More than any other sports game (including FIFA, ISS et al), my teenage years are full of many a memory spent brutalising my fingers into submission thanks to SSX.
So when news emerged that EA were reinventing their extreme sports ‘Tony Hawk on snow’ series, I was as giddy as I was nervous.
It’s been five years since the series’ last foray, and a whopping seven years since its last multi-console outing. Not only have a new generation of consoles come and gone, but the keeeerazy trick-popping extreme sports genre that lit up the early noughties is all but extinct (the less said about Tony Hawk Shred the better).
But as the title suggests, SSX suitably takes the series back to basics, revamping not only the game but the genre in the process.
While snowboarding games haven’t exactly lived or died on their storylines, EA Canada have at least seen fit to inject SSX with a plot you can get into. A crack team of the world’s best extreme sporters are planning to conquer the world’s nine Deadly Descents, when one of them breaks off to go solo and beat them all to it in the process.
From there on out, you’re in a mad rush to bounce around the globe and board your way down real world mountains and trick your way to victory.
It’s this odd mash-up of extreme outlandishness and reality-based sincerity that makes up the core of the gameplay. When you’re on a racing mission, the physics and handling are surprisingly deft, layered and tricky, while the trick-based runs are as over the top and ridiculously visual as you’d hope.
This is a game where you’re taught the basics whilst plummeting from a plane, after all.
Key to its success are the controls – and while the classic controls are still available, the core ‘stick/button’ combo, and more importantly learning how to string combo onto combo, is where the fun’s at.
Another new and very successful addition to the series is the Survive It mode, which lets you tackle each of the nine mountains on a far deadlier run than franchise veterans are used to. From bone-crunching avalanches to a hazardous lack of oxygen, the threats are brutally, brilliantly real, and even better, you’re given some awesome tools to survive. Say hello to your new favourite pastime, the wingsuit.
Throw in Need for Speed’s RiderNet system to ensure all and any process is tracked both on and offline alongside your friends’, some reassuringly fresh multiplayer modes (drop in and outable modes and races are the new norm), and a soundtrack as thumpingly beat-heavy as you’d expect (with Run-DMC, Skillrex and Wretch 32 all representative of the tuneage on offer) and you’ve got an SSX reinvented for a whole new generation.
SSX is out now and available on Xbox 360 and PS3.