Posts Tagged ‘SSX


New Review: SSX

It's like how it works with Wile E. Coyote: he won't fall down until he looks beneath him.

I’ve finished off the single player campaign and I’ve put in a good bit of time into the game’s explore mode.  If you’ve followed my previous posts on the game, it should come as a surprise that I’ve really enjoyed my time playing it and I think it’s a very well crafted game.  It’s a layered experience that I found to be satisfying at all levels, so it’s earned a final score of 3/3.

Continue to the full review.


Impressions: SSX

Having played the demo extensively by the time the full game launched, I was expecting SSX to be a sleeker, shinier version of earlier games in the series that includes more internet-enabled features.  And I’ve been very happy with the game in that regard.  What I wasn’t expecting  was a snowboarding game with RPG elements subtly permeating all aspects of the experience.  Characters level up, purchase equipment, and can equip abilities based on how well you’re doing in the game’s campaign.  What’s interesting about all of this though is that SSX doesn’t include this gameplay mechanic as a requirement for being able to complete the campaign, but as the means by which you compete with others online.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this from a critical standpoint: RPG gameplay mechanics can artificially extend gameplay and reduce competition to simply min/maxing stats.  However, despite my own reservations about this strategy I have only enjoyed the time I’ve spent playing the game.

Another interesting aspect about SSX is what it has taken away non-core games in the mobile and Facebook spaces.  The friend/rival-centric design of the game’s “explore” mode can be very motivating in getting you to play the game.  Each time you login to the game’s explore mode, you will see a timeline of events that have occurred, letting you know who’s been playing, what they’ve been doing, and which of your scores they’ve taken down.  Perpetually trying to get to and stay at the top of the leader boards is a very effective way to ensuring that you get the most out of the game’s core mechanics: understanding how to best execute tricks, chain them together, building your trick meter, and tearing down the mountainside as quickly as possible.  SSX also brings micro-payments into the experience.  I’m not sure why anyone would use them to unlock equipment and abilities when it can just as easily be done by playing the game.  It’s not an intrusive aspect of the game though.  EA has already made $60 with your purchase of the game, it’s fortunate that it’s not made to feel like freemium games.  These might not be features that are entirely unique for core console and PC games but SSX implements them quite effectively.

I'm pretty sure the downward air pressure from those helicopter blades would ruin you.  Who cares though.  Video games.


Over the top

I’m always going to have a soft spot for snowboarding games.  Cool Boarders was my first game on the PSOne which I had picked up in anticipation to start snowboarding in reality.  I love both activities even when one only involves sitting in front of the TV and the other is not nearly as audacious as depicted in games.  That’s because even if you’re not snowboarding through an old plane crash site on the side of a mountain, you are still on top of a waxed piece of fiberglass that’s going to move more quickly than your self-preservation instincts would prefer.  Adrenaline makes up for whatever lack of spectacle there is, and spectacle is precisely the reason why snowboarding games are entertaining while you sit on the couch.

So it should go without saying that I’m excited for the release of SSX this week.  It’s been a while since I played any snowboarding games, but after spending some time with the SSX demo it looks like a great return to form that brings the genre to a new gaming environment.  Games like SSX play to the strengths of the medium by acting to convince players they are doing something that they couldn’t do in reality (even if they were professional snowboarders.)  In this regard there is a similarity between SSX and Call of Duty.  Both will nudge you in certain ways as to ensure you will see the game from the most dramatic perspective while also trying to maintain an atmosphere of spontaneity and illusion of player control.  SSX does this by making the game more forgiving when it comes to player precision when moving in the environment.  If you don’t have a rail lined up 100% correctly for a grind then the game literally does nudge you into alignment.  Or if you release the analog stick to stop flipping in the air but you are actually going to belly-flop onto the ground, then the game makes sure to finish turning the character for you if it thinks you were close enough to getting it right.  These were things that would have surely wrecked runs in earlier snowboarding games, but instead of making the game artificially easier these “nudges” will keep the player from being distracted from the real goal of the game which is to perform inordinately complex tricks and chain them together in ways that take advantage of the level.  There are a great number of subtle details that come together so quickly that each time the tricky meter completely fills up you’ll want to cheer out loud.

I’m not sure how many people will care to look at games like SSX with a critical eye for the medium.  There are some interesting perspectives to glean from it that aren’t quite as overt as its sense of spectacle.  I’m eager to pick it and pick it apart though.


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