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SSX 3 (PlayStation 2) artwork

SSX 3 (PlayStation 2) review

"Back in 2001, SSX was one of the most successful launch titles for the PlayStation 2, and to this day, it remains as a landmark in the PlayStation 2 library. Hot off of the success of the original came SSX Tricky. EA BIG went out and swapped up the best voice acting available to make the series a star studded event to be seen. Sadly, a lot of the overall value felt overproduced and a bit shallow. It felt as if the series had traded in the “little hype, all game” feel for an overdone Hollywood pr..."

Back in 2001, SSX was one of the most successful launch titles for the PlayStation 2, and to this day, it remains as a landmark in the PlayStation 2 library. Hot off of the success of the original came SSX Tricky. EA BIG went out and swapped up the best voice acting available to make the series a star studded event to be seen. Sadly, a lot of the overall value felt overproduced and a bit shallow. It felt as if the series had traded in the “little hype, all game” feel for an overdone Hollywood production atmosphere. Well over a year has past, and the thoughts of SSX had been put on the back burner for the likes of the recent Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The hype was practically dead, but SSX 3 has restored the series’ spotlight. Is it worth all of the hype, or is it a mere stump on the forest?

First and foremost, the voice-acting cast is out of the picture. We no longer have to cope with David Arquette’s annoying howls with every Misty Indy we pull off. The voices have been replaced with other, quality voice actors that likely cost a lot less than the star struck polygons could tolerate. The voice acting is done well, even in comparison to the fully loaded cast of the second game in the series.

Another drastic change in the gameplay includes the fact that you will no longer roam on separate slopes in different locations, but rather an entire, crystal snow mountain that consists of three “Peaks.” Each Peak contains a series of courses that you must receive a medal on to progress through the game. This allows the gamer to have complete freedom with where you go, including your choice of entering the race competition itself, or simply taking you time down uncharted landscapes in the Freeride by simply going in the opposite direction.

Which brings us to the fact that this is a drastic change in the way that the game feels. Out is the overall feel of worldly locations, and in is the feel of one gigantic area for you to play your heart out in. This will leave a very bitter taste in the mouth of many fans of the series in general, although I found it quite refreshing. Either way you go about it, you will definitely get used to it, and it may even grow on you. The mountain, while only a mere rock, is huge in structure. You will be playing this one a lot longer than your average snowboarding title.

Speaking of the gigantic mountainsides that the game provides you with, visually, they are a lot alike. Of course, the backgrounds will vary from a cloudless blue sky to the cloudy sunsets to the city skyline at the very bottom of the mountain. Regardless of background, the courses are all very similar, which is a terrible blow to the game, overall. Still, even with the areas that look alike around 70% of the time, the courses feel just different enough to be able to distinguish them from one another, and they all have a unique feel as you progress through the mountain.

As for how the game progresses itself, you will start out with any racer of your choice, with empty statistic slots. You fill these up by spending money that you earn by passing missions, winning races, performing better than other boarders in the Freestyle competitions, and collecting snowflakes throughout the Freeride. After you have completed the select amount of Races and Freestyles on a Peak, you will be challenged by a random rival on the Peak. These races and freestyles are the only truly hard areas of the game besides the Big Challenges, which vary in difficulty, and get much harder as you go along, unlike the Freestyle competitions and Races.

The Peaks themselves have somewhat of a theme, and the difficulty never really skyrockets opposed to previous Peaks in the game. While Peak 3 is a bit tougher than Peak 1, especially on the specific Rival Challenges at the end of a Peak, the game never really hits you in the face with the difficulty leap. This can easily be marked off as a good thing, but going back with completely maximized statistics on the first race competition is only slightly less difficult than when you had naked statistics in your specific character’s meter.

