I’ve come from the 1080 Snowboarding generation. And if my friends and I could milk that short six stage shredder for all it’s worth, you can imagine the sheer excitement when I got my hands on the fabulous SSX 3. I actually didn’t get a chance to play SSX Tricky because I didn’t own a Gamecube until later in it’s lifetime. Regardless, I doubt my view of SSX 3 would have been swayed much. This is definitely a game for snowboarding fans, but perhaps even those of you who tend to lean away from sports racers.
Once you hit the slopes of SSX 3 you’ll immediately realize just how massive the mountains are. Never have I seen a sport racing game that had so much to offer. Whether you want to progress race by race across the single player campaign, or you want to goof off and earn cash just by performing tricks across the mountain chain, the freedom in this game is truly what makes it special. Along with audio tracks, and an emulated radio station describing your progress throughout your entire career, you are immersed in a world that I simply haven’t seen in any other sports game. Select one of the nearly dozen tripped-out personalities, customize your outfit, and hit the slopes. As you rise from basic boarder to champion racer, you’ll pick up tons of cash, closets of gear, and be able to purchase stats that increase your player’s attributes such as speed, acceleration, spin, and balance. This alone is great motivation to shred some snow and improve your skills…even across multiple characters.
In addition to roaming freedom, variety is also the name of the game in SSX 3. You can race, challenge opponents to trick attack rides, or just show off at one of the many half-pipes across the mountain chain. As you progress, you’ll uncover more areas on the three mountains and discover hidden items that give you bonus cash and other prizes. And if that weren’t enough to get you exploring side slopes, you’ll also find challenge beacons strewn across the mountains that offer very scoped gameplay. Some may instruct you to board through a series of flags, while others might encourage you to make it down the course without wiping out. You can be sure that the harder the challenge, the bigger the reward so practice, practice, practice.
As you get deeper into the mountain chain, the courses become more dangerous and more exciting. You’ll race avalanches, avoid breaking ground, and keep jumping onto almost any straight surface so you can retain your top speed. And don’t forget to invite a friend to share in the fun with some 2 player action.
The only downside to the gameplay in SSX 3 is that occasionally you’ll find yourself sailing towards the horizon, only to realize that you’ve discovered the track boundary. You’ll get programmatically repositioned back in the middle of the track, which is a bit of downer because it ruins some of the esthetics and illusion of “go where ever you want”. But, for the most part, the expansive mountains are more than enough to let you wander freely.
SSX 3 deals with every issue I ever had with 1080 Snowboarding. One of the largest problems being the terrible learning curve and landing mechanics that became so frustrating, especially during competitive races. SSX 3, although clearly a less realistic approach to snowboarding, handles so much of the landing that you get to focus on the fun parts..pulling off insane chains of tricks and maneuvers not only in midair, but across rooftops, pipes, and grind poles. In fact, it’s so hard to fall in this game that you’ll feel like a superstar in no time. This might sound like a handicap, but it is really the perfect balance of skill and fun without becoming daunting to beginners. Press and hold A to jump and then simply press and hold a variety of buttons to pull of tweaks, grabs, and spins. This scheme is so basic that you can even button mash to execute standard maneuvers. But I assure you, the reward for learning the trick system by heart is far better. Chaining combos, prewinding, and achieving various levels of Uber tricks only cranks your score higher and makes your pockets billow with bills. Just make sure to let go (that’s right, I said let go) of all the buttons and joysticks before you hit the ground. As long as you give your character enough time to unwind and reorient themself, they will land perfectly and keep jetting down the mountain. This is why I love the thought and care that has gone into SSX 3’s mechanics. It truly satisfies everyone from the casual gamer to the most relentless perfectionist.
Replay Value: 9/10
Besides lacking an online multiplayer, I can’t imagine a game that is more fun to pick up and play. Even if there is nothing left to unlock or accomplish, you’ll eventually feel the twitch to hit the halfpipe and recall all your old tricks and combos. And if you do want to start fresh, you can always pick a new racer to become familiar with.
I think the visuals in SSX 3 are really superb. Considering the size and complexity of the three different mountains I’m still set back by the amount of detail and “stuff” that fills the entire game. There are buildings, plantlife, and rows of fans across nearly every inch of the slopes, which really makes for a fun and exciting atmosphere previous snowboarding titles simply didn’t provide. There are some nice particle effects as well while you perform tricks and attain higher levels of combo moves. Even the clothes and boards have a great amount of variety so you won’t ever feel unhip.
I’m not a punk rock or hip-hop fan, but I do love the musical selection in SSX 3. Even though it contains songs I’d probably never put on my mp3 player, they fit perfectly into the thrashing and threading atmosphere. Plus, music will change based on your current condition, so if you land a mondo Uber combo you can expect to hear the music start blaring when you stick it. I also like that you can select different tracks for your personal playlist, so that will help ensure I get enough variety without having to hear songs that don’t keep me motivated.
A game like SSX 3 comes chock-full of sound bytes and colorful quips from all the different boarders. Although these can eventually become a little aggravating, it’s ultimately a nice touch that really adds character to the game. Other sound effects like rail grinding, stumbling, or just smacking into a tree all sound very clean and well integrated.
If you’re as much a fan of snowboarding games as I am, this is a no-brainer. But even if you’re on the fence, I think SSX 3 is a great way to start becoming familiar with the rocked-out, halfpipe mentality you so sorely need. The game mechanics are developed intuitively enough that even if you haven’t hit the slopes before, you’ll be thrashing in no time. Or you can always just go to Colorado and enjoy the real thing. However, I prefer the sans-hospital bills approach. =D