What’s not so simple however, is how you choose to use that loop. Just as Street Fighter IV (or any good fighting game for that matter) is really about knowing how and when to most intelligently and creatively use the tools at your disposal on a second-by-second basis, so too is SSX about using your increasing mastery of your bag of tricks to maximize your success at every turn.
From defeat comes greatness
You’ll need to understand, for example, that big air is a godsend for trick-based events, in which “go big or GTFO” is the order of the day. But in the throes of a race, you’ll need to decide on the best methods for keeping your combo (and thusly, your boost) alive while avoiding too much flight time.
This is a game that revels in the sheer joy and control of movement like few others this generation, while also marrying it to a need for disciplined, intelligent play in a way that results in not the hampering of either element, but rather the glorious, thrilling concentration of both via mutual emphasis.
In this new SSX there is also the addition of Deadly Descent events, in which you simply have to make it to the bottom of a particularly long back-country run as a brutal natural hazard tries its best to kill you. A couple of these, alas, provide the game’s only real bum-notes through being overly hard for the wrong reasons: either boosting the challenge via too many contrived fiddly control demands (manual-operated oxygen tank, we’re looking at you) or somewhat unclear track layout (random death-drops of the Wing Suit challenge, we’re looking at you). That said, they also provide some of the most epically cinematic setpieces in a game that already operates on an epic scale as standard.
Core gameplay established as wonderful, the other main thing you need to know about SSX is that it is huge. How huge? Put it this way. There are two main game modes, World Tour and Explore. World Tour is the story-driven campaign. It takes place in nine different mountain ranges, each comprising three different peaks and approximately five to seven events. It’s as big as you’d expect the main game to be, and took us well over ten hours to complete. But when you did, we hit Explore mode and we realized that World Tour was essentially a giant, game-sized tutorial for the main event.
Just when you thought you had it all figured out...
Where World Tour splits each mountainside into a couple of different branching routes and a couple of different events, Explore deconstructs the same geography on a granular level, squeezing five to seven challenges out of each mountainside alone. Suddenly the nuances and pacing of each slope will make sense on a whole new level.
That inconveniently jumpy bit that was so tricky to swiftly navigate during the last part of that mountainside race? Well how about starting there, and treating it like a short, brutally intensive trick park, tasked with maximizing your score in a really brief space of time? That long, snow-blind Deadly Descent, whose limited visibility saw you relieved simply to finish in World Tour? How about an infinitely looping version, which now has a full three-medal system that demands you complete it multiple times in a row for a gold? Start Explore and you’ll rapidly realize that World Tour was simply practice for the real depth of the game – including the full RPG experience that seemed so obtuse during World Tour. Now you’ll have access to individual character stats for the whole cast and even purchasable passive buffs to aid speed and trick quality. Completing Explore’s 154 (yes, 154) challenges will take just as much canny character management and development as skilled, intelligent riding.
Make no mistake, winning at this stuff is demanding. Opponent trick scores and race times may seem impossible to beat at first. You’ll struggle to understand how you can finish behind by 20 seconds or five million points despite nailing what you thought was a perfect run. But then you’ll start considering that maybe you used the wrong character. That maybe your board, gear and buff load-out wasn’t right. That maybe you need to session the route for another hour to find that hidden optimum route that you’re missing.