So, SSX is back. The popular Snowboarding franchise from last generation has returned but is it a glorious comeback or a cash in on a much loved name?Before I tell you too much I should make you aware that what I played was pre-alpha; the booth rep pointed out to me that a lot of the controls, as well as other things, could change before the November launch. As far as the controller layout’s concerned, let’s hope it does. My biggest gripe with the game was its incredibly weird steering. Previous SSX games were very precise, which was necessary for those twisting bits, but the new SSX feels off. Your character barely moves if you give the control stick a quick tap but will then make very long turn if you hold it. Through multiple runs I just couldn’t find the right balance. I was constantly carving either much farther than intended or nowhere near far enough. Perhaps it’s something you can get used to, but it left a bad impression after my demo.
Other control changes include moving grabs off the shoulder buttons and onto face buttons, while moving boost to the left trigger. Not a horrible change, but one that takes getting used to. What is a bad change is the addition of a grind button. No longer can you just line yourself up with a rail and grind away, you now need to hold the left trigger as you approach. Certainly seems an unnecessary addition. The game does, however, look fantastic. While EA was only showcasing one course, the Himalayas, environments looked sharp, snow effects looked great and it appears that EA Canada took fans’ advice, making some nice improvements to the boring UI shown at E3. While I don’t feel it quite measures up to the level of style found in On Tour or SSX3, it does look good, and far less generic than it did in previous builds. Sadly, the booth lacked headphones, and the PAX Exhibition hall is a very loud place, so I was unable to hear the soundtrack; which any fan would assure you is one of the most important parts of any SSX game. On the plus side, the developers at the booth assured me they know this and are paying special attention to the soundtrack.
Also returning from previous SSX games are the signature Uber-tricks, the death-defying stunts you can perform once the Tricky meter is filled, which work the same as in previous SSX games. The tricks themselves are performed as they were in On Tour, a quick flick of the right stick initiating one of four Uber tricks or chaining them together. The tricks themselves are as outlandish as they were previously, almost always involving unstrapping and doing something crazy with your board. Nothing quite as insane as pretending to play guitar with it, but those were always later game tricks. My main point here is that those worried about SSX trying to be some sort of realistic boarding game a la Skate need not worry, it still feels like an over-the-top arcade game.
While the controls really bugged me, they’re not final and it may just have been my expectation for everything to feel exactly like the old games that prevented me from grasping the slightly different steering right away. Either way, it definitely shows promise, the course design was fantastic and it’s good to see the EA Canada team taking fan concerns into consideration. I’m certainly excited for it when it comes out this November.