Skip to main content

SSX Hands-On [PAX Prime 2011]

The whole drama concerning EA’s SSX revival has been well documented on Shogun Gamer in the past.  It’s not too uncommon for some games to be thrown through the ringer due to common gamer fear and misconception but SSX was a game that was almost completely ostrichided from the get-go, somewhat for legitimate reasons.  I myself haven’t been the biggest cheerleader for SSX since it was first shown last December, but during the last few months my view has changed and now I’m officially ready to bow before EA Canada since SSX could end up being everything we want it to be.

EA’s new SSX reboot may not immediately look like SSX on the surface nor does it entirely feature the same over-the-top moves and courses.  But beneath the new sheen of extreme snowboarding EA has created, the SSX DNA is very much present in almost every way.  Playable at the lovely gamer’s geek expo supreme that is PAX Prime 2011; EA had a simple SSX single-player demo for lucky journos/bloggers and gamers to enjoy.  Opting to go old-school as much as possible, I decided for my initial SSX splash to be done with my boy Toby, who as some of you may have seen has received a more mature make-over much like the rest of the SSX roster including Mac and Elise.  Now stepping up to the SSX PAX Prime booth my heart was awash with different emotions as I was excited yet at the same time was hoping things wouldn’t immediately crumble under the weight of my own SSX nostalgia.  But after completing the simple solo race event, I couldn’t help but be thrilled with the future of SSX.

As we’ve all seen over the last few months the new SSX game isn’t like anything we played almost ten years ago – at least it doesn’t immediately appear that way. While EA has revamped the controls and opted to make the trick system revolve around doing different motions with the right analog stick (the control schemes are still pending btw), the SSX for the new age of gaming isn’t a far cry from the snow shredding fun we had back in the day.  After getting off to a slow start, the physics based action of SSX really began to click with me and I soon found myself pulling off tricks that definitely gave me flashbacks to 2002.  Instead of the snow and the rider merely being objects that aren’t connected to one another or have a feel of weight to them, the new SSX is deeply rooted in being based on physics and having the snow affect your momentum, either in a good or bad way.  It still took me a while to get acclimated with snowy terrain that wasn’t awash in a sea of rainbow colors and neon or featured a three-part mega half-pipe ramp, but SSX is just freaking fun.

The flow of SSX is definitely slower paced than what is was in the past but there’s still a lot of fun to be had in terms of mashing the buttons to pull off a six move combo or unleashing an Uber Move.  Like I said earlier, tricks in SSX aren’t handled by the shoulder buttons but instead by a combination of mashing the face buttons or twisting the left and right analog sticks in order to unleash moves that are all but impossible in the real world.  First shredding some powder was a bit awkward since my gamer instincts wanted me to do a shoulder button combo like the good old days, but the trick system and the trick themselves are really intuitive and smooth.  The trick system may seem more in line with what you would expect out of a regular extreme sports game, if there is such a thing, but the SSX attitude is still apparent in the craziness of the moves which still involve pulling off double backflips or doing long board twists.

The movement in SSX did seem a bit slower than I would have expected it to be and at times I was thrown off a bit by small control wobbles, which resulted in me suddenly changing my line.  But since the game is still in Alpha right now I’m not too afraid with the rider movement being a tad touchy.  In fact I was honestly surprised with how technical SSX was shaping up to be since I had to find a good line or make sudden shifts in order to capitalize on things on the course such as surfaces I could grind.  EA hasn’t exactly made SSX a neo-Sim/arcade snowboarding hybrid, but the game does have a flow similar to the criminally underrated snowboarding game Amped 3.

The lack of neon painted snow and fireworks going off all over the place did seem odd for me, but SSX doesn’t seem like a complete visual bore.  I did find things to be more subdued visually, but there was still a nice punch as far as the fidelity is concerned, which looked extremely sharp and detailed, and there was still a decent amount of character present throughout the world.  Effects like a massive shockwave being caused when pulling off certain tricks have been dialed back a bit but feature enough punch that it gives off that classic SSX vibe albeit in a different way.

Ok, now I’m trying my best to dial things back a bit since EA decided not to show off too much of SSX but what I did experience was enough to sell me on the game.  Part of the general joy that I was able to conjure up while playing the PAX Prime demo was because the trick system is fun and finding the perfect line to pull off tricks is as addicting as it was back in SSX 3, which I still think is the best entry in the series.  EA Canada may have irked a great many of us upon first showing us their vision of SSX, but after addressing them I really think the team has nailed it since the SSX DNA is still present and the game is simply easy going arcade style fun.