Aside from the occasional arcade only game, there haven't been many titles out there to satisfy gamers of the alpine persuasion. Now, thank the great gods of gaming, we have SSX:3.
SSX:3 is designed around a single mountain that is divided into 3 separate peaks. Logically, in real life you could begin at a single point and go down however you wish and SSX:3 enables you do this to a large extent. Imagine this: put a dot at the very tip of the mountain, draw a line down, and keep splitting that line until you have a web going to the base of the mountain.
That's in essence how the overworld is set up, with the tracks set-up as different sections of that web and a supply station at each peak. So you can at a point and go to anything below that by snowboarding. In fact, there is an all-peak race where you start at the summit and go all the way down
. That single race will take you roughly 30 minutes. This gives you an excellent sense of scale and freedom, but you don't have to worry about tedious travel times either. Once you've unlocked a place, you can instantly travel to the beginning of whatever peak it's on.
Now on to one of the game's greatest strengths, its track or route set-up. The courses are extremely diverse and well thought out. Alternate routes are everywhere; not all of them marked. With a simple jump at the right time, you can find yourself far away from the crowd, either hurtling down at insane speed or stuck in soft powder and no matter where you turn, there is seemly some kind of little feature in the terrain, such as a dip, a jump, a fallen tree, or a snow bank that you can utilize. Each place shows evidence of careful planning and craftsmanship.
The music in SSX:3 is top notch. Instead of going the usual route and synthesizing some of their own music, EA games has had artists create remixes of current works or make something completely new. You may
recognize such well-known names as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Yellow Card, and Fat Boy Slim. While the music may not be to everyone's taste, it's fast, energetic, and perfectly suited for a game where you purposefully throw yourself off nose bleed cliffs. One point that may be good or bad depending on how you see it: the music is not simply played, but instead "broadcasted" by a DJ over a radio station (EA Radio BIG). I thought it was a nice touch; it helped create the illusion that this is a live event, but if it gets annoying you can always turn off the DJ or even go to ambient sounds only. As a final bonus, EA BIG included a feature that should be mandatory: a play list. Once you've earned a song you will be able to turn it on and off.
EA BIG obviously put some effort into making sure you come back to SSX:3 even after you've played for a while. For one, it will take you a long
time to earn everything, especially if it's your first go around with SSX.
Available to you are various purchasable items like clothes, snowboards, music, and tricks. Special challenges and collectible cash scattered over the slope of the mountain add on as well. Of course, there's always multiplayer where you can compete against your friends or siblings in almost all of the events of the single player. However, the game isn't dependent on multiplayer so if you don't have anyone who can/wants to play with you, it's still just as fun to play for a while, then just pick it up again a month or two later.
The in-game physics in SSX:3 are rock solid and they should never give you cause to complain. The engine easily handles whatever combination of tricks you may think up without missing a beat. By the time you make it to the third and final peak you'll be able to pull off such insane tricks that the game will not even be able to name it. You'll just see "???" and the consistency of the physics make it easier to pull impossible tricks off, without you having to rely on some glitch. The only problem I've noticed is that I'm sometimes able to grind rails upside down, but that's just a cool little bonus to me.
The Characters... or lack thereof
One of the first things I noticed playing SSX:3 is that the playable characters are exactly the same. There's basically no reason to pick one over the other, except for personal appeal because your stats will end up the same no matter who you use, everyone has access to the same tricks, and even some of the equipment is interchangeable. The character's build makes little difference either because of the way the games physics are set
There are some differences besides the aesthetic though. Each character has their own set of clothing unique to them and it's worth playing with each one just to hear their comments. Unfortunately, the commentary by the characters is the only way to really get to know the character. The biographies are extremely short and don't tell you much that's useful. Something else that disappoints me is that, though they allude to it through Radio BIG, you barely see any character interaction and that's always been part of SSX's appeal: seeing all these wacked out sports superstars bouncing off each other.
Challenge and Collectible design
I mentioned before that the various challenges and collectibles scattered over the mountain really help with replayability and they do, but the design could've been much better in places. The collectibles (they give you extra cash to spend) are sort of randomly scattered with little thought, the same goes for the challenges. Challenges are represented by a greenish beam of light on the course. In order to do a challenge you must run into that beam and then you receive the objective and rules for that particular challenge.
The problem is that, like the collectibles, they can be very easy to miss and it's hard to get back up the mountain once you've passed them. That in it self isn't too bad, but many of the challenges are set up so that you have to rely on luck more than skill. My controller went flying several times while I played SSX:3, and it was always because of a challenge.
SSX:3 is a solid and entertaining game that anyone can pick up and enjoy. It successfully blends superb level design and physics to make it worthy of the title "best snow-board game ever".
This review written by IVIaedhros, who grades lower than most
Gamespot's review and linksSSX:3 homepage: Click here to listen to samples of the music and see the characters.Buy this game