If your school/college years were wasted blasting down treacherous slopes in SSX, you’ll be right at home with...er, SSX for the PS3. This latest instalment in the popular snowboarding franchise takes many design cues from the previous titles, as the simplistic title implies, while adding a high-octane single player campaign. This takes the style of a cheesefest TV show which sees you competing against an old pal to win the most slope cred. Your eyes and ears will explode from the constant hyper stimulation, and you'll love it. Oh, how you'll love it.
A swift lesson
After a brief yet pumped-up introduction that's the cutscene equivalent of a five-year-old on ecstasy, you're ordered to master eight mountains in a series of races and trick challenges, culminating in a heart-shattering dash from peak to base. Don’t worry if that sounds traumatic, as things start relatively gently. SSX takes a moment to teach you the basic controls, by tossing you out of a plane – forcing you pull off simple tricks as you plummet earthwards. It may sound a bit harsh, but at least at 10,000 feet there are no boulders or trees to smash your precious limbs off.
Tricks are startlingly simple to execute, so you won't be caught mid-jump wondering which button to press. The square and circle buttons act as your left and right hands, while the triangle button selects both hands at once. Tap a button to choose your hands, then quickly tap the square, circle or triangle again to grab either the left, right or front edge of your board. You can then spin like crazy using the thumb pad, and add tweaks with the shoulder buttons.
Even if that sounds tricky (pun completely unintentional), you'll pick it up in no time with a little practice. Landing is a doddle - just take your fingers off the controls and your character automatically rights themselves, to avoid those bone-mashing touch-downs. The developers have also catered to SSX veterans, allowing you to revert to the traditional control scheme at any time.
Gameplay hasn't changed too much either. Races are still as hair-raising as ever, encouraging you to pull off tricks to earn boost to fly through the deadly courses even faster. There are plenty of massive ramps and rails to trick off, and tons of obstacles that'll bring you to a crunching halt if your reactions aren't razor sharp. Thankfully a rewind mode is included to erase any mistakes, at the cost of some time.
Fans of SSX Tricky will fondly remember the excellent soundtrack (featuring the blazing beats of Run DMC, of course).SSX has awesome music too, with some foot-stomping rock and dance tracks that'll get your adrenal glands bursting. We especially loved the way the music fades as you take to the skies, before crashing back to top volume as you nail an insanely over-the-top stunt. It's a simple but massively effective trick, making you feel James Dean cool until your next agonising bail.
Complete the races and other events on each of the eight mountains, and you're faced with a simple task - survive a terrifying plummet from the very top. Each knock and fall takes it out on your character, and too much abuse means game over. Thankfully SSX is never harsh. You rarely find yourself touching down just in front of a rock or tree, for instance – the game cleverly steers you around any unavoidable obstacles, to keep the momentum going. You’ll also never find yourself hampered by dodgy camera angles. The pace may be frantic, but if you smash into a log or cliff wall, it’ll be your own damn stupid fault.
Graphics are on the whole marvellous. Character models are run-of-the-mill, but the levels themselves are packed with tiny details and look amazing – of course, only bystanders can truly appreciate the visuals, as you’ll be too focused on pulling off massive trick combos. The well-designed slopes offer a stiff challenge, but plenty of rewards too. Hidden shortcuts are just one of the many features that’ll have you playing each race over and over, to shave a few precious seconds off your time. The blistering descents are recreated with a perfect framerate, and we were never upended by stuttering or other glitches.
SSX: The Verdict
Racing junkies will dig the new SSX, but make sure you need a special code to get online, which is required for the multiplayer modes (including splitscreen, bizarrely). New copies come with the code, so if you buy SSX second-hand, you’ll need to fork out extra.