Review by Lsnake

Reviewed: 01/24/05

The best Snowboard game to date - Sweeter than Candy!

When the PS2 was released, the first SSX was one of the main attractions for the system. Boosting the slickest graphics, the craziest stunts, sweetest feeling and coolest characters, the game became an instant winner. It was followed up by the much improved Tricky, and here we are, with the latest and greatest from EA Big: SSX 3.

If you thought the previous versions were great, you`ll most likely fall head first for SSX 3. Its really hard not to love this game, not many other games can provoke the same "feel good" feeling as SSX 3.

Gameplay
Unlike its prequels, SSX3 is built up quite differently, but at its heart, its still the good old SSX one have grown to love. The basics of the game is identical, you can choose racing or tricks, but the way the runs are set up and chosen is very nice. Basically, everything takes place in one HUGE Mountain. Each race and run is spread out around on the mountain, and seperated by three peaks, each dividing the game between Easy, Medium and Hard difficulty. You can by a handy menu choose exactly what run you want to do in the peak you want(you have to unlock Peak 2 and 3 by earning cash and winning in Peak 1, but its not too hard), but you can also just start at the top of each Peak, or even the top of the Mountain, and cruise down the mountain, picking up items and challenges(more on that) on the way, locating the runs on your own. This is definitely recommended since some of the runs take place on the whole mountain, requiring you to learn it to have a chance.

Each Peak can be run from top to bottom, and there are base stations where you can stop to buy attributes, buy and equip different gear, save game and look at unlocked items and characters. These base stations can be chosen directly from the handy menu where you choose runs, so they are easily available anytime. Heading to a base station after winning a lot of cash to buy attributes and equipment is a very nice reward, and they are definitely a highlight of the game. As you get on Peak 2 and 3, you reach more advanced base stations with more equipment you can buy.

The Menu System is slick and fast, and everything is done to make sure you can easily navigate in the game. In a game so huge as SSX3, its important to have a menu system that allows for fast and easy gameplay.

There are actually many different types of runs in SSX 3 compared to the two types in Tricky. The reason for this is that since the game is not limited to Showoff or Race, but lets you freely choose different runs spread on the mountain, the runs can vary both in location(Trick Runs and Races are seldom in same place) and type. The different types of runs in SSX 3 are Race(Beat the opponents in three rounds), Show Off(Beat the trick score before the time runs out), Superpipe(Use a Superpipe to get as many points as possible), Big Air(A Short run that gives you huge air time to do tons of tricks) and Peak Runs(Race down the whole Peak, or even Mountain in one single run. Racing down from top of Peak 3 to bottom of Peak 1 can take 25-30 minutes the first times, and you can take many different paths during the run, so they are always fun!). In addition to all of that, you can also find challenges spread around in the mountain. There are tons of them, and they vary a lot, some might require you to do a combination of tricks, some might require you to race through gates, some require you to race to a certain area within the time limit and so on. These are very fun, some are easy and some are downright frustrating, but they are definitely worth it and they are required to beat to complete the peaks.

Unlike SSX and SSX Tricky, you now buy attributes. You can find money spread out over the whole mountain visualized by nice glowing snowflakes, and you will of course win lots of money by winning races and runs. Money are also used on buying Uber Tricks(there are tons of Uber Tricks to choose between) and buying Equipment. Each character has a lot of unique equipment, which you can either buy or unlock. Unlike SSX Tricky, where you only had a few fully completed clothing sets to choose between, you can combine tops and pants, shoes and gloves, hair styles, backpacks and special equipment. A Crazy example is that for example Elise, can end up getting a Black Bikini, Bunny Ears, Halo, a Pair of wings and a Flaming board, equipped all at the same time. Its great fun customizing the character the way you want, and huge plus. Considering each character has different clothing and equipment(Some share a few things), they are all fun to play and explore.

Speaking of characters, apart from many of the veterans(Like Mac, Elise, Kaori, Psymon), there are new characters, and there are a ton of unlockable characters. These unlockable characters are not seperate characters, they have no voice and cannot be customized, but they can replace your main character`s skin so they look the part.

