When SSX was released by EA in 2000, it was kind of a big deal…in my house anyway. With my husband in a Tony Hawk Pro Skater feedback loop, a break from all the virtual skateboarding was certainly welcome. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m an action sports supporter, not an action sports participant. The day I go hucking myself off cliffs and ramps will probably be my last day on earth. I just don’t have the coordination, let alone the drive and stamina needed for such activities. I’ll gladly leave all the judo airs, 1080s, superman seat-grabs, and rodeo backflips to the professionals.
SSX was the first in a now-quite-popular series of snowboarding games. Neither of us had (and one of us never will) tried snowboarding when we first got the game, and the sport wasn’t quite as popular as skateboarding in the action sports world. (Popular being a very relative term here – skateboarding was still in a comeback state then.) Even so, it was one of the first PS2 titles we got for that lovely new console because it simply looked like so much damn fun.
SSX also hearkened back to a simpler time of gaming, for it was well…a pretty simple game. With four character open at the start of the game (and four that were unlocklable), all you had to do was pick one and then pick your mode of play: tricks or racing. While my husband tended towards the former mode, I always tended towards the latter.
While there was no doubt that SSX was a great snowboarding game, it was also a fantastic racing game. I mean, with cars at most you’re going around tracks through tunnels, over mountains, and across rivers, but the perspective is generally flat. In SSX, you had to navigate crazy drops, turns, and obstacles without warning or hesitation. With another player, the game when into split screen, which wasn’t the worst thing because it made the action feel tight and intense. SSX’s level designs were brilliant, scary, and made for some serious vertigo-like moments.
Now, I was never very good at pulling off tricks — I just wanted to come in first place no matter what, so I can’t speak much to the games controls in that arena. The mechanics of just racing were simple enough for anyone to grasp. Move forward as fast as you could and avoid obstacles. That was easier said than done. While it was easy enough for me to memorize flat tracks in most racing games, SSX’s levels were different beasts entirely. Each offered an array of ways to get from the top to the bottom of the slope; and no matter how many times I replayed a level, I was guaranteed to find a new way down each time. So memorization only worked to a point.
On of the most enjoyable things about SSX was its sheer prettiness. It made the absolute most of the that Playstation 2 offered in terms of graphical power. The environments fell somewhere between realistic and cel shaded. As much as I tried to concentrate on winning, I was bound to be distracted by some cool looking obstacle or a set of trees that just made perfect sense. And while I personally wasn’t that impressed with the character models, they did look better than those in, say, Tony Hawk. Speaking of the game’s characters, I never really found one that I preferred. I’m sure their appeal was in their trick sets, but they all were about the same when it came to just reaching the finish line. Oh, and by the way…the soundtrack? P-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l.
In 2012, EA released a reboot of SSX for current gen consoles. This version of the game offered a story mode, online play, and new elements like body armor and wingsuits. We rented the game and my husband played through it fairly quickly. When he asked me if I wanted to give it a go, I declined. I was happy enough holding onto my original race-based SSX memories. Besides, if given the choice, I’d much rather risk my life behind the wheel of a fast-moving vehicle than on a board careening down the side of a snow-covered mountain.