Our newest guest author to muslimgamer.com is Styrophoamicus! Long time forum member who has become all grown up and left the protective wings of MG to start his own site which we recommend you check out! So from time to time we will be featuring his reviews and opinion pieces here on the Muslim Gamer news site. To kick things off, here is his first article, a review of SSX!
I remember back when the Extreme Sports genre of video games exploded into the market following the massive success of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Eventually, if you could ride it you could play it, as games like Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfboard and others came in to try and snatch their own little piece of fortune. But if there was any sport to rival skateboarding in terms of popularity and variety of games made, it was snowboarding.Games like 1080 Snowboarding, Coolboarders, and Snowboard Kids appeared on the N64 and PlayStation—heck, even Final Fantasy VII had its own snowboarding minigame. After two console generations, though, the Extreme Sports genre has faded into a shadow of itself, and even its catalyst, Tony Hawk, has faded into obscurity (and mockery with Tony Hawk Ride).
Thankfully, SSX has arrived, and has given the genre a much-needed shot of adrenaline—followed by strapping a board to its feet, tossing it out of a helicopter, and saying “Good luck!”.
But not before making it sign a waiver that absolves it of all legal responsibilities, and then reminding it what a good life it had.
SSX was one of the more enduring franchises in the PS2 console generation, spanning a total of 5 games, with the last one, SSX Blur, being released strictly on the Wii and lambasted for poor controls. Though previously subtitled “Deadly Descents”, this latest game follows the Mortal Kombat style of “reboot without a subtitle.” And it’s fitting too, because what makes the game truly special is how it returns to what made Extreme Sports games so fun in the first place: the ability to launch into a string of crazy tricks at teeth-shattering speeds and land without smashing into a rock-face and turning into soup—then doing it over and over again, feeling more awesome each time.
The gameplay in SSX is, to say the least, phenomenal. It forgoes the trend of “hyper-realistic controls” and instead just lets you pick up the controller and string together tricks like a pro–even on your first try. There’s no need to level your board perfectly after your tricks; just ease off the analogue stick and the game does it all for you. Even when stringing together tricks the game is pretty forgiving as to when you should stop spinning and let go of your board, lest you botch your landing. There’s no need to balance when grinding on rails either, which is a huge relief. In fact, it’s surprisingly rare to wipe-out in SSX, and even if you do, a rewind button ensures that no screw-up is permanent, and lets you jump right back into the game without breaking the rush. All that and the ability to add peripherals like wingsuits makes the game soar (ahem) above any Extreme Sports game ever made. In short, SSX just wants you to pick it up and have fun.
Physics: what would you do with out it? A lot of really cool things, actually…
The game is divided into 3 modes: Deadly Descents (aka Story Mode), Explore Mode, and Global Events. Deadly Descents follows the story of the SSX riders as they try to ride the world’s most deadly mountains before their rival does. Explore Mode is a real gem because it gives you access to all riders and all levels as soon as you finish the first tutorial, and again shows the game’s dedication to simply wanting to have fun. Global Events is a simple yet intuitive online mode that drop-kicks the traditional lobby system off the side of a cliff and instead favours a “jump-in-and-go” approach. Across all three modes you’ll find Geotags dropped by fellow racers, which you can collect for extra points—and also because it’s just fun to. It’s a neat little feature that gives the game a real community feel to it, and promises there will always be new challenges down the road (and, of course, that one guy who glitched into the top of a mountain and decided to drop a Geotag there, presumably while making a real-life trollface).
And for that extra shot of spitefulness, he just happened to glitch to the top of Everest.
And being the first “true” Extreme Sports game this console generation, the graphics are certainly up to scratch. The variety of vistas and atmospheric effects gives each mountain its own personality, from the ice field’s of Siberia to the volcanic caverns of Africa. And rightly so, too, because you are racing on real mountains. EA Canada used NASA-developed technology to scan real mountains and reproduce them in a computer; while some amenities like debris, trains, and ice-caves have been added in, for the most part these slopes are fairly true to their real-life counterparts.
It would have been nice to see more character customization outside of just changing the colour of my rider’s suit. I’m not asking for an SSX On Tour level of customization, nor the ability to give a rider a fluffy cat-hat; even just one alternate costume would be nice. And the pre-made wipe-out animations feel a little weak; personally, I’d like to see some ragdoll physics as my boarder wingsuits into the side of a cliff, if only for comedic effect. The game runs smoothly, but you can tell that you weren’t meant to stop or slow down in this game. When my friend crashed into a patch of trees on an uphill slant, his rider stopped, then started wigging out and spinning in all directions, trying to find a way to carry on. I guess as long as you keep screaming down the mountain, you’ll be safe from graphical mishaps.
SSX has revived the Extreme Sports genre by reminding us why we fell in love with the genre in the first place. Emphasis is place first and foremost on having fun, and the rest of the game is built around that core concept.
Now where’s our dark, gritty Snowboard Kids reboot?
2 cents: SSX originally stood for “Snowboard Super Cross” when it first came out on the PS2, but according to this reboot, it stands for “Snowboarding, Surfing, and Motocross”. Could this be a hint at future installments in the series? If so, bring them on: I want to ride a motorcycle off a mountain and then fly to safety on a parachute. Then grind a surfboard on a shark’s back.
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