Geographical Locations and Gameplay
Unlike most of the previous SSX, the snowboarding environment is taken through actual real-world locations, such as the Alps, the Rockies, etc. The reason was to give the game a more realistic feel to it as people play, but I find that I kind of miss the made-up locations from the original SSX and SSX 3. In SSX 3, all events took place on a single mountain divided into different sections, allowing for the player to easily customize what route down the mountain they wanted, but in this one, there are so many locations that freestyling it doesn’t hold the same appeal.
In addition to the real-world feel that the game provides, there is also significant change in just what events can be played. Locations typically have a “Track It” option for racing against other characters, as well as a “Trick It” option to do snowboarding tricks for points. In the previous games, there were more options for what to do, including specific events that were Trick-only related, but I haven’t seen any of those in this game, which really makes it lose points for me. The whole object of the game seems to be the best at all of the locations, so that you can win against the game’s antagonist (another snowboarder known as Griff), giving it some sense of a storyline progression, but for the most part it is very much a self-selection type of game.
Characters and Gear
Whereas in the other games, you can pick from several available characters to be your player-avatar, in this version you start out with a specific character and have to unlock others along the way. I didn’t bother to unlock any of the others, mostly because the starting character was the one I typically choose for myself anyways, and the fact that unlocking the others require me to spend in-game reward cash that I prefer to put to other uses, such as gear. As a character, I find my choice to be well-balanced and easy to keep track of.
In the previous games, there was the option to change outfits and snowboards in the hopes of making the performance different, and those have remained, but some additions have also been made. Along with the standard cosmetic gear, boosts can be bought to enhance the abilities of the character, but there’s a catch: the boosts aren’t universal and can only be applied to the tracks that they’re bought at. This does kind of limit their abilities as well as severely drains the in-game cash rewards given at the end of the races, but it does allow for a wide array of variety throughout the different locations.
Unlike the previous games—which were too old to have the option—the new SSX allows players to upload their own songs to create a customizable playlist for when they are snowboarding around. I haven’t done this yet, as I actually enjoyed most of the musical arrangements for the game, but I can imagine that it is a big hit for people who like a certain type of music that the game doesn’t fit with.
Another feature is the DLC for the game, specifically the addition of two new modes of gameplay. One is the ability to have live, multiplayer capability, allowing for up to five different individuals to play against/with one another in a Track or Trick event, making the game even more realistic. The other is a freeride ability, allowing for the player to freely run along a mountain location without actually being in either the Track of Trick events; this allows for freestyling throughout the game without having to adhere to any specifics, allowing for excellent practice of tricks and boosting abilities.
While it is the most glamorous of games, it was enjoyable, but I don’t see myself playing it often, if for no other reason that because it can become quite frustrating when I don’t land a specific trick in order to win even 3rd place. It’s more of a mindless, pointless bit of fun with no real goal other than to enjoy myself, and there are times when that is exactly what I need, but I really do like the kind of games that have a plot to it. The “race against Griff before he wins” portion of the game tries to build off of that kind of mentality, but there isn’t much of it to make it a lasting aspect of the game, instead making it more of a minor annoyance than an actual help to the progression.
All in all, though, I’d say it was worth the money spent, though I’m more thankful I waited until the price had gone down. I don’t consider this a “must-have” right out of the bat and can only wonder what the next game (if there is a next game) will be like.