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SSX

Developer: EA Sports Big | Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 10/30/00 | Genre: Sports

Allow me to be blunt. There is one major criticism of SSX, hurled primarily by hardcore snowboarding fans. Let's face it; the game doesn't depict real snowboarding. Now that that's been established, allow me a brief editorial before I go into the meat of the review...

I've been snowboarding. I paid upwards of seventy dollars for a lift ticket and a board rental, not too mention the cost of gas to get to the resort. My rewards for this brave endeavor included a sprained wrist, sprained ankle, and an ass so many shades of black and blue it looked like a dark impressionist painting. So I went home, put the fire under the kettle for some hot chocolate, and sank into my favorite chair to play what is arguably the best PS2 game available...

The graphics are astonishing. The body movements and facial expressions of the boarders are as fluid and detailed as anything I've seen for a next-generation system. However, the biggest piece of eye candy in the game is the lavish level design.

Each unique map is fully preloaded, which means you don't get those ugly background draw-in problems that some games (cough, Summoner, cough) have. All landscapes are fully explorable to their outer limits, with plenty of opportunities to venture off the main path. Shortcuts are abundant, giving the gamer plenty of replay value in his attempts to find the most efficient course. In addition, many of the objects placed along the course can be interacted with. Snowboarders can grind on railings, wires, fallen trees, and a plethora of other objects. Some obstacles come loose upon collision with an unfortunate boarder. The maps provide great variety; you can snowboard on mountains, in cities, and even inside a pinball machine.

The game's music is produced by a host of spinsters, including Mix Master Mike and Rahzel, who both contribute voice acting to the game as well. Each character has their own catch phrases, boasting upon a completing a good trick or moaning after a bad spill. The sound effects are all too real, causing me to wince upon reflection of what those sounds meant for me on the real life slopes.

So with all this reality included in the game, why would anyone complain, you ask? These simpletons are complaining about the strongest characteristic of SSX, the gameplay. There are two primary World Circuit modes to compete in, Race Event and Showoff Event. Obviously enough, in Race Event mode, the objective is to reach the bottom of the hill first, while in Showoff mode, the player needs to rack up a sufficient number of trick points to earn a medal. In both modes, the cartoonish quirkiness of the game is evident. Boarders are capable of pulling of ridiculous tricks, from 1440-degree spins to triple misties. To those of you unfamiliar with snowboarding lingo, as I was before playing the game, those are impossible tricks. Yet an experienced player can pull off many of these stunts with the oh-so-smooth controls. As a player earns medals in Race and Showoff modes, he is awarded new boards and attribute points. And since each character is unique in terms of maximum abilities and personality, you'll want to play through World Circuit with them all.

There are some neat little side benefits to the game as well. Two costumes can be unlocked for each of the characters to supplement the two they begin with. There is also an "Advanced Replay" mode, where players can edit and save their favorite races or tricks. A bonus "Untracked" map can be unlocked, where the snowboarders are dropped from a helicopter down onto a mountain that hasn't been defiled by human hands.

If I had to pick on SSX, I'd sink a monkey bite into their multi-player options. There is no multi-player option for World Circuit mode. Even in Single Race mode, I was constantly annoyed by the fact that you have to return to the opening menu to select a different course to race on, forcing you to re-select your boarder and options. These are trifling problems though, and multi-player mode is still a blast.

To conclude, if you don't already own SSX, buy it. You won't regret it. The monkey has spoken...

By Farmer Monkey - 08/01/00
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Screenshots for SSX

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