New to SSX 3 is the Combo system, and the Monster Tricks. The Combo system is absolutely crucial to getting the best scores, and without it, there is no way to win some of the later runs. But dont worry, the system is so easy to learn that its a pleasure to take the time! Whenever you finish a trick, a timer counts down, and if you start another trick before the timer is out, a combo starts. Extra Score for doing tricks is added to the combo along with the normal score, and when the combo is finished, the extra score is added to yours. Its fun to create combos, and it only further enhances the content of the gameplay.

The game can also be played online, but since I dont have access to broadband with my PS2, I have not yet been able to test it. It should be noted that I have included the possibility in the score.

Score: 10/10 The game is huge, there are tons of content, and most of all, its enormously fun.

Graphics
The first thing that strikes you when starting SSX 3, is how beautiful it is. The models feel so soft and smooth, and suddenly the characters in Tricky looks stiff like matchstick men. Its incredible. Weather Effects are very convincing, with snow gusts and wind blowing you across the tracks. The environments are much, much more interactive than the sequels, in a eye popping moment you can even see a plane literally crash infront of you while you are racing down the fresh snow. Its a visual feast, and it doesnt stutter and chop as much as Tricky. Both the models and the mountain look far more natural now, it really look less plastic than before. There are a few drops in the framerate, especially during races, but its nothing too bad, considering the quality of the graphics. Each run and location on the mountain looks different, there are hazardous areas with high cliffs and rocks, there are cities and forests and pure race tracks, and all of them look great. Visually pleasing, its so far ahead of its two sequels that its hard to go back.

As mentioned before, the characters can be customized, and every little thing shows up on the characters, making them look very unique and different. One Elise can look totally different from another Elise. Fall and trick animations are so incredibly much smoother in SSX 3, and look much much more natural than before. By stalling and inverting tricks midair, you can get the characters to adjust their tricks in a natural looking way, that not only looks good, but also wickedly sweet(And it racks up the score). Back in Tricky, such fantastic animation was not thinkable. EA have done an amazing job with SSX 3, and if this is a sign of what to come in SSX 4, then it should be incredible.

Score: 9/10 Like Elise says, "Sweeter than Candy". It surely says it all.

Sound
What would a SSX game be without licensed artists, fitting music and that lovely sound of a board crossing the snow? The answer: Nothing. The sound in SSX 3 is really good. Most of the sounds are easily recognizable from before, but what makes SSX 3 to stand out from before, is the great way it inserts the music and soundtrack. When you are racing down the mountain, especially Peak Runs, you hear music as long as your racing in the wilderness, but as soon as you near base stations, the local DJ kicks in with the latest news and events. This makes the game feel so much more alive. An example of the brilliant way this is set up, is that after seeing the plane crash, and reaching a base station, you can hear the DJ announce that a plane has crashed. Reading it might not impress you, but when you see how smooth it all works in the game, you are most likely very impressed by the attention to detail and work put into every single factor of this game. You will also hear greetings to the other characters, weather forecasts, general chit-chat and other fun broadcasts on the radio that is playing constantly.

Licensed Artists in SSX 3 include big name artists like "Fatboy Slim", "Royksopp", "The Chemical Brothers" and "Basement Jaxx", just to mention some. While one cannot complain about the soundtrack for what it is, it does feel a bit sad that rock is very underused in the series. This is just a minor complaint though, its too easy to reduce the volume and crank up your favorite music instead while playing, so there`s not much reason to complain about the soundtrack.

Score: 9/10 Excellent use of sound, a solid soundtrack and voice acting makes sure SSX 3 scores rock high.

Summary
SSX 3 is the best SSX yet. It is much bigger than both prequels, and thanks to the fact that you can race down the whole mountain continously, it feels so much more connected than the seperate tracks in SSX and Tricky, yet the different locations in the mountain is just as different and unique like the stages in Tricky. SSX 3 is easily twice as beautiful as Tricky, the characters are much more detailed and more smoothly animated, the tracks look much better, the framerate is generally better, the use of sound is even better(Although some of the voice acting from the previous games are missed, but that has more to do with personal preference than actually quality), and the content, both hidden and open is enormous. A few nitpicks prevents it from a 10, but its close.

SSX 3 is simply the best Snowboard game to date, its just Sweeter than Candy!
Score: 9/10

Rating: 9

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