Now I’m not one to throw around such buzz phrases as “Game of the Year” and I’ve never had to gall to dare say “Game of the Console” but dear readers after almost 50 hours of SSX 3 I must say that it is one of the greatest games I have ever played and is quite possibly the best PS2 game I have ever played. “Have I gone insane?” you may be thinking, well the answer is quite possibly yes, I’m absolutely in love with this game and I’ll tell you why, so brace yourself you’re in for quite a ride.
I remember when the PS2 first came out, SSX was THE killer app at the time amid a weak line up of launch titles, but the easy gameplay mechanics and over the top visuals of SSX helped propel it to legendary status almost overnight. The semi-sequel SSX Tricky came in like a snowstorm a year later with better visuals, better sound thanks to Run DMC and also included a little something called Uber Tricks, insane special moves that required insane amounts of air to pull off. Now with the newest addition to the SSX family you get it all, better graphics, an excellent soundtrack, a host of new moves, and a lovable cast of characters.
For the third go around we’re given four new characters. There is the new female, Allegra Sauvagess, who’s out to replace current SSX blonde bombshell Elise Riggs, the man who knows mountains like the back of his hands, Nate Logan, you’ve got Griff Simmons, a 13-year-old snowboarding prodigy, and lastly the man who’s too sexy for the mountain Viggo Rolig. In addition to these four newbies you’ve got Elise, Zoe, Kaori, Mac, Moby, and Psymon rounding out the cast. There are also a good number of hidden characters to unlock, some of whom make a cameo from other EA Big sports titles. Of course most of the times I wouldn’t give two shakes about characters in an extreme sports game, like say Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, because the people really seem to have no personality, but in the SSX world the personality comes at you like an avalanche, and to top it all off you can customize your character with a ton of purchasable items along with the ability to purchase stat points to make your rider more competitive on the slopes.
This year’s courses take place on one mountain with three peaks as opposed to various points across the world. The difference between the three peaks is immediately noticeable just by watching the opening video. Peak one takes it nice and easy with some nice mile high jumps and gentle curves. Peak two steps it up a notch and puts you on the mountain that is going to feel overwhelming at first but after a while it will feel like a second home. Lastly you’ve got peak three, and if you’re thinking about venturing up here then you better have brought your Sunday best because you’re going to need every ounce of skill in order to take on some of the challenges this mountain is going to throw at you. When I say challenges I mean it too, some of them will have you scratching your head in wonder on how to get a gold medal in these events. This time around the events are not simply limited to a freestyle event and a race event on each mountain. Instead each mountain has four events, which fall under the two categories of race and freestyle. With race it’s still the same three-heat system, make top three in each race and advance to the next round. As for freestyle it’s simply a matter of posting the top score and taking home the gold, or the platinum if you’re really good. Freestyle covers three events, first you’ve got Big Air, and you can guess where I am going with this. Then there is the Super Pipe events, giant and I mean giant half pipes that would make any rider quiver in fear and joy at the same time. Lastly you’ve got the Slope style event which is very close to the original SSX Freestyle formula, you’re given a track that is loaded with stuff to trick off of and you’ve got a limited time to make it down to the bottom of the course, make it count. Once you clear all the events for freestyle and race on each mountain you will get a challenge from the peak boss who will take you to the mountain’s back country for some one on one action. Of course earning a gold in every event is not enough to conquer the whole mountain, you’ve also got a ton of free riding to do and challenges to find while doing that.
The trick system is still the same as previous SSX games with a notable exception, the nose and tail press. Think of this move as a manual, with the right analog stick you swing your board around while balancing yourself on either the nose or tail, simple stuff. You will be using this move a lot thanks to the new combo system that has been implemented. So long as you keep that combo meter going, half the score you receive from tricks will be added what can become a giant bonus. But be careful, if you wipe out in the middle of a combo you can kiss that bonus good bye, and I have done that on a number of occasions, which taught me to let go of a combo and not to be too greedy.
The Uber Tricks that made SSX Tricky an absolute blast are back and this time on varying degrees. First off you’ve got two levels, Super, and Uber, Uber is the first meter that will be filled, moves that fall in Uber Zone 1 are simple tricks, like removing a foot from the board’s binding. In Uber Zone 2 you can do Super Uber tricks and something new called Monster Tricks. Super Uber moves are like what was seen in SSX Tricky, they also made a few new moves, which are really slick looking. Monster Tricks are hidden moves that you learn from meeting specific goals, which you can check in the menus when you reach the lodge.
The lodge also serves as a hub where you can purchase new stuff for your rider, whether it be stats, new clothes, boards, art from comic artist Adam Warren, trading cards, hidden characters and more just be sure to check the lodge on each peak because there is different stuff to get on each one. Or you can use the lodge to view all the things you’ve accomplished over your SSX career, or you can use it to warp around the mountain with the greatest of ease.
In what has to be a sheer stroke of genius, EA Big made the whole mountain immediately accessible. If you want to go to an event on the mountain you can either be picked up and dropped off there or if you’re higher up on the mountain you can ride down at your leisure, bypass an event and pick up some collectible snowflakes which garner some cash for your cause along the way. There are over 400 of these snowflakes hidden for you to find, and you’ll need a good number of them to get a gold in the exploration aspect of the mountain peaks.
In addition to the collectible snowflakes you also have a large number of challenges outside of the events called BIG Challenges. These mostly consist of doing special tasks, like riding down a mountain with as little air time as possible, or scoring a certain amount of points on a track without falling down. Suffice to say a lot of these challenges are tough but are a great way to earn cash outside of events.
Now what’s flying down a mountain after weaving through a few trees at 70+ miles an hour without some good music? Certainly not SSX I’ll tell you that much. The SSX series has always had a great soundtrack and the newest addition is no exception. This time instead of big name talent for the characters EA Big opted out to have better music instead. You’ve got Yellow Card, Andy Hunter, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Royksopp (my new musical guilty pleasure), and a whole lot more great music is presented excellently by DJ Atomika. Overall the music is great and you’re bound to find something you’ll like. Only downside is that even with a customizable soundtrack, some tracks are locked to certain events.
EA was also kind enough to throw in some online play as well so if you have some friends that still are not SSX believers then just hop online and play someone else, there is also voice chat for those with a USB headset so you can talk smack on your opponents. The best part about said smack talking is that you can give your opponent what is known as “Bragging Rights” so say you’ve got a character built up with max stats. You can make this character a level 1 character and then give your opponent a head start if you like. So when you beat someone online with a wacky combination of “Bragging Rights” you’ve got all the reason to talk some trash.
EA Big has done a wonderful job in creating the ultimate snowboarding experience. Forget Amped 2 for Xbox, forget 1080 Avalanche for GameCube, there is only one snowboarding game this season worth owning, and it is SSX 3. The superb graphics, amazing gameplay, excellent sound, and overall fun just make this game a must own for the holidays. No matter what platform you pick this up for you’re in for a treat.
EA Sports BIG's third trip down the mountain is the best snowboarding title ever created.
Rating: 9.6 Exquisite
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I recently cleared the 10 year club with Gaming Nexus. Kind of surprised I've been a mainstay here for a little over a decade now.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers and have recently returned from a job in Texas doing production work for a company that did cell phone games. Now I'm working for a record label, along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.