CGRundertow SSX for Xbox 360 Video Game Review

This isn’t your PlayStation 2’s SSX. It’s
got high-def graphics, online capability, and… well, after that, it is kinda your
PS2’s SSX. Plenty of familiar faces, deranged downhill powder-spraying action, races, score
challenges, they’re all here. But, as this is a series reboot, they’re also kitted
out with a new control scheme (which can be abandoned in favor of the original layout),
a couple newcomers to the SSX circuit, a strange narrative paradigm pitting Zoe Payne’s team
of chilled celebrities against Griff Simmons… and I could go on about how their ages just
don’t add up, but I won’t… and the THREAT OF IMMINENT DEATH. Yes, in order to attract
fickle online viewership (tell me about it), these stalwart (read: loony) souls are going
to board down some of the most ridiculously dangerous mountains in the world, just to
say they did. And to get money. Because that’s what it’s all about. This is one of those games that leaves me,
as a longtime fan of the series, woefully split. On the one hand, they’re trying to
make the experience a little more believable, a little less insane. No snowboarding around
Hawaii for you; you get actual peaks like Mt. Everest or Fitz Roy or Denali. The economics
of the sport itself are directly called into question. There’s no more magically teleporting
back onto the track… instead, you magically rewind time (and take a significant score
penalty). Some of the most emotive dialogue in the game is the encouraging banter from
your chopper-pilot as you run the course. It’s a stark contrast from the interpersonal,
punch-throwing antics of Tricky and SSX3, and I kinda miss it. The game does hearken
back to its most-acclaimed outing by including a remix of Run DMC’s ‘Tricky’ when you’re
on a hot streak of tricks. Unfortunately, though, it’s some ridiculous dubstepped-out
remix. We actually have a word for ‘Dubstepped-out Run DMC Remix,’ and that word is ‘WRONG.’
On the other hand, the new “Survival” challenges, which pit you against those nearly-eponymous
“Deadly Descents,” might be my favorite addition to the formula. You have to snowboard
from Point A to Point B, without falling down a chasm, passing out from lack of oxygen,
being engulfed in an avalanche, breaking every bone in your body as you speed through a forest,
or freezing to death in the Antarctic shadows. Only certain drops threaten your life, though,
so if you still just want a trick attack or a simple race, you always have those options
available. The game’s main story mode sees Zoe collecting
her team around the nine mountain ranges that comprise this SSX circuit, as they try to
outdo the magically-aged Griff and his ego. If you couldn’t care about the plot, and
you’re not really missing much, you can simply pay to unlock each track around the
globe using the credits you earn for completing races, collecting snowflakes and geotags,
or – if you’re unable to perceive fun – blowing real-world money. Alternately, you can compete
online by paying into a jackpot, posting your best time/score/survived distance for that
particular drop, and receiving a cut of the total based on your performance. Now that
split-screen competition is right out, and timing would be a bear across the interwebs,
the majority of your interaction is spent in more passive modes, in the form of ghost
data. Of course, these online competitions also require an online pass, which you have
to buy separately if you get the game secondhand. Just throw some more money at it! A number of things about SSX rub me the wrong
way. It’s not the same flavor of crazy as Tricky, one of my desert-island top-five games.
But this new crazy… isn’t “bad” at all. Much as I liked those older games, I’m
finding that I’m having fun with this one for entirely different reasons. It’s a new
paradigm for a reboot, and certainly an enjoyable game, especially if you’re new to the series
and thus wouldn’t have these kinds of conflicts. Pick it up, enjoy it, compete online, and
try to stay alive… but keep your copies of its predecessors close at hand, as well.

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