The SSX franchise has always been built upon the fundamental notion of being, above all else, fun. Taking this into consideration, the direction EA has decided to take SSX in for its long awaited current generation console debut is utterly baffling.
The core aspects that the series is known and loved for are mostly still intact. Tricks are still easy to pull off and look great, especially the much coveted uber tricks. They still equal boost, which in turn still equals speed but that’s where the majority of the similarities end. Instead of believing that the classically simple but perfectly acceptable gameplay of old would interest a new era of gamers, EA instead decided that something else was needed, an ‘extreme’ edge. They went on to combine this new ‘survival theme’ with the tried and true formula, and in doing so hoped to create a game that would appease long time players whilst simultaneously coaxing in new ones. How wrong they were, at least with the former.
Unquestionably the most obvious problem here is the track design, which stems back to EA’s new philosophy. Very few of the tracks are designed to be simply raced or tricked down. Instead, many demand the use of gimmicky accessories like the wingsuit. I applaud the devs for at least trying something new but how such distracting mechanics made it into the final game is a mystery. All they serve to do is to get in the way. The ultimate and most damning effect of this is that nearly all of the tracks have been designed around the survival aspect and the mandatory use of gear, and consequently aren’t fun to ride. Instant death drops are far too prevalent and unlike previous games in the series which would simply set you back on the track if you went out of bounds, here you either use the new rewind feature or you’re finished. Rewind is a mixed bag; in trick events its usefulness must be acknowledged but during races its absolutely pointless because other riders continue moving forwards whilst you turn back the clock.
The artistic direction is also a disappointment. The game’s roster is comprised primarily of returning characters but they’ve all been given rather horrible makeovers. Moby in particular looks gruesome, taking on an appearence reminiscent of Frankenstein’s Monster. With this loss of visual flair, so too do the character’s loose their personality. This is especially true when you consider how few and far between the voice work is; there’s no pre-race banter and none of the stellar voice cast from the past returns. The characters have had their souls ripped out, only to be replaced with something distinctly cold and robotic.
I haven’t even mentioned the extremely well implemented leaderboard system but it becomes a non factor simply because the very act of snowboarding has been sucked of life and most importantly, of fun, in exchange for an unrelenting bout of pure frustration.