For fans of the SSX series it sure has been a long wait, with the last multi-platform title coming from all the way back in 2005 and the last entry in the franchise, SSX Blur, released all the way back in 2007 exclusively on the Nintendo Wii. With last year's reveal of a new next-gen SSX title which didn't have the best impressions from the fans, many have been left wondering if this new SSX is a return to form or just another gimmicky release. From our hands-on time with the game at E3, we can safely say that long-time fans of the series will feel right at home.
The demo started off with the ability to pick the mountain range we wanted to play on. EA has crafted quite an interesting menu for the game, which uses NASA's topography data to generate the mountains and the Earth in real-time. Simply move the analog stick and you can move from one range to another. It's much more intuitive and entertaining than a generic menu system and was a great start to the demo.
To start off the demo, the developers picked Mt. Kilimanjaro and chose the option to have a race towards the bottom. For fans of snowboarding games, it's well-known that those that try to be too realistic often make their game too boring while those that go for a more "cartoonish" approach often make their game seem un-lifelike. With the NASA imagery we initially thought the latter might be the case here, but once the demo started it became clear that EA Canada wasn't afraid to tweak the data they were given to place in the ramps and obstacles that the series has been known for in the past. The routes weren't linear either, with the developers going through alternate routes numerous times before reach the end, often needing to perform big enough tricks to get to them.
The second part of the demo detailed the "Deadly Descents" moniker that the game originally had in North America when the game was first revealed. Veteran character Elise was tasked with riding down the mountain as the mountain itself tried to bury her alive. This mode has the camera pan out away from the action to show off the entirety of the mountain and provided quite a neat effect when seen in action. The crux of this mode involves how the player rides down the mountain, as going for riskier routes may help scale the player farther and faster down the mountain at the risk of causing a larger avalanche or some other catastrophic event. According to the developers the dangers and obstacles will be randomly generated so each ride down the mountain will be different from the last.
Afterwards, we got hands-on time with the game trick mode. We could either use the face buttons or use the right analog stick, with the latter surprisingly being the easier of the two to use likely due to the sensitivity that a stick provides. Performing tricks was easy enough although we did notice a few areas of the mountain off-the-beaten-path that had some wonky physics issues, but with the game still in heavy development those small and minor issues will almost assuredly be fixed in the coming months. As for items and equipment, which have long been a mainstay in the SSX series, the developers weren't ready to talk about it just yet but we could see some options during the demo that hinted towards the ability to equip them.
SSX will be released next January on the PS3 and Xbox 360.