in “Untracked”.

Gameplay modes offer you with a couple of main choices, and several sub-options. When you start up the game you can opt to play in a Single Event, or compete in the World Circuit. Single Events are great if you only have a few minutes to play, and are also the only option if you want to play two-player. You can choose from several options under this mode: Warmup (this is a straight track to the bottom, allowing you to practice various skills); Race (go against various levels of competition, and practice for the World Circuit events); Showoff (complete as many tricks as you can for the biggest point totals); and Free Ride (allows you to take on a course without a time limit, so you can really get to know the layout). World Circuit is where the real meat of the game is, however. Modes are limited to Race and Showoff events, and this is where you play for all the marbles. Races aren’t simple one-off affairs; you must qualify in the top three riders in quarter- and semi-finals in order to compete for the medals. There are a couple of power-ups you’ll find here and there on most tracks, one to speed you up and one to greatly increase your trick ability for a few brief seconds. If you’re finding yourself consistently at the back of the pack, keep your eyes open for the numerous “SSX” signs strewn throughout every track - they almost always lead to short-cuts that’ll shave seconds off of your time, and sometimes lead to really cool secret areas, such as the office building in “Merqury City Meltdown”. Showoffs pit you against the track, and some of the point totals for the silvers and golds are quite difficult to achieve; however, there’s really nothing like the feeling you get from pulling off a triple Rodeo with several grabs along the way, and seeing your points get into the triple digits. There are also power-ups available in this mode, this time in the form of snowflakes; yellow ones double your points on a given trick, orange ones triple them, and red ones give you five times the score. My personal best trick scored me just over 30,000, which included catching a 3x multiplier snowflake - I know I can get more, and believe me, I’ll be working on it! Just remember: in order to score the points, you need to land the trick - your head does not make a soft landing surface.

The graphics in SSX are simply unbelievable. I’ve played games on pretty much every console to have come out since the Atari 2600, and nothing comes even close to the sheer beauty of SSX’s incredible tracks and highly detailed riders. There’s nary a skip in the action, and not a single jaggy to be seen anywhere. All the tracks sport colorful designs, and the environment is unique for each, reflecting the different real world locales they’re set in. For a true visual feast, try out the “Tokyo Megaplex”, which is really just a giant pinball machine built for boarding.

Right up there with the visuals is the aural treatment EA Sports BIG has given this game; it’s mind-blowing goodness from the background music to the swish of your board through the snow. Different surfaces reflect the appropriate sound as you sail over them, and collision noises range from loud crunches to cartoonish “sproings”, depending on what and how hard you hit. Each of the riders has their own voice, and the international cast of characters each speaks in their native tongue. Jurgen will curse in German when he misses a landing, and Hiro and Kaori sound super cool in their authentic Japanese (I know it’s authentic, ‘cause I have Japanese friends). Each rider, though limited to only a few lines in the races and when you choose them from the setup screen, ooze character and attitude. Very cool work all around.

Technical issues are of particular interest, given the newness of the PS2 platform, and the fact that SSX is a first generation game on it. Let me tell you: if this is how games on the PS2 are going to load, run, and play, then I couldn’t have found a better way to spend my hard-earned cash. There hasn’t been a single glitch at any point in over 100 hours of gameplay I’ve put into this title, and I’ve played with every character and on every track (though not with every character on every track - yet). Load times, long the bane of PSOne titles, are very short; from insertion of the disc to beginning a race takes well under a minute. SSX is as clean as they come.

I cannot stress enough how much fun I have had while playing this game. I’ve always been somewhat inclined towards PC games over platforms, but SSX has done a decent job of converting me. For example, I picked up both Sacrifice and Giants: Citizen Kabuto over the holidays - I’ve played neither of them for nearly two weeks, as I’ve been spending almost every spare moment I’ve had in snowboarding heaven. Friends of mine who don’t even play games as a rule have been caught up with what I’ve come to call “SSX Fever”. If you have a PS2, you need to own SSX, plain and simple; if you don’t, this game, unavailable on any other platform, is actually worth forking out the cash for the PS2, just so that you can play it. It’s that good.


Game Title Rating
Concept
There are a few other snowboarding games around, but none like this one.
95

Gameplay
Easy to get into, hard to master, the perfect balance.
100
Graphics
Simply amazing, varied, and clean.
100
Sound
Captures the essence of boarding, while providing some cool effects.
100

Technical
Fast loads, clean play, no bugs whatsoever.
100
Overall
THE game to own for the PS2.
99






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