Stick to what you are good at. The team working on SSX should have heeded this advice during the development of the game. While SSX does a lot of things right, and it can be seriously fun, it also stumbles on itself by putting too much focus on parts of the game that are not.
SSX marks Electronic Art’s return to franchise of the same name as well as the action-sports genre that began to lose popularity roughly a decade ago.
The game is at its best when it is continuing the legacy of previous entries in the series, namely, allowing players to control gravity-defying, ridiculous maneuvers in Trick It mode.
There are few games that offer the thrill of performing six complete rotations all while spinning the board in your hand and adding a backflip for good measure before sticking the landing only to hear RUN DMC let you know you have reached Uber Tricky mode. SSX combines moments like this from its predecessors with the physics and a polish only available in modern games.
You’ll have no problem pulling off these huge maneuvers either as SSX controls like a dream, giving you the choice between a classic, face button arrangement or the new analog controlled system. I personally opted for the analog controls, which made me feel more in control. Responsive controls are a necessity for this reboot because it is light years faster than previous entries. The speed of the game is both a blessing and a curse.
While a drop in frame rate would be a negative, sometimes I almost found myself wishing for a slow down so I could both appreciate the wonderful visual style of the game as well get my bearings and better control of my character. The majority of the courses are beautifully designed, feel organic and are a lot of fun to play.
The curse of speed is especially evident in the new Survive It mode in which you are tasked to make it through a course with a special set of necessities. For example a wing-suit to make it over wide crevices or a solar-powered suit to keep you from freezing to death in the middle of your run. Survive mode seemed out of place in the game, like the developers felt like they had to keep it in as a holdover from the early days in development when the game had a more serious tone. In this mode, especially, you’ll want to control your speed as much as possible to just get through the challenge and on to the next Trick it section. In other words, they just weren’t very fun.
Speaking of not being fun, unnecessary punishment of the player in SSX makes the game more frustrating than it needs to be. Case in point is the rewind function. In Trick It, the rewind function can be used as many times as necessary with the only consequence being points taken away from the player, which is fine because landing that failed trick will most likely net the player those points right back. While Survive rewinds are limited, courses can usually be accomplished relatively easy. Race It, however, seems to go far in punishing the player. Rewinding in Race It can make it very difficult to get back in the race as opponents speed ahead while you move backwards. The frustration only amplifies in later courses when racing is combined surviving and the courses become much more challenging. If you’re going to have a rewind function in your game, it should help the player, not unnecessarily punish and frustrate.
While there is no head-to-head multiplayer functionality in SSX, the title boasts one of the deepest asynchronous online multiplayer ever, dubbed RiderNet. Taking cues from Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit‘s Autolog, the system keeps the high score rivalry between you and your friends in your face at all times, goading you to play just one more run to try and beat them.
SSX is a lot fun when it is doing what it does best. It does a good job of balancing the old series with new game development. While the game has its low points, the highs are worth it all.