SSX 3 Review (PS2)

Since its inception on the Playstation 2, “SSX” has been the king of snowboarding games. With steep competition this winter, can ““SSX 3”” retain it’s crown? Read on to find out.

“SSX 3” has four different modes of play: “Single Event”, “Conquer the Mountain”, “Multi-play” and “Online Play”. “Single Event” and “Multi-play” have your basic racing and freestyle modes. “Conquer the Mountain” is essentially the main mode of play; which will take up most of your gaming. “SSX 3” is also online for the PlayStation 2, where you’re able to compete in both racing and freestyle modes. Only two players are able to play online at the same time, but you can have up to four AI-controlled ‘bots. Voice chat is also enabled, but only for broadband users. The lack of a tutorial mode really makes the learning curve steep for gamers new to the series, but veterans of the series will still feel right at home.

Let’s get one thing straight - “SSX 3” is a true sequel to the original “SSX”. While “SSX Tricky” brought the bells and whistles with respect to graphics, nothing really changed in terms of gameplay. This isn’t the case with EA Big’s third installment. Instead of conquering level after level, you have to conquer an entire mountain. Within the mountain are three peaks; and each peak has essentially three modes of play: “Race”, “Big Air”, and “Freestyle”. The objective in “Race” and “Big Air” is to compete and place in the top three to obtain a medal; which it turn gives you more cash to fully customize your rider. While both modes are fun, they can also be quite tedious. Should I really have to ride the same course three times in order to obtain a medal? It literally takes 15 to 20 minutes to obtain one medal in some courses. “Freestyle” is a more laid back mode; where you basically ride around experimenting with the different environments within each peak. Within “Freestyle” mode, there are “BIG Challenges” that you can choose to compete in. Challenges go from grinding certain objects to collecting various items in chronological order. You progress from peak to peak by obtaining a certain amount of medals from competing in order to get a rider pass for each peak. You can also backtrack from peak to peak by using the local transport stations located in each of the three peaks. You’ll also find lodges where you can save your progress and customize your rider. This “Grand Theft Auto”-like method of non-linear snowboarding works exceptionally well, and each peak is filled with hidden items to keep you entertained for hours.

The core gameplay is essentially the same; you still use the shoulder buttons in different combinations to pull off tricks, along with your basic jump and turbo buttons. However, there is no way you can advance from peak to peak without utilizing the new advanced controls. The most noticeable addition to the core gameplay is “SUPER UBER” mode. The “UBER” concept was introduced in “SSX Tricky”; where a rider would max out his or her trick gauge by performing tricks until they reached “UBER” mode, which essentially enabled a new set of tricks. “SSX 3” takes this concept one step further by allowing a rider to continually stay in “UBER” mode as long as they are still performing “UBER” tricks. To enter “SUPER UBER” mode, a rider has to spell out “UBER” – it’s displayed above the trick gauge. To do this, you have to continuously fill up your trick gauge until the words “UBER” are highlighted. The tricks in “SUPER UBER” mode are insane. Not only do they give you a large amount of points, they also look really cool. But beware; you need a lot of air in order to successfully land a “SUPER UBER” trick. There is nothing more frustrating then entering “SUPER UBER” mode and falling flat on your face because you didn’t get enough air.

The folks at EA Big have also added a few minor gameplay enhancements. You’re now able to do board presses (manuals) by moving the right analog stick up or down corresponding to whether you want to perform a nose (front board balance) or tail (back board balance) press. Board presses are mainly used to link trick after trick to create one large combo. Learning how to use the board press feature is vital; especially when competing in the “Big Air” competitions. Grinding has also been revamped; mainly in terms of control. In the previous additions, grinding was extremely hard because you were never able to balance your rider. Balancing now is more trial and error, but once you get the feel for the analog sensitivity, it’s a breeze. You’re also able to do “UBER” grind tricks, by hopping on to a rail in “UBER” mode. While they do look cool, “UBER” grinds are only successful on rails that are rather long. There’s another cool gameplay advancement as well - the new re-spawn method. If you crashed in previous editions, you would have to press the Select button, which would re-spawn your rider back on the track. Now, when you’re falling, a re-spawn meter will appear below your rider. By rapidly pressing the turbo button, you’re now able to re-spawn instantly without losing any speed. Using this method will help you greatly during the time trails in “Race” mode.

While EA has constructed a phenomenal game in terms of gaming modes and mechanics, the character traits (or lack thereof) really hurt the overall variety. Every character starts off with the exact same attributes. In most snowboarding games, each character has different attributes with respect to a specified category. For example, one character would be good at performing tricks, but lack overall speed. Another rider could be a good at racing, but lack toughness. While you can improve your boarder’s abilities by purchasing attributes, there really is no point in starting another “Conquer the Mountain” mode with another character. Also, different snowboards have no effect on attributes or have any attributes on their own. While this hurts the replay value, it can be overlooked to an extent as the game does everything else extremely well.

“SSX 3” is a visual masterpiece. The amount of detail on each individual peak is spectacular. Everything from snow trails to the way the ice melts on screen is amazing. The size of each peak is enormous. Each peak has about five or six individual tracks connected to each other and the transitions from track to track are seamless. Avalanches and blizzards are handled really well, but there is a touch of slowdown during the initial process. The character models are very well done, if a bit generic. The character animations are good, but the crash animations are really stiff and need a lot of work. The game is also far too bright; the lack of shades and dark colors in the course design really put a strain on your eyes.

The sound effects are on par with just about every other snowboarding game. You’ll hear the slush of snow when carving, moaning when a rider falls, and the crowd cheer when you pass the finish line. Chances are you won’t even hear any of these sound effects because you’ll be too busy enjoying the incredible in-game soundtrack. The soundtrack includes artists such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Queens of the Stone Age, Jane’s Addiction, MXPX, N.E.R.D., K-OS, Black Eyed Peas, Fatboy Slim and Swollen Members. What makes this soundtrack better then most is the way EA incorporated a radio station and a disc jockey. You can also customize the soundtrack to your liking buy purchasing tracks in the ski lodge.

If you loved the previous versions, chances are you already have this game on your wish list. If you’re looking for a snowboard game this winter, “SSX 3” is a must. With tons of secret characters, missions, and tricks to unlock, you’ll be playing this game until the snow melts next spring. Although it does have its faults, “SSX 3” is arguably the greatest snowboarding game ever.


SSX 3 Score
out of 10