When it was announced, the new SSX game was called Deadly Descents. It looked to be a departure from what the extreme sports series was known for, and I was worried about the direction it was going in. In the many months between that first trailer and the game’s release, the retitled SSX reshaped itself as both a modern interpretation of the franchise and a return to what made it fun in the first place.
It begins with the formation of a team called SSX, for Snow, Surf, Motocross. Despite the name, SSX is all about snowboarding and doesn’t actually partake in the other events. So I guess chock that up on the big board of terrible backronyms. Anyway, one of the guys on the team betrays the others, who decide they have to conquer the world’s most dangerous mountains to win some contest that I think they just made up. Along the way, they add new members to the team. The characters run the gamut from French model who loves adventure to Hawaiian guy who loves adventure. The story unfolds in comic-style cinematics that aren’t particularly good and frankly, if your into this game for the story, your weird.
Events are broken up into three modes: Race It, Trick It and Survive It. The first two are obvious, you win races by getting to the bottom of the mountain fastest, you win trick contests by scoring the most points. But when you get to the legendary deadly descents, the final level in each mountain range, your only objective is survival. Each mountain has a gimmick that you’ll have to deal with; a particularly rocky mountain, for example, will require the use of body armor. This gets especially crazy with the introduction of active gear, like wing suits used to extend jumps and survive big gaps. It’s a neat addition that makes the game just that little bit fresher.
But what really helps is that there simply hasn’t been anything filling the SSX void since the last game came out. The tricks are as reality-defying as ever, the jumps as ridiculous, the sense of momentum as exhilarating. Most of the time I spent playing this game reminded me of my glory days playing Tricky and SSX3 – and that’s not a bad thing at all. The original games’ quirky control scheme even remains an option for those veteran players who are still comfortable playing like that, but I found the new controls perfectly functional.
SSX lacks any real multiplayer, instead it chooses to follow the model established by Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and put all the focus on leaderboards. Whenever you complete an event, you immediately get to compare your performance to your friends’ and the rest of the world. What’s more, there are events that you can participate in for worldwide glory and in-game rewards. That’s right, if competing with your friends wasn’t enough, the game has its own currency, which you use to buy new gear for your characters, earning both cosmetic and gameplay bonuses. It’s all pretty slick and makes the game pretty addictive.
It wouldn’t be an SSX game without a great soundtrack and this new title does not disappoint. A mix of rap, electronic and rock will accompany you down the slopes that is just eclectic enough that I bet anyone will have at least one song that they love. As always, the music responds to how you’re playing, making the experience that much more cinematic. My favorite touch is the dubstep remix of Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” that plays when you fill the tricky meter. That’s really this game in a nutshell. That familiar old song, remixed just enough to fit in 2012.