SSX PS3 review
TRICKY, TRICKY, TRICKY! Boy, how I’ve missed those thunderous Run DMC-fronted words. The past nine years may have been good to PlayStation gamers, with a couple of amazing Metal Gears, a fantastic Rockstar western and three incredible adventures with a dreamboat fortune-hunter. But there’s been something missing. Chiefly, doing The Worm on a snowboard atop the world’s highest peaks to the beat of a fedora-sporting hip-hop act. Welcome back, SSX.
We’ve not had a snowboarding game worthy of brandishing those legendary letters since 2003’s awesome SSX 3 (we’re not counting that daft one with the skis). Since then, extreme sports games have been put on a distinctly non-gnarly drip.
The Tony Hawk series perma-crocked itself with a ridiculous board peripheral that was almost as horrendously wonky as it was financially disastrous. And let’s not start on Sean White and his brand of meh-tastic games. If the entire genre needed a shot in the arm, then SSX’s return comes strapped with a six-foot syringe.
Unlike the almost open-world SSX 3, the series’ debut on PS3 is a more focused affair. Gone are the languid runs across acres of pristine wilderness to the soothing Norwegian sounds of Röyksopp. In their place comes one thing: utterly terrifying, ‘shaking in your thermal undercrackers’ speed.
When creative director Todd Batty talked about creating a sense of velocity akin to Burnout on snow, we didn’t really take him seriously. But within seconds of bombing down the Rockies with Zoe Payne – desperately trying to avoid a frigid labyrinth of felled trees – I’d have sworn there was a sodding nitrous system attached to the purple-haired vixen’s board.
At full flight (sometimes literally, thanks to the new wingsuit), there’s nothing else on PS3 that shifts along like SSX. Bolstered by a titanium-solid 60fps and an advanced physics engine that lets you grind on almost any raised surface with L2, every snowbound second is a spectacle.
The action needs to move like a Sherpa on a rocket sled, mind, because the second-by-second micromanagement that goes into carving, tricking and simply surviving the game’s frozen playgrounds demands a flawlessly smooth engine.
Showcasing this startling speed are nine unique mountain ranges spread across the globe. Thanks to EA Canada’s NASA-borrowed geotagging escapades, each mountainous region is rooted in a sort of hyper-reality far removed from the giant, pinball-inspired pistes of SSX Tricky.
Whether it’s grinding over the snaking, frozen pipes of an industrial complex in Siberia, admiring Buddha statues buried in the oxygen-starved climes of the Himalayas or the deadly, rock-filled runs of Mount Blanc, every area is uniquely memorable.
‘Deadly’ is the only word to use for these snowy nirvanas, too. It’s this premise of man against nature that informs the new World Tour mode. After you’ve sped and ‘Swiss Cheese to Late Stalemaskey Aired’ through each region, you’re confronted with a final run where the only goal is survival. Not an easy task when you’ve got hundreds of tonnes of cascading frozen powder hot on the heels of your extreme plank of wood.
These Deadly Descents essentially work like boss battles – although instead of fighting feral, winter sports-loving yetis, you’re battling against the elements. Ferocious avalanches, treacherous icy crevasses and lava-filled caverns must all be outridden, steered through and glided over to survive.
That’s right: I said glide. To help you survive the perils of each descent, you’re given a range of outlandish toys. Ranging from the flying-squirrel chic of the wingsuit, to ice axes and headlamps, they’re the only thing between you and merciless death.