Developer – EA Canada
Publisher – EA Sports
Platforms – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
SSX was great. The original, that is.
It was one of the first PS2 games I ever played worth its price tag. Since then, I haven’t played an SSX sequel but I couldn’t let EA’s reboot wander past me without a try. So try it I did.
Once I got my hands on the game and landed my first ridiculous maneuver (after the skydiving tutorial), I thought I was hooked. The crush of the snow against my board felt so familiar and oh so sweet. The game’s marketing team did its best to link this game to the same one that I played so many years ago, back when controllers were wired to the console. Numerous references to classic characters piqued my interest. Free DLC and free online play, what’s not to love?
SSX 2012 is an extreme game and rightly outrageous in its design. The story follows the exploits of the SSX team, the world’s best snowboarders, surfers, and motocross people brought together for the ultimate goal; to conquer the harshest mountains on Earth because it turns out that no one really cares about surfing and motocross.
You’ll conquer deadly descent after deadly descent, hot on the heels of Griff, a randomly outed antagonist who rants against your team daily from his blog. I’d be inclined to hate him but I only feel sorry that he was named ‘Griff’ by the team at EA Canada. Each of your team members sports their own set of equipment and a level, which seems only useful for indicating which of the boarders you happen to favor.
SSX 2012 has a newfangled randomized shop system where you can browse different types of suits, boards and accessories before casting off into the white. Buy cosmetic and enhancing items with credits earned from playing the game. This system adds a little bit of content to the game but it feels more like a chore than an additive to the experience.
This game doesn’t have the same colorful glaze that I expected. Instead, it opts to wash everything out with white snowdrift, cleverly masking boundaries instead of erasing them. Tricks are effortless to pull off. Your character magically orients to a perfect landing as soon as you let go of all the trick buttons. Land enough tricks and the soundtrack completely melts away into an annoying chant of “Tricky! Tricky! Tricky!”
I guess if you’re a Run-D.M.C. fan, you’ve got something to root for here. As for me, I’m tempted to wipe out once I meet the Tricky threshold for infinite boost.
A new health system surprised me at first, proving to be an annoyance only because the reddening screen edges served to diminish my vision just enough to miss a pothole in the mountain.
Open world obstacles. I’ve never hated, trees, cliffs, snow, gravity, etc. so much in a video game.
The game thrives on testing your patience. You fail repeatedly if you try to trick big off of each big ramp you come across. Some of them inadvertently lead to chasms. The other half give you so much air that you fly off, missing large sections of the course because you decided to go all Jordan on that jump, before rapidly descending into the white fog that lies below the bottom limits of the map.
To combat these rather harsh conditions, every rider is equipped with a miniature time machine that no one can really explain. About to die and don’t want to restart the course from the top? Just hold the rewind button and you’ll be back before that jump, probably about to make the same mistake because you think that “I can make it this time.” Trust me, you’re better off just playing it safe and going for a 720 bunny hop instead of a 3600 shish kabob.
It’s not all bad though. The challenge is definitely there for masochists.
Thankfully, a new set of gadgets appears before each stage, increasing your rate of survivability to a decent level. When you aren’t tricking off helicopters, you’ll be gliding around like a flying squirrel, closing monstrous gaps that you have no business attempting in real life. A headlight, solar panels, some futuristic pulse sensor and good ol’ common sense round out your tools of the trade.
It would be an easier game to stomach if there wasn’t that gut feeling that this is just another cog in the EA money machine. Still, I can’t fault the company for trying something new like offering a new iteration of SSX, boasting an interconnected rider community but sans the local multiplayer.
Because that makes sense.
SSX 2012 doesn’t stay with you. It’s a speed bump of a game; offering a cheap thrill when you’re going fast but a sad realization that you’ve scraped your underside. I don’t even care if that makes sense. My advice is to wait it out until it’s cheap, then just wait it out until a better game comes along. It’s not that tricky to pull off.