Review by Electric Stove

Reviewed: 02/13/04

If only Sonny Bono had tried this instead

The original SSX was the first PS2 game I ever owned. Although I found it at first to be extremely difficult, I quickly overcame this barrier and found myself entrenched in some of the greatest times I ever had with a video game. Since then I have been a huge fan of the SSX series. The sequel, SSX Tricky, built on what its predecessor started. Many say that it could not be a considered a true sequel; that it wasn’t different enough. SSX 3 promised to be a much grander departure. I was worried, at first, that this could be a disaster. If it aint broke don’t fix it. Fortunately, the folks at EA big managed to create a different gameplay experience while still maintaining the spirit of the original.

What’s different? Probably the most noticeable change is the course layout. Instead of a menu based system, all the courses are connected to each other as part of the same mountain. The mountain consists of three peaks, but you will have to gain access to peaks 2 and 3. This “one mountain” system allows you great freedom to play the game at your own peace. Not in the mood to compete? Simply ride around and check out the scenery. However, if you grow restless, you can simply press start and go to Transport. From here, you can choose where you want to go next. It’s that simple

Courses now only serve one function. Snow Jam can only be raced on, Crow’s Nest is strictly a Slopestyle course, etc. This is a good thing, because a course can be designed with its true purpose in mind. The difficulty of a race course is derived from tricky turns and aggravating obstacles. Freestyle courses are designed to get you in the air. Of course, you can go down any part of the mountain if Freeride, where there are no goals to restrict you.

Single player now offers far more depth. Where in the first game you simply had the choice between race and freestyle mode, you can now also try your hand at Exploration and BIG Challenges. Exploration requires you to…explore. You must travel down different parts of the mountain searching for elusive snowflakes. Depending on what peak you are on, you will earn more money for each flake. Money is another new addition to the SSX series. Instead of simply unlocking rewards, you must earn money to buy them. Money is also used to improve your rider’s stats. Fortunately, money isn’t too hard to come by, and the rewards are worth it. BIG Challenges come in a variety of forms and difficulties. While the earlier ones are simple (pick up some items on the ground), they become MUCH harder (go through a series of gates, a feat in itself, while being timed).

I think the Exploration requirements hurt the game. Exploration is an activity that is open-ended in nature. To affix goals to this is un-needed. While, its good that they reward you for it (money), tracking down the last couple of snowflakes becomes a real hassle. Exploration is rewarding in its own right, there was no need to make it required. BIG Challenges must also be discovered. They should have allowed you to simply select them from a menu. Single Player mode is actually too deep for its own good. Once you’ve bought all the gear and accessories you want, you may have trouble finding the motivation of completing every task you have before you.

The trick system in SSX 3 is improved from its predecessors. The implementation of a new trick system was what I was most tentative about. Fortunately, like Tricky before it, it is not a complete overhaul. It is simply a tweak. There is now a combo system that requires you to link tricks together in a chain. Luckily, this is simply a matter of doing simple board presses with the right analog stick. Ubertricks are now divided into three levels. At each level, you will need more air to pull one off. At level two and above, you can do Monster Tricks. Think of this as a recipe for points. A simple one requires you to do a double back-flip while doing a Superman uber-grab. Because of this, the trick system has become more then jump, flip, hold down the shoulder buttons. The trick system works so well because it is so intuitive. It is much more simpler then that in the Tony Hawk series.

The best new addition to the SSX series is doubtlessly Online mode. Social outcasts everywhere can now enjoy the thrill of competing against actual human beings. Add a headset into the mix, and the fun increases. There is no greater feeling then hearing the groans of your opponents after you burn right by them on the home stretch.

So what’s the same? It’s still an adrenaline rush. The always phenomenal graphics, particularly the landscapes, deliver the sensation that you are actually there. If you are the type that says “ow” when your character gets hurt, then this is the game for you. The sense of speed is just magnificent. Even in games like Need for Speed, where you’re traveling at 100’s of miles per hour, you don’t feel nearly as empowered as you do here. If the speed is impressive, height is even more so. Launch off a jump in just the right way, and you begin to seriously question Newton. Your character can still put Nancy Kerrigan to shame with the tricks they do. Warning! Don’t try this at home!

Though earning 100% in this game might prove monotonous, you will find you don’t need to in order to get enjoyment out of this game. A friend or a network adapter give this game near infinite replay value. If you were not a fan of the first two games, this one won’t change your mind. However, if the jury’s still out then pick this up immediately.

Rating: 9

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