Tuesday, 28 February 2012

SSX Demo Review

The 21st February marked the release of the demo for EA's latest snowboarding title, SSX. Being a fan of the previous titles in the series, I downloaded this on my Xbox 360 and gave it a go. Here's what I made of it.


Those familiar with the SSX series will feel quite at home here. SSX is back with more downhill mountain races with plenty of crazy trick pulling thrown in to the proceedings. Whilst the graphics have improved quite significantly, I got the feeling that not too much had changed. Some may feel that this isn't particularly a good thing-too much of the same thing can get a little tired, but for SSX there are plenty of small changes that manage to distinguish this from the previous offerings, thus providing a somewhat refreshing experience.


The demo opens with a tutorial section which explains the different controls needed to pull off tricks and go for the gold. For someone who has played SSX Tricky and SSX 3, I picked this up rather quickly, and noticed that controls have changed ever so slightly in this edition. Now players can tweak their tricks to make them more complex by simply pressing the corresponding buttons together. For example, pressing x and y at the same time as moving the analog stick to the left will spawn a cool looking board grab move. For SSX veterans, the new control system may seem a little daunting, but thankfully there is an option to switch to the classic SSX controls if you desire it. Unfortunately I felt the tutorial went on a little longer than I wish it was, and being the impatient person I can occasionally be, I was wishing for the opportunity to try these tricks out freely on one of the courses. Thankfully I realised that the tutorial can be skipped...perhaps a little too late at this point though.
Thankfully, the tutorial is over and the demo can continue. EA provide two new races to try out on the Rocky Mountains and the Himalayas. One of these entails racing alongside some computer snowboarders to get to the finish line first with the most trick points racked up. Another is a solo-ride trick race where players will get to freestyle some tricks, and interact with the environment (such as the grinding pipes) as they glide down the snowy mountain.


The most enjoyable aspect of the SSX demo was the ability to pull off some excellent tricks. Things feel a lot more forgiving and fluid this time around. Landing tricks seems to be a bit more successful than on the previous games (often you'll pull off an elaborate trick only to land awkwardly and lose your points). However, this certainly does not make the game a much easier experience. SSX Tricky and 3 both included an option to repeatedly button bash until your rider stands up, allowing you to quickly recover from a fall during a race. This time around this option has not been included, so although it may be easier to land a trick, when you do fall, you could be tumbling for quite some time before you can compose yourself and re-join the race. 


The "Tricky" system makes a welcome return in this demo. Fans of the older titles may remember that the tricky bar can be filled up when they succeed in pulling of tricks. The more elaborate your trick, the faster your bar will fill up. Once the bar is full, Run DMC's "It's Tricky" plays (a dub-step style remix version this time around) and players can then try off the rider's signature move to rapidly boost their score. The tricky bar seems a lot easier to fill this time around, although you lose it a lot faster too. 
As for controlling the rider, it may take a little getting used to, as I found that I zig-zagged a lot down the mountain at first. Once you get the knack of it though, it becomes enjoyable and quite easy to grasp. The SSX demo also had access to the Leaderboards, which in the demo allows you to race against time trial ghosts your friends have set previously. 


The SSX demo is worth trying. The races are fun, but it is the ability to pull of tricks at almost every opportunity as you traverse down a mountain that makes this so fulfilling. Fans of the previous games should find this one just as entertaining. It's just a shame that EA insists on putting a rather lengthy and un-skippable trailer at the start of the demo, which will appear every single time you decide to load it up. It's a little frustrating, but it doesn't tarnish the enjoyment of the gameplay thankfully. 


The SSX demo is available to download now on the Xbox 360 Marketplace and Playstation 3 Network. SSX is due to be released on the 2nd March 2012.

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