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Developer: EA Sports Big | Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 10/23/03 | Genre: Sports

For as successful as the PlayStation 2 has been, the system’s launch games were a bit of disappointment. There wasn’t anything close to a Mario 64 blockbuster, instead of getting Soul Calibur it got a got a rehashed Tekken, and of course, Sony’s first offering was Fantavision. ‘Nuff said. But for those die-hard PlayStation fans who waited for hours in line and dropped $300 or the next big system, there was one original game that had gamers asking for more: EA Sports Big’s extreme snowboarder, SSX. A year later, gamers were offered a slight upgrade with SSX Tricky, which featured an enhanced trick system and remixed courses. Still, as fantastic as Tricky was, the game’s developers and fans both knew that major changes were needed to make the next installment a success. Thankfully, with SSX 3, gamers have gotten what they wanted and more. In fact, SSX 3 might be the best extreme sports title ever released and one of the best games in the PS2’s three year history.

The best part about SSX 3 is that it’s one of those sequels that allows you to forget about its predecessors completely. This is largely due to the fact that the game’s already perfect control scheme (at least on PS2) somehow got better. The most important thing of all, however, is that tricks are still a breeze to control with the seemingly infinite combination of moves that can be produced by combining the tweak button with the four shoulder buttons.

But with SSX 3, EA Big has managed to bring new enhancements to the game’s control – starting with the game’s updated uber tricks. After accomplishing enough uber tricks, gamers can now pull off even more death-defying super uber tricks. In addition to super ubers, the game also puts a stronger emphasis on rail tricks by implementing uber rail tricks. Like the uber tricks, where gamers detach from their board, uber rail tricks allow gamers to dislodge from their board while on a rail when their power meter is full.

If new styled uber tricks aren’t enough to get you excited, SSX 3 also features board presses and hand plants. These new tricks allow gamers to string together trick combos in a manner similar to Tony Hawk’s manual system. At first, these new gameplay enhancements will seem overwhelming, and you might even forget you have so many new options. Nevertheless, with plenty of practice, gamers will realize that SSX 3 has probably the best control scheme of any extreme sports title.

While SSX 3’s controls are enough to bring you back over and over to perfect your high scores and times, the game’s setting, which takes place on three gigantic mountains, will have gamers wondering how they will ever have time to complete the entire game. This is because each of the three mountains features tons of different challenges. As in the previous SSX games, gamers will find themselves playing through a bunch of race and trick modes. New in SSX 3 are several other challenges, including races against rivals, half pipe competitions, back country events and slopestyle events where gamers try to accomplish the perfect run based on their player’s attributes.

If some of the newer events aren’t your bag, you don’t have to go through them. SSX 3’s opened ended style allows gamers to transport to whatever event they want to compete in at any time. But gamers will definitely want to go through all of the challenges of each mountain, as this will open up the game’s “peak eventâ€? challenge. Here gamers can participate in a race or trick competition that goes from the summit of the mountain all the way to the city below. Depending on the mountain, these competitions can take as long as a half hour.

To enhance the overall experience of SSX 3, the game features some of the slickest visuals and thumping sound effects ever to grace the PS2. You don’t have to take my word though, as THX made it the first videogame ever to receive its stamp of approval. While I don’t know how much involvement they had on the title, the game’s slick framerate, gorgeous graphics and DTS surround sound are a dream come true for home theatre junkies.

Finally, for gamers who want online action, SSX 3 continues EA’s plan to allow gamers to challenge the world. While not quite as impressive as the EA Sports Nation titles, multiplayer online is ideal as it doesn’t force gamers to squint at a split screen. And don’t worry; you can still talk smack like you would at home using a USB headset.

As for the flaws of SSX 3, there is only one I can really complain about. The game has replaced The Roots’ Rahzel as the game’s emcee and replaced him with some lame guy that sounds like he couldn’t get a job on college radio. Still, when he takes the time to shut up, gamers are given a fantastic soundtrack featuring artists like N.E.R.D and Queens of the Stoned Age. The soundtrack has such a good vibe that EA decided to go ahead and release it on CD.

In the end, fans of the SSX series will not be disappointed with the new direction taken in SSX 3, and for this reason, they probably already own this title. For those who haven’t played an SSX game before, you really owe it to yourself to try SSX 3. The game’s slick presentation, top-notch graphics and sound, and a flawless control system make it a must-have for any PlayStation 2 owner.

By Matt Grandstaff - 11/19/03
ESRB Details: Comic Mischief, Mild Violence

Screenshots for SSX 3

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