So, I loved the original SSX games. Winter sports never held much appeal to me in real life, but the reckless abandon of speeding down a mountain and contorting a character's body into insane tricks made me a lifelong fan of EA's snowboarding series.
Naturally, when I heard about the mega-publisher's impending reboot, I was worried. But, after spending a good chunk of time with SSX this week, I'm putting those fears to rest. In fact, I'm even thinking that Neo-SSX might even be better than the games I loved.
You get to fly in this SSX, courtesy of the game's all-new wingsuits. It's not all-out Superman-style flight but it's still an exhilarating feeling. A press of the shoulder button spreads a character's limbs and lets the player waft over the game's snowy landscapes. You can do this at any time but it's absolutely crucial during the game's Survival races. The trails in this mode feature huge gaps that will require the wingsuit to cross. You'll jump as normal, deploy the wingsuit and glide across the crevasses. It's not as easy as it sounds, though, because you'll be fighting wind and your own trajectory. The gaps will have multiple ramps and if you steer the wrong way, you'll sail straight into a cliff face. The new SSX will sport a rewind feature that spins back tie, but you only have three rewinds on Survival tracks, so you'll need to use them wisely.
The usual tricks-give-you-boost mechanics still apply and a filled-up boost bar will let you get a nice burst of momentum in approaching a ramp. It took me a while to get acclimated to the changed-up controls of the new SSX but once I did, the tricks came easily. But, if the thought of new controls worries you, the EA rep on hand did say that an option for classic controls will be in the game.
My biggest takeaway from the time I spent playing SSX was that the world maintains its arcade-y feel while looking more realistic than ever. You remember how you'd land board-side down on a vertical stretch of mountain but still bail on a trick in the old SSX? Doesn't happen here. This gameworld's like a giant snowy playground designed to squeeze exuberance out of you and it feels like you can trick off of nearly anything. You'll crash and bail but that feels more like the result of player skill than a resistant world.
I never thought I'd want to fly in a game that already lets you do crazy, over-the-top snowboarding tricks, but it feels like a true evolution of the ethos of SSX. Unlike other games coming out this year, EA's new SSX might just replace gamers' nostalgia for its predecessors with something better. Now that's tricky.