Nearly 4 months after launch, SSX
is still the only killer app for the PS2. I recently noticed in a flurry of launch week
coverage that we missed SSX. I had played it with so many of the other launch titles, but
was underwhelmed to say the least. The PS2 launch was such a let down it seemed to color
every title that I put in Sonys homely little black box. I did a couple of runs on
SSX and was content to call it Coolboarders with better graphics.
Ive had a
little time since the launch and my disappointment has been tempered somewhat with the
realization there are actually a couple of pretty good games out for the PS2, and one
great game. To compare SSX to other snowboard games might not really give you a clear idea
of what SSX is. Its more like Crazy Taxi and San Fransico Rush with some Tony Hawk
thrown in for good measure. As a video game reviewer I feel a certain sense of
responsibility to proclaim a great game to the world (even if it is a little after the
fact) and to offer a public penitence for my inability to see that there is at least one
great game on Sonys new system.
that perfect blend of realism and hyperrealism that I look for in so many games that I
play. I dont often want to play games that are so much like the real world that I
dont get to escape, but when the games are too unrealistic there isnt any
sense of risk or personal investment. The physics and handling of the racers seems fairly
grounded in reality (with just a little tweaking here and there) but some of the tracks,
on the other hand, are so incredibly outrageous that you cant help but feel like
youve crashed through the looking glass. This isnt for sim purists. It is an
in-your-face over-the-top race/trick game with lots of fireworks. This is a great game.
real stars of this game are the tracks. Besides being huge, they are also incredibly well
designed. The game starts off with just two open tracks that are entertaining but not
particularly mind-blowing. Its like the designers didnt want to overload your
senses too soon. In retrospect, Im really appreciative of how the tracks progressed
not only in terms of difficulty, but also in terms of sheer wackiness. Things really start
to get out of hand with the third track where youre racing through snow covered city
streets. The final track is an insanely huge iceberg complete with ice caves, tropical
islands and penguins. SSX takes a considerable amount of concentration to focus on the
racers and the race and not get overwhelmed by the passing scenery.
The graphics are impressive. The detail in the tracks and riders is unparalleled.
Surprisingly it wasnt the fireworks that go off throughout the tracks that really
impressed me; it was the little details like permanent tracks in the snow or how the fire
hydrants in the city would erupt when you bumped into them. There is no noticeable
slowdown in the graphics, which is really impressive when you consider how much is
happening on the screen at any given moment. I particularly liked the intuitive camera
work. The camera seems to pull back at just the right place so that you can truly savor
your jumps and tricks. It is the only title on the PS2 guaranteed to make jaws drop.
of solid racing and an inventory of dozens of tricks, there are a ton of little perks
peppered throughout the game. The tracks have some of the most enjoyable shortcuts that
Ive seen. Imagine cruising through a snow covered desert landscape (dont
ask), then falling down an abandoned mine shaft and grinding the old rail tracks.
Youre going to scour the tracks for shortcuts not because theyll shave seconds
off your best time, but because theyre so darn fun. I also liked being able to shove
other racers off their boards without penalty. Whats a racing game without a little
mischief? There could have been more characters, but it really wouldnt have made the
game any better or any worse. The characters that you have to choose from are varied and
interesting enough to keep you playing for hours.
Is it a race game or a trick game? I dont know. The simple fact that it is
impossible to define makes it a great game. Greatness always breaks a little from
tradition. Sometimes its nice to be reminded why I play games. I put so many games
into my consoles that I just have to get through in order to write the review. Playing SSX
was rediscovering the childhood joy that video games should be. The future doesnt
look so bleak for the PS2 with Starfighter, The Bouncer and Zone of Enders coming out
within the next few weeks--thank heavens we have at least one game on the system to tie us
over until the others arrive.
to admit to a certain level of Dreamcast myopia. I forgot in my rush to defend Sega that
its not about the system. Its about the games. Its always been about the
games. Its just that the Dreamcast has had a better record than others in that
department. But with Segas newfound "platform agnosticism" the great games
will be shared all around. It took me a while to admit that there was actually a great
game on the PS2, I just hope it doesnt take that long for the next good game to come
out. The PS2 has a long way to go before having a library that even begins to approach the
Dreamcast in terms of originality or gameplay, but if SSX is any indication, the potential
is there. I just hope they dont screw it up with endless variations on Final Fantasy
or Metal Gear.