With the Tony Hawk skateboarding games declining in popularity, there are few extreme-sports games released anymore. EA hopes to fill the void with “SSX,” revitalizing a formerly popular snowboarding franchise that has lain dormant for the last half decade or so. While “SSX” retains the essence of the series — pulling off gravity-defying tricks in style — it goes in some directions that are detrimental to the game’s lasting appeal.

SSX

Xbox 360, PS3
EA


“SSX” throws realism to the wind, letting players get gigantic air off of ramps and pull off amazing stunts. Completing tricks gives you points to fill up a “Tricky” meter, and filling the meter will not only let you do even crazier stunts that yield more points, but it also provides infinite boost for racing down the mountain. The goal is to get as many points as you can or to race to the bottom of the track as fast as possible.

Both game types are enjoyable at first, as unbelievable-looking tricks can be done with ease, and the sense of speed when boosting is extraordinary. However, as the difficulty ramps up, mountain slopes become more treacherous, adding deadly cliffs and gaps in the course. When going off a big ramp, there’s no way to know if you’re headed into a gap, and inadvertently falling to your death is extremely frustrating. This problem is only compounded by the loose and imprecise controls.

Unfortunately, treacherous course design is emphasized with the game’s new mode, “Survive It.” In the World Tour mode, these special events give you only one task — make it down a course in one piece against the odds of a specific obstacle, such as ice or darkness. It’s easier than the other courses to slip up, die and get frustrated, so the best method is to play it safe, going slow and taking jumps only as necessary. However, this seems antithetical to the core of “SSX,” which is to do crazy, unrealistic tricks. While the idea of dangerous crevasses sounds like it adds a sense of tension to the game, really it only adds unnecessary frustration.

All this doesn’t compare to the biggest issue with “SSX,” which is the lack of head-to-head multiplayer. First off, there is no split-screen multiplayer, which is a terrible oversight, as competing with roommates or friends would add lasting appeal.

Bafflingly, there is no head-to-head online multiplayer either. Instead, you post your score on a certain course and see how it compares with other players online. Competing against random people’s scores isn’t compelling and doesn’t hold much lasting value after finishing the World Tour mode, which won’t take more than 10 or so hours.

To its credit, the core gameplay of “SSX” is still a good time. Getting huge air, completing a quadruple backflip while doing an insane trick and barely landing it is awesome and thrilling. Furthermore, it has a fantastic soundtrack and is visually arresting. At the end of the day, those looking for a new extreme-sports game will find a lot to like in “SSX,” but the fun probably won’t last as long as you would like.

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