Replay value is one of the categories in overall gameplay that seemingly bursts through the seams and into your face. There are several riders to choose from in the game, and you will start out fresh with each character you choose. There are over 400 Collectible items to grab on the slopes of the mountain, over 80 mission-based challenges, 17 events to compete in, and a slew of unlockables that you can purchase from the dough you’ve saved up over the course of the game. You can also unlock skins of riders in the previous games of the series, including Hiro, Luther, Brodi, and Eddie, not to mention newcomers like Unknown Rider (a G.I. Joe villain-like ninja), Churchill (a steam stack robot), and Stretch (from NBA Street fame).

Gameplay remains the same as always, with new options of customizing the tricks that you will perform for your “Uber” special moves, and those death-defying “Super Uber” specials, to boot. The game plays like a tighter, less-smooth version of the game that everyone has muttered “Say wha??” about. The controls are a little too tight for their own good, and you actually get the feel of “Oh my God” if you happen to screw up on a straightaway that leads down several cliffs, ramming your character into sharp rocks along the way. This is one of the few gaming experiences that is hard to put into words, although I guess the best way to sum it up is by saying that it is nearly identical to the nightmares you have of falling down a large flight of stairs without hitting a single one before you splat against the ground.

Visually, the game is a Godsend on such casual and basic ideas. While the graphics are lovely, they are nothing completely revolutionary. We have seen it before, for the majority, with SSX Tricky, with the small exception of better character maps, and a wider scale on the complete view from high places. As stated, it is nothing that we haven’t seen before, but mere pictures of the game cannot speak words, as with most games today, they simply look jagged. Put the entire frame in motion, and you have visual poetry that captures your breath, and holds it for ransom.

Once all of the pieces are brought together, you have a fulfilling gameplay experience for the average gamer, and a delightful redundancy that seems more tuned for the gamer that knows too much for their own good. Fans of the series will weep with joy, as their favorite series just got as good as it gets... until the next installment, anyway. If you disliked the sequel due to the magic lost from the original, then I think it is safe to say that this one’s a good buy. Anyone can play, few can master, and even fewer have the time to beat the game 100% with every character. If you have a lot of time on your hands, this game is the one for you.

Graphics: 9.0
It is all basic stuff. It is the standard in the genre, with a little bit more flair. But the way it is pulled off rather than the entire picture itself is brilliance on a disc. Too few developers and programmers have worked together to make the environments themselves come alive and strangle you, yet EA BIG does it once again. This is not a game to show off to your buddies, graphically, but once they start playing it, they will appreciate it without you having to mention how pretty it truly is.

Sound: 8.0
The sound is one of the more average categories, especially for having a separate soundtrack dedicated to the music. EA did a great job of hiring good voice actors for each individual part, most notably the disc jockey for Radio BIG, the in-game radio station that plays repetitive techno remixes of songs like the hippie classic, “Signs,” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of the great Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Voice acting is the plus, the music is the minus.

Gameplay: 9.0
About as solid as a snowboarding game can get. The controls all work very smoothly together, and the environments blend with perfect harmony. This is the type of game that you would allow your child, your girlfriend, your Christian friend, and your Satanist friend to play. Whether they get along in the same room is not the point, but rather having fun while playing the game. The controls could use some sedatives, but other than that, it’s the game that we have come to know and love.

Entertainment: 9.5
Damn near unbreakable. There are more than a handful of characters to play as from the start with nearly 700 overall objectives and unlockables for each character. It takes around two weeks of non-stop gameplay to complete the game with one character, much less the amount of characters that are in the game. The only thing that truly hurts SSX 3 in the long run is the fact that the variety of things to do lacks between different characters: more or less, it’s all the same of a good thing.

Overall: 8.5
Simply put, this game is a riot to play. It will bring back solid nostalgia from a couple of years ago when the original SSX was popular and in full effect for an awesome gaming experience. For the freaks out there that have more than three months of free time on their hands, I wholeheartedly recommend this title to both you and your friends. Anyone can pick it up and play it to the core. SSX 3 proves that not every title needs to have a flashy gimmick for a certain range of people to succeed for everyone. While it’s not the original SSX, it picks the ball up from where SSX Tricky’s lack of originality dropped it. A brave and successful outing by EA BIG.

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Community review by zoop (February 05, 2004)

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