zzombie13's SSX (Xbox 360) review

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What can be said about the new SSX? It's got a lot of things going for it. It also may leave some fans in the lurch. It largely depends on what SSX games of old meant to you.

In the PS2/XboX generation, SSX was the standout snowboarding game. Eschewing the realism of other games for a balls to the wall, over the top experience. Tricks were crazy, fast, and insane if taken at face value.

Fast forward to 2012 and we live in a world where Shaun White can pull off some pretty insane things in real life. So how can an SSX game compete when reality has skewed more towards it's trademark insanity? By upping the difficulty, adding the new "Deadly Descents" model, and by offering up a sense of speed that few games come close to in this day and age.

SSX of old had a lot of personality. Each character was unique and none of them could be mistaken for one another in a lineup. Valve uses a similar model in their fantastic Team Fortress 2 design. Each character had a distinct profile, gear that only they would use, boards that expressed the character the designers had built into each and every one of the boarders. This is where the new SSX suffers a bit. Many of the riders are interchangeable. They still have tricks unique to themselves, but on a poster it'd be difficult to differentiate one from the other. Even Psymon has been scaled back from his former craziness, now covering his trademark chain tattoos and with a new haircut that has him blending in with the crowd. This is especially disappointing because of all the work EA BiG did in the past to establish a visual style for these beloved characters.

So former fans who were hoping to return to the SSX of old, you still can. But it's not as memorable or standout this time. At least not in that area.

Where this new SSX does standout is in the challenge department. With over 150 drops in the EXPLORE mode and an online community already posting scores in the stratosphere, there will be plenty of things in this game to challenge you. Once you learn the controls that is. Which can be a mixed bag. They work fine, and newcomers will likely be better suited to them. They are intuitive and well thought out. However if you're an old fan, it's easy to start letting muscle memory take over and that just won't work. Luckily there is a "Classic" setup for controls in the menu so if you're inclined to play that way, be sure you head there early on.

As far as graphics and sound and performance go, SSX delivers. It never wavers in framerate even when attaining massive speed through all kinds of terrain, and it looks and sounds great while doing it. The environments are solid as well. Though fans of old SSX standbys like Merquery City and Tokyo Megaplex may be sorely disappointed. There are none of the crazy locations like that in this new franchise entry. It's all realistic mountains and terrain. That's not to say that the levels aren't exciting. Quite the opposite. They are littered with bright red rails to grind and flares you can knock around are present on almost every track. Levels gain distinction by debris and ruins of abandoned factories, downed aircraft, and all manner of trickable items. There's plenty to see and interact with. But the colorfully crazy designs of old and nowhere to be found.

So is this new SSX worthy of a recommendation? That depends on what the player wants from an SSX game. If you are opposed to change and only want to relive the games from the early 2000s, unfortunately you will probably leave this new game unfulfilled. However if you are willing to look at this with new eyes. If you are willing to take it for what it is rather than what it isn't, then SSX has a whole lot of good fun to offer you. And if you are the type of person who loves the exhilaration of landing that perfect run, of tricking your score up into the multi-million point range, and if you're willing to accept that you already played Tricky in 2002 and don't need to revisit it, then you are in for a treat. It is regrettable that the characters are not as unique this time around, it's a shame that the colorful palette has been left behind and the rivalry system from Tricky as well as the ability to smack down riders who come too close is gone. The Deadly Descent portions can be frustrating as well. But the core of the game is as solid as you'll find and it's well worth a look for older fans and for new people who never even heard of SSX in the past. It's easy to recommend despite needing a few asterisks for long time fans. Adjust your expectations accordingly and dive in to this one!

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