We talked about (and argued, but it’s been lost to the archives) Halo 4 on the podcast but have yet to commit anything to digital ink, as it were. This is because Halo 4 felt like it deserved a bit more than a gut reaction to gameplay and graphics. This deserved some inspection into story and polish. 343 did not have it easy here, they were following in the footsteps of a highly vaunted developer in Bungie. This is the company that along with Epic lifted the XBox up into new heights. 343 had to come in and not just keep a series fresh, but make make it their own without pissing off legions of fans. Did they accomplish this task? You’ll have to read on.
This is a tale of over the top tricks, deadly descents, and a 25 year old song that will never go away. For better or worse, this is SSX. Hint: it’s better.
Jumping into your way-back machine. You might remember that this SSX game was originally introduced to the world during the 2010 Spike VGA awards as SSX: Deadly Descents. Ok fine, “they’re trying to appeal to the hardcore audiences of Spike viewers.” The problem is that the trailer looked more like a military FPS than fun-loving, explosion fueled romp we remember from previous games.
Fast forward to 2012. This game is now, simply SSX. The masses have spoken, give us our game back. The deadly descents still has a mark within the game, but is no longer the focal point. Perhaps the most notable alteration to the game play is the introduction of wing-suits. Yep, you can fly… or glide at least. It’s a cool twist that adds to the arsenal of tricks without diluting the core experience.
There are some good things happening with EA’s extreme sports franchises, they all seem to pull the best elements from games and roll them over into the next ones. For example, a while back trick-based games transitioned from button mashing to “two stick control” doing full- or quarter-rotations to execute tricks, feeling more “natural”. Furthermore, with some of the newer NFS games, we’ve seen the addition of tightly integrated online functionality, which also makes an appearance in SSX. The game is designed to have an always online feel, where you can compare and compete against your friends online, even if you are not directly in contact with them.
Finally, the game expands upon the “global” approach from previous games. A previous SSX game gave you a single mountain that took about 30 minutes or so of real game time to get from top to bottom. This game takes a different angle on making the game feel enormous by taking you around the world to different locales — with a few courses at each location, also using the mix and match branching paths from previous games. PS the game has an awesome globe UI that looks like it was lifted right out of Mass Effect, no complaints here.
Characters in the game now seem to have individual strengths and weaknesses, with upgradable equipment. Much of this was still locked down in the demo, but there appears to be numerous customization options available for each character.
The overall result is a game that, in the end, doesn’t really feel totally different from previous SSX games. That’s a good thing — it doesn’t need to be different. This game just feels like an improvement, polish-wise, over previous games, integrating “what works” from other sports titles for a more complete experience here.
Oh, but there’s one last thing. When that “tricky” meter gets full…. here comes that damn Run-DMC song again. Look, I get it, it’s a good song; but just when I’m finding a little bit of zen going down the mountain listening to The Naked and Famous’ “Young Blood”, or whatever zoo rave music the kids are listening to these days, I’m constantly interrupted by “It’s trickkkayy…. trickaayyy”. I’m sorry, the song was annoying on the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack, I got completely sick of it in SSX Tricky, and I don’t care to hear it here, even if this game is supposed to feel a little reboot-y Please let me turn it off when the game is released. That’s my only request.
Otherwise, I highly recommend this demo, for both old and new fans of the series. If anything this game is just a ton of fun, high-speed eye-candy melting your eyeballs.