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The anticipation of getting to grips with a new SSX was palpable. We were so excited to get a look at the new online functions in Ridernet - SSX's version of NFS: Hot Pursuit's Autolog mode - and to see the new Alaska level that we even shamelessly push in front of a now irate French man. Merde, indeed, monsieur. Anyway, squeezing into the tiny room at EA's Gamescom booth was well worth the wrath of one man.
As Dave kindly points out in his previous SSX story, there will be ghosts in SSX to display which route your rival takes down a mountain. We're shown exactly how this works as the developer leading the run cruises to the finish line. Almost immediately on another TV in the room we see the ghost has been uploaded and a challenge has been issued to a friend via the in-game map based on Google Earth. The location, time or trick score is presented and you can choose whether to wipe the smirk from your friend's face or simply ignore it and set a different challenge for them. The great thing about the ghost system is that - for example - someone takes on your score/time and loses, you earn the money without even lifting a controller.
Above: Watch out. There could be ghosts in here
SSX also comes with the ability to compete in global online events. These will happen every few hours and you can be competing with thousands of competitors from around the world to see who's the top dog (husky?). There are three types of event that fall into SSX's mantra - race it, trick it, survive it - and you can choose any of these, pick the mountain range and drop-off point for each one and then throw down the gauntlet to your other SSX playing chums.
But enough of the fluff, it's time for our hands-on. Straightaway we're tricking out like we remember in SSX 3. The button taps or analogue sweeps arc our boarder over ramps like a beautiful mid-air ballerina. It's familiar but in a perfect way as the control scheme from the previous game was almost zen-balanced. We carve through the fresh powder like a hot knife through butter on our way to cheeky grinds along the pipeline leading down this Alaskan mountainside.
Above: This is what's known in snowboarding parlance as 'a trick'
EA are keen for players to try their 3D physics engine, which sounded like a load of old PR talk to us, but actually allows riders to position their body to slide up and around pretty much every surface in sight - including nearly vertical cliff faces. We squeeze the right trigger for a turbo boost and are suddenly speeding toward a ramp that is essentially a leap of faith as we can't see what's over the edge. Turns out it's more ramps and we land a massive amount of tricks that unlocks Tricky mode. The next time we're in the air we're twirling the board around our rider's head like a propeller in an uber trick style. And when we land the shockwave - a new addition to Tricky mode - ripples the landscape as though it's been struck by a meteor.
There's also a rewind function in SSX this time around, so if you mess up a landing or fall off the mountain you can simply rewind back to your last safe bit. There's a new close up camera view so it feels as intimate as the default view in Skate. It adds a level of realism to the high-speed action and really shows off the slick animations during tricks. In short, SSX is already uber and we can't wait for this mooted PS3/360 demo to hit more than ever.
August 19, 2011