If you’re a fan of snowboarding, there’s little doubt that you remember what it was like to play SSX for the first time. The thrills, the trick system and the curvaceous course designs were out of this world. It was a game that took a piece of Tony Hawk and combined it with the finest racing mechanics to produce an experience that would be remembered for years to come.
And yet, here were are, several years later, and the series has disappeared. Although the memories of the original can never be erased, many are starting to wonder: will we ever have the chance to create some fresh memories with a new SSX?
Only Criterion has the answer, because only Criterion should be in charge of the next sequel.
In fact, Criterion should take control of several EA franchises – Road Rash, NFL Street, Medal of Honor, to name a few. Even Dead Space could benefit from the Criterion touch.
SSX Meets Burnout
For nearly 10 years, Criterion has been responsible for creating and perfecting the fastest and most compelling racing franchise on the planet: Burnout. If the company took over SSX, it would bring that same level of excitement to the franchise.
Takedowns – the awesome vehicle-destruction move that made Burnout 3 a success – would be the perfect addition to SSX. To take the exhilarating thrills even farther, Criterion could revamp the trick and combo systems and create a whole new way to score points.
In simple terms, players could execute a Takedown (knock an opponent off his/her board), followed by an aerial trick (flip or spin and land smoothly), for one combo. However, a more complex combo system could have players grappling with each other mid-air, Road Rash-style.
Road Killed And Deep Fried
Speaking of Road Rash, few games are as ready for a Criterion takeover as Road Rash. This once-venerable series has become quite vulnerable over the years, leading to an indefinite hiatus that has left fans in nostalgia-filled tears. (Hey, even biker gamer dudes have a soft spot.)
Criterion could bring the series back to its glory days. No, this developer would do one better: it would take motorcycle combat and motorcycle racing to a level we’ve never seen before. Part city explorer, part vehicular combat, part Burnout on two wheels – Criterion’s Road Rash would be a racing game unlike any other.
Without question, Criterion is the perfect company to redesign the controls, the weapons, and the motorcycles themselves. Depending on how violent the developers wanted to get, baseball bats and hockey sticks would only be the beginning. Full-fledged weaponry – machineguns, shotguns, grenade launchers – should definitely be considered.
Plus, Criterion could introduce some interesting multiplayer mechanics by allowing one player to drive while the passenger focuses on attacking his/her opponents. Throw in a side car and you could have three players riding together. Eat your heart out, Twisted Metal.
Honoring the Past
Is there any honor left in the Medal of Honor franchise? Considering that the current sequel has disappointed almost everyone who plays it, Electronic Arts must throw in the towel or hand the series to a superior developer. Since the former choice leaves no room for profit, I suggest that EA passes the series to Criterion.
While it’s true that Criterion’s experience with the shooter genre is not nearly as deep as its experience with racing games, make no mistake: this developer had something special in Black. It just wasn’t able to pull every element together before the game was ready for release. Medal of Honor would give the studio a chance to shine – and provide it with the opportunity to kick some Call of Duty butt.
How? First and foremost, the Criterion-developed Medal of Honor would have to think outside the box – that is, outside of the four walls and tight corridor nonsense that destroy most first-person shooters. The new MoH would need to have the biggest and most diverse environment collection the world has ever seen.
As far as its setting (modern times or the all-too-familiar World War II), I’m not sure which direction Criterion should take. Here’s a thought: make it a hybrid. The developers could put a new spin on things and have the game jump back and forth between the past and the present, contrasting between the experiences of different soldiers during different time periods.
Criterion’s level of expertise – specifically with speed – would allow the studio to make this the fastest Medal of Honor ever. Granted, a shooter can only be so fast before it starts to lose a degree of realism. But who says that a Call of Duty-killer must be ultra-realistic? I’d rather have a shooter that blew my mind than another FPS that seemed to replicate the experience of a war I’m glad I didn’t have to fight for real.
Finally, Criterion’s dedication to high-end DLC would mean that its version of Medal of Honor would be overflowing with stellar add-ons for several years after the game’s release.
What the heck happened to my beloved Street games? One minute they’re great, the next, EA is whipping out “R.I.P.” gravestones while an orchestra plays heart-wrenching tunes. Between the last NBA Street and the unforgivable NFL Tour, the Street series has really taken a beating. Madden NFL Arcade didn’t help the situation.
Well, gamers, I’m sure you know what I’m going to say next. Criterion should take over the Street series.
The reason has more to do with Criterion’s unrelenting development philosophy than anything else. NFL Street ’11 (or whatever it’ll be called) could not be developed overnight. Neither could NBA Street ’11, or the long-awaited – but mysteriously absent – NHL Street. Criterion would understand this from the beginning, and would be unlikely to rush a product to retail just because that’s what all the cool kids are doing.
Considering how much the last crop of Street games sucked, it’s hard to say where Criterion’s expertise would be most effective. But I think I have the answer: everything! The controls, the ball mechanics, the player collision physics, the camera system, the multiplayer, the replay value, the graphics – there is seemingly no end to the number of improvements Criterion could make.
Grand Theft Dead Space
I know what you’re thinking: Dead Space doesn’t suck, so why should Criterion take control of the series? Well, maybe the studio shouldn’t.
But it most certainly should design a Dead Space offshoot.
The offshoot could bring the world of high-speed racing to the dark realm of survival/horror. Think Grand Theft Auto meets Resident Evil, only cooler, scarier, and with better vehicles (spacecrafts, anyone?).
Whether running over monsters or attempting to speed away from them during a deadly chase scenario, Criterion’s version of Dead Space would be out of this world. But it wouldn’t have to take place in a familiar space station environment. The developers could really open things up and allow players to travel back and forth, making every trip between Earth, space stations and other planets as scary as possible.
Just think of what that would be like if there were deadly and horrifying encounters hidden between every destination; Resident Evil and Silent Hill would seem tame by comparison.
Next Exit: Turn Left
Sick and tired of turning in one direction? You must be, since EA’s once-popular NASCAR Thunder series (most recently shortened to just NASCAR) has all but died. Though the license seems to have made its way into the hands of another publisher, that doesn’t mean EA can’t experiment with NASCAR’s trademark style of gameplay.
Oh, wait, I’m sorry – I didn’t mean EA. I meant EA’s leading subsidiary: Criterion.
As the racing game king, Criterion could open up the restrictive NASCAR courses, add a necessary boost of speed, and eliminate the drive-in-a-circle experience. Now, if this doesn’t sound like NASCAR to you, don’t forget that the existing formula doesn’t work anymore.
If, however, there’s anyone who could design a realistic NASCAR simulator, it’s Criterion. But the developers would need more than a standard controller to pull it off.
Kinect support is a must, since head-tracking would be needed to allow the player to look around in a way that was once exclusive to virtual reality. Now toss the controller, but don’t replace it with motion-based steering. Instead, add a high-end racing wheel. Next, use every ounce of power the Xbox 360 has to surpass Forza’s beauty. Finally, spend two or three years refining every gameplay element to ensure that they are as realistic as possible.
Needless to say, this would be a huge undertaking. To me, Criterion’s resources would be better spent on a NASCAR game that isn’t afraid to break the rules. But I have to admit, if Criterion were to make a NASCAR simulator with any (or all) of the above features, I would be one of the first in line to play it.
Louis Bedigian has been writing about games and entertainment since 1999. He joined GameZone in 2001 and has worked for Radish Creative Group as a videographer, editor and production assistant. He is also a staff writer at Benzinga.com, The Trading Idea Network.