Keep in mind that all of these great features come in solitude, but SSX also incorporates an online system identical to Autolog, the social network-meets-Xbox Live-inspired competitive feature seen in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, to excellent effect. While you’ll be challenging yourself in a variety of methods in Explore mode, you’ll also find yourself striving to trump a number of competitors, including your friends list, to top their best scores. (One could argue that it’s glorified ghost data, but it’s a fine garnish on this sumptuous experience. Either way, be sure to check back in a week or so for an update on how SSX online is working with real-world gamers).
The best praise for SSX? Nothing is impossible. It just requires effort. But the rewards are so great, and the sheer pleasure, thrill and second-to-second gratification of discovering how to succeed are such joys in and of themselves, that it really won’t feel like an effort at all.
Is it better than...
Shaun White Snowboarding Yes. Even coming along in the lengthy period between last-gen's last SSX and this one, Shaun White's dull, pedestrian semi-realism couldn't fill the gap left by the series' ultra-kinetic acrobatic technicality.
SSX 3 No. While SSX is faster, smoother and more beautiful, SSX 3's vast open-world mountain range, free-flowing peak-to-bottom exploration and staggeringly affecting sense of place and life still make it the better game. But not being better than the best game in the series is no failure.
Amped 3 Yes. Amped 3 was okay, but its ludicrous Saints-Row-meets-Jackass tone, bitty event structure and overall underdeveloped feel mean that it pales in comparison to SSX's fully-formed, fleshed-out robustness of gameplay and content.
For those who skipped straight to the end
The wait was worth it. Full stop. While it doesn't top SSX 3 in terms of that game's vibrant sense of place, and is occasionally hampered by being hard for the wrong reasons, SSX is a vast, deep, beautiful and nuanced blend of showboating adrenalin and sharpened intelligent play. It's a demanding game, but its rewards are immense, providing a feeling you won't get anywhere else in gaming.