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,
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
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”.
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
There are a few other snowboarding games around,
but none like this one.
Easy to get into, hard to master, the perfect
Simply amazing, varied, and clean.
Captures the essence of boarding, while providing
some cool effects.
Fast loads, clean play, no bugs whatsoever.
game to own for the PS2.