Think back to the US launch of the Playstation 2 and what do you remember, SSX. EA Big wowed the world when it released SSX. The game had smooth graphics, a selection of characters, crazy tricks and solid gameplay. When SSX Tricky came out the game expanded on everything that SSX broke ground in. The tricks were crazier, there was a larger selection of characters and there were loads of items you could get. What more could SSX 3 offer, apparently a lot more. EA Big took its SSX formula added many ideas from other extreme sports games and wrapped all of it together to make an excellent game.
If the SSX series is renowned for one aspect of extreme sports games, it’s the craziness in the tricks. SSX 3 has all of the standard snowboard tricks that you would expect like spins, flips grinds and grabs. However, SSX 3 isn’t a snowboarding simulator, like Amped. Your character can do standing flips, grind uphill and even do a kick flip. To do the seemingly impossible "uber tricks" you need to regular tricks to fill up your trick meter. Once the meter is full you’ll reach "uber meter level 1". When this occurs you can do uber tricks that consist of pulling your binding off your board and have your leg dangling down. The level 1 uber tricks were actually standard tricks in SSX Tricky. After you complete four level one uber tricks you’ll be able to do super uber tricks. These tricks are the eye candy that SSX is known for. One trick called the "Acrobat" has your character doing flips off your board, another trick appropriately called "pommel horse" has your character doing the pommel horse motion off the board and one of my favorites called the "Indian" has your character do a breakdance freeze in mid air on the snowboard. Some classic tricks return like Psymon’s Guillotine where he spins the board around his neck and Kaori’s pirouette grind where she does a pirouette with the board. You even have the option to customize what uber trick you want your character to do by purchasing them at the lodge.
Aside from the new uber tricks EA Big added some extra tricks, which enhance gameplay. One of the most notable additions is the board press. Drawing on inspiration from the Tony Hawk series, SSX has a new manual trick. Using this trick allows you to make longer combos by stringing together different moves. This move makes it possible to combo an entire run from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Another move that’s drawn from Tony Hawk, is the hand plant. A hand plant is where you grab an edge and do a pull yourself into a handstand position. The hand plant is useful in the many half pipe runs in the game.
SSX 3 didn’t just draw on Tony Hawk, it took on some ideas that Amped brought into the genre too. Instead of having separate freestyle courses and races that you select through a menu, the game takes place on one big mountain just like Amped. Like a real mountain there are different trails that you can choose from and EA was clever enough to put signs all over the place so you can choose where you’re going. Certain areas on the mountain have race courses, trick courses and big air courses. You can choose to enter one of events these by snowboarding down to the area. Winning an event yields cash, new events and even peak passes, which allow you to go to different parts of the mountain. If you don’t want to do a course you can freely move down the mountain at your own leisure. While freely boarding you can collect snowflakes that give you cash, find secret items and build up you trick meter for events. One really intelligent option that EA added was a cell phone / teleporter. This item allows you teleport to any of the courses and to the lodge.
The lodge is the place to buy gear for your character and there is a lot to buy. You can select from a number of boards, hats, goggles, backpacks, jackets, pants, boots and even gloves. While all of these items, including the boards, are for aesthetics’ only EA has provided a lot of options. If buying clothes doesn’t strike your fancy you can use your hard earned cash to improve on your character’s stats. Increasing stats allows your character to do more outrageous stunts, ride faster and balance better. Later on in the game, improving stats is essential to progressing in the game. If you don’t want either of those there’s a large amount of "secrets" that you can purchase. You can buy trading cards, game art work, virtual posters and even skins of previous SSX characters. There’s enough stuff to buy to keep players interested in the game for a long time.
The visuals in this game are simply amazing. The levels and backgrounds look sharp and are filled with shades of blue. The sun demonstrates realistic reflectivity, it can shine in your eyes and even create shadows. EA big pulled out all of the stops because little details like the reflectivity of the snow to a facial expression on Kaori’s bear backpack are all present. Each character is very detailed when viewed close up in the loading screen. All of them have facial expressions and are smoothly animated. The detail of the characters isn’t lost during the actual game either. While the tricks are being performed the characters demonstrate excellent animation and loads of detail. All of this comes at a price, though. There are times like during a race where a lot of characters are performing tricks that you’ll notice some slowdown. It’s not severe slowdown like in a NES game, but it’s noticeable.
The music in this game has something for everyone. The soundtrack includes the Red Hot Chili Peppers hit, "Higher Ground" and a track from Queens of the Stone Age for you rock fans. There’s a techno remix of Glass Danse by Oakenfold and a tracks by Aphrodite, Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim for electronic music lovers. You can even make custom playlists for each character of your favorites. EA’s radio big features a radio DJ, that can be annoying at times, but does provide vital information mixed into announcing the next song. Besides the announcer the game is filled with sound effects like the classic roaring audience cheering for you and voiceovers for all of the main characters. The characters don’t talk nearly as much as they did in SSX Tricky, so they’re not nearly as annoying. Oh yeah, did we mention that all of the sound effects and music are in THX certified? This makes for a crisp audio experience, hopefully more games in the future will take advantage of this.
The original SSX crew: Moby, Psymon, Zoe, Mac, Kaori and Elise return accompanied by the young hot shot Griff, tough guy Nate, Viggo and Allegra in the best snowboarding game out there. This game appeals to fans of extreme sports games and people who have never tried one before due to SSX’s simple controls and arcade style gameplay. Overall, this game is a winner.
Graphically all of the versions look awesome. The Xbox version and the Gamecube version are a little smoother than the PS2 incarnation. The XBox version and Playstation version have better controls than the Gamecube version. The Gamecube controller feels a little awkward at first since all of the trick buttons aren’t on the shoulder. If you had to choose, the Playstation 2 version seems to be the best bet out of the three since it is the only version that includes online support. But why only the Playstation 2 version at the very least there should have been some Xbox Live support and even possibly support for the Gamecube’s broadband adapter.
No need to import this if you’re in the US. For European gamers the game is entirely in English and shouldn’t be much of a problem. For gamers in the Far East they may experience some problems understanding what is going on due to the large amount of in game text. However, the lodge shopping interface features lots of visuals, so this process is easy to understand.
It’s out now!
+ Pros: Pseudo world "mountain" and trails, amazing graphics, loads of secrets, crazy tricks, excellent diverse sound track
– Cons: Some noticeable slowdown, online support for PS2 only
Overall: SSX 3 improves on its predecessors in every possible way. The result is an excellent game that every should have in their collection.
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