The biggest fear I had walking into E3 was seeing SSX going the way of many sitcoms…serious. SSX has always bordered on the line of parody as far as sports games go: vibrant characters with their own definable styles, mountains had their own flavor, and the tricks that made the game what it is are still burned into my brain. But after seeing the pre-E3 teaser trailer it began to seem as though we would be looking at the series going in a more serious direction as opposed to wacky game its known to be. This is why I’m grateful I came to E3. EA has matured the franchise but kept what makes the series great. The physics have changed a little bit more requiring the player to be a little more precise about how they land, but it never hinders the player’s ability to get tricky. Springing up and going tricky will be familiar to veteran players and will be easy to pick up for those new to the series.
The presentation had three big points, “race it, trick it, survive it.” Race it and trick it are what we have been doing for the entirety of the series, so this time around to give us something with a little more kick we get “survive it“.
Starting at the top of a mountain your goal is to get as far down as you can and avoid getting stuck under avalanches which you yourself start. The snow is the unsung hero of this game and EA is paying attention. Snow itself can take many forms: ice, slush, powder, pack etc, EA takes this into account when building their survive it routes. When the force of your board exceeds the stress limit of something like pack or icy snow then the snow will collapse resulting in a avalanche. The faster you go, the more force on the snow, the more avalanches you cause. This creates a loop of intensity that doesn’t end until you are swallowed whole or make it all the way down. Your progress is shown by large graphic numbers on the wall stating how far down you’ve gotten. Get to the bottom or get buried; there is a reason why it’s called survive it.
The one disappointing thing about the demonstration was that the tricks were not quite what they used to be. While it is just the demo it seems like that should have been the main focus. Tricky is kind of a catch phrase for the game. Basic back flip 360s off your board have been done many times before to great effect, but I was hoping for something bigger.
The start of the race section started us at the top of Kilimanjaro, but as opposed to starting everyone at the gate you start around the ring of the volcano and drop in. The race takes us through the heart of the volcano with multiple routes and jumps. Short cuts are abound and there are plenty of places to explore which is generally new in the SSX franchise.
The coolest thing that came out of the new SSX is the use of NASA topography maps in the creation of the levels. EA has taken the topo maps of much of the elevated world and run it through a program that can map the entire mountain in 27 seconds and create potential routes. It’s then up to the staff to make it ride-able.
No news yet about the characters other than Elise Riggs, Mackenzie Fraser and Kaori Nishidake. The demo for E3 was impressive and still in beta so I cannot wait to see what EA has for us in the coming months when it goes to alpha. We will have more news as it develops. Check in at EA Sports SSX Facebook page for more info on the characters or keep checking in here.