Eurogamer Expo 2011: SSX hands-on
The SSX series is big. It may no longer be EA Big, but its legacy is incredible. It’s been eleven years since the original SSX graced our consoles, and over five since the last ‘proper’ SSX experience - SSX On Tour. Expectations are soaring high into the mountains as the first next-gen SSX edges closer to release. The fans have waited long enough, now it was time for them to get their first sampling of the snow and shred platter.
Removing the Deadly Descents subtitle, it’s unclear whether the backlash of that trailer and the name has had any real effect on the game’s development. Judging by today’s demo however, you’d be wise in guessing it has, as not an inch of black ice or modern warfare was on show.
The track was set in the Himalayas, and brought with it some typically Asian-inspired objects and structures. Ancient stone tunnels and winding bridges lace parts of the course, and the sense of scale is huge. Two runs were not nearly enough to appreciate the thousands of different lines you can take down the mountain. Going back to SSX Tricky and SSX 3, SSX definitely feels like the latter, with untouched white snow, natural ramps and overhanging cliff faces.
Tricks were responsive and simple to perform, and landing upright soon became second nature. The new skate. style control of using the right-stick for tricks felt like an intuitive addition, but the shoulder buttons are still there as a welcome option, too. The developers’ new ethos of ‘making awesome easy’ has never seemed truer, as the game was a breeze to play, and made you look good while doing it – handy at an expo with thousands of watchful gamers. Turning and shredding was a touch too sensitive - nothing a quick trip to the menus couldn’t fix, or extended time with the demo.
The visuals were astounding, the snow forever glistening in the sun. The whole mountainscape is a sight to behold, and truly drums home the idea of bigger being better. The new ripple feature, where landing a solid trick transforms the environment a slight, runs seamlessly, and doesn’t intrude on your run. Any SSX purists unsure of its relevance rest assured – it’s utterly fantastic.
There was a distinct lack of fireworks and neon on the course, although this isn’t surprising for a track set in such a natural locale. The developers have insisted that the crazy course design that made Tricky such a hit will still remain in the game, so no worries there. Question is - is there another Metro City in the works?
Characters available to use included Japanese pinkophile Kaori, sporting an (unfortunately) edgier style, with a purple streak through jet black hair and an altogether older look – no panda bear backpacks, then. Elise, Moby, Psymon and Mac made up the rest of the numbers, but recently announced Tricky frontman Eddie Wachowski was missing from the demo.
The overall feeling after playing SSX was the want, no, the need to play it again and again. The game looked and played great, and felt like a fitting rebirth for the much loved franchise. The developers have obviously shaped SSX based on a lot of fan feedback, and they know what makes the series such a success. The omission of skis is a bold, but welcome move, as the games have always been about snowboarding and nothing else, and a lack of a create-a-character editor is a great move, because the characters are such an integral part of the whole experience that they need the focus. A demo has been confirmed for release sometime this year, until it eventually drops in January 2012. Now we can only wait before returning to the slopes - a wait made even more agonising by today’s extremely promising playtest.