SSX E3 2011 Preview

SSX Screenshot - 844744

I am a huge, massive, hardcore SSX fan. Seriously, during the summers of my high school years, my days were spent on the slopes of SSX 3 and SSX Tricky. While the franchise took a dip in quality with On Tour and Blur and the video announcement at the VGAs made some people worry, I’m happy to report that the modestly titled SSX is right on track to pleasing fans.

While that initial trailer made it seem like all the characters of SSX were going to be dodging bullets and doing stupid brotastic actions, this is not the case with the version of the game currently slated for a January release. Elise, Mac, and Kaori are back, along with other unannounced characters from SSX Tricky and SSX 3, and though the game is three months from alpha, there is already plenty to like ... and dislike.

Let's start with the good. The returning characters make a perfect fit for the game. While they are not nearly as outrageous as they were in the past, they can still perform many of the crazy moves possible in the old games. Character-specific moves are missing at the moment, so Kaori wasn’t able to perform her notorious pirouette grind. Hopefully these special techniques come back. And while it wasn’t touched upon in the demo, characters should be customizable with different boards.

This time all the mountains are based on real world locations. By using NASA scans and dropping them into the game engine, the developers at EA have hundreds of mountains to choose from. At the moment, there are multiple mountains from each continent, from places like Everest to Kilimanjaro, and these have plenty of drop points from the helicopter. The goal is to hit every mountain range in the world.

From a gameplay standpoint, SSX is split into three segments: race it, trick it, and survive it. Most of the races take place on the higher parts of the mountains, with fewer obvious trick elements and more of a sense of speed. One mountain in particular is unique, placing riders on the rim of a volcanic crater and having them jump in to race below. Here is where many riders will play around with the new glide suits or even catch a ride on their own personal helicopters.

Trick events will occur on the lower levels of the mountains. They will put more focus on crazy interpretations of local culture and also offer more trick opportunities. One example is a Himalayan mountain with the Great Wall of China running alongside it for the riders to tick off of. Players begging for a Tokyo Megaplex stage shouldn’t fret. I’m told the game with get crazy in these sections.

Finally, there are the Deadly Descents. Based on nine dangerous elements of snowboarding--including snow, ice, fog, and darkness--each Deadly Descent acts like a boss battle in the game. For example, SSX will contain a very advanced snow technology that replicates the real avalanche-prone areas in the world, as well as compute every interaction players have with the mountain show. The snow-themed Deadly Descent takes place on Denali in Alaska. With the camera pulled out and away from the mountain, players must race with a fresh perspective and a huge avalanche roaring after them. It’s a dangerous and difficult game of survival, and I look forward to seeing what the other Deadly Descents look like.

However, all is not perfect in this early state. Right now, all grabs are assigned to face buttons (not triggers like in past), and a button is programmed to actually perform grinds. Both of these controls are still being fine-tuned, and I trust that they will make the game run smoothly. Players can now use a Skate-type trick system by flicking the right stick, an addition that should please fans of that type of tricking. The trick meter is also a little different. In the past, an Uber meter could be filled up. Now it’s just a Tricky meter, and once full, it has some interesting effects. Boosting is now extended, and a weird shockwave ripples out from the character upon landing. It has a way of killing the rhythm of play, so I hope EA fixes that, as well.

SSX is shaping up to be one amazing game. The game has a long way to go before it is anywhere near a playable state, but I'm looking forward to what might just be my game of 2012.

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Ben PerLee
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