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Friends, the glorious moment has finally occured. After years of campaigning, dreaming, fearing, and being thoroughly excited to a downright embarrassing degree, I finally had a demo of the new SSX yesterday. As a die-hard fan of the series since way back into the last generation I greeted the opportunity with no small blend of glee, trepidation and laser-targeted scrutiny, and over the course of the session - and through chatting with jovial Producer Sean Smillie - I managed to draw out a whole bunch nitty-gritty details and important info-nuggets about the game that I was previously completely unaware of. 11 of them, to be precise. And I wanted to share them with you, because they're vital to know, very, very exciting, and, as should go without saying, I love you.
We also have a very nice two-part video interview with Sean himself. And in a one-time, two-for-one, extra value offer, you can find all of the above just by scrolling down. So scroll, and let's get on with the good times.
Having exploded with delight, as many of you did, when SSX3’s DJ Atomika referenced an e-mail from series stalwart Mac Frazer during his various dialogues in Burnout Paradise, I made a point of asking Sean where the hell all of that came from. It turns out that Criterion are just big SSX fans, and having secured Atomika for their game they stuck that line in as a shout-out to the series. Sean speculated that it could also have been a bit of a dig to kick EA’s arse into getting another game off the ground, and while we may never know if that’s true, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. It’s the version of the truth that makes me happiest anyway, so it’s the one I’m going with.
I’ve always expected it, but now it’s confirmed. That dark, gritty first trailer was never going to be indicative of what this game is all about. In fact it came about almost by way of unfortunate coincidence. This SSX’s three gameplay pillars, ‘Trick it’, ‘Race it’ and ‘Survive it’ all have equal weight. It just so happened that at the time of the Spike TV Video Game Awards reveal, the survival gameplay was the most complete element, so that’s the one that got the focus.
The trailer itself was made outside of the SSX dev team, which perhaps explains the incongruity of its tone compared to that of the game. It’s been admitted that perhaps the initial reveal should have been “more SSX”, but either way, the actual game is the big, bright, colourful bundle of madness you want from the series. It feels 100% authentic.
The best thing about SSX3 was the fact that every race track, trick run and back-country area took place on one huge, free-flowing mountain made up of three inter-connecting peaks. While the new SSX won’t entirely work like that due to its focus on environments loosely based on real-world locations around the globe, regions look to contain multiple selectable mountains, and in cases where those mountains are close enough there will be a degree of inter-connectivity. The structural has shifted, but the organic boarding spirit is still there.
The music in the game so far is placeholder, but the ethos the soundtrack is being built with comes straight from SSX3. With an admition that the more rock-oriented sound of SSX: On Tour was perhaps a mistake, this game is going to be accompanied with the same sort of smooth-flowing cool beats and eclectic vibes that made the third game such an ambient joy to explore. There’s already talk of a couple of big name musical acts recording exclusive tracks for the game, so we could be looking at the best SSX soundtrack yet here. And when we’re talking about a series like SSX, a possibility like that is a big deal indeed.
Also exciting, this is going to be another interactive soundtrack. Remember the way SSX3 would dynamically remix the music based on what was going on in-game? It created some stunning moments, with atmospheric reverb rippling through ice tunnels, and bass lines dropping away as you launched yourself high into the sky, only to kick back in the instant you hit the snow. Well I’m told that this new SSX is going to take that model as a basis and then take it even further. Cannot wait. Can. Not. Wait.
While this SSX isn’t strictly open-world, the new mountain layouts are much bigger and far more freely explorable than the old ones. There are no boarded off race lines or half-pipes here. You’re entirely free to find your own line and discover hidden routes and easter eggs as you see fit. Think of it as all of SSX3’s modes combined into one, with the speed and immediacy of the race areas, the branching comboability of the stunt-runs, and free exploration of the back-country. But bigger than all of them and unleashed on a scale you’ve never seen before.
Voice-actors are currently still bring cast, but with many of the classic SSX characters returning – alongside three new ones – the original actors are being sought out. It’s currently unknown as to exactly how many will return. That will depend on who is still available (in the time since the last game, there’s a chance some of them have either become more in-demand or have just moved on in their careers) and whether different characterisation is needed for some of the cast. The classic characters are still very much the classic characters. Sean Smillie handled writing and character bible on SSX3, and is in charge of character development again this time around. But in the intervening years the cast have all continued their lives and evolved as people. And voice-casting needs to be done in respect of that.
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