In the year 2000, when I was nowt but a wee youngling of eight years old, EA Sports, BIG!, made their début appearance with a game series launch right into my best friend’s living room.
At this age I was still Banjo Kazooie’ing & Lego Racer’ing on the N64 (I never even got Pokémon Stadium… my childhood was so deprived… Though that’s not to say that my early gaming life was without Pokémon at all, but that’s a different story altogether!) whereas my best friend of the time and still a good friend, one of those ones who lives a few hours away and I only ever see once every few years but, should our paths meet, will instantly get on and have a good time together… back on track… his name was Max and he had a PS2 and my very earliest memories of his console (Stepping aside from Crazy Taxi and the later Rachet & Clank, Rayman and… to be fair I can’t remember any other specific games in particular) was that of the first in a short line of games that completely blew my mind.
Super Snowboarding Xtreme!!
Or at least that’s what we thought it stood for. If the furious jungle drumming there, glass explosions, wild trails of light and screaming to a horrible rocky death didn’t quite get the message across: this game made the Cool Boarders look like a sensibly (and comfortably) dressed woman on the brink of the menopause having a shop around Waitrose for a nice new cardigan. It wasn’t trying to be realistic in any way, it wasn’t trying to be cool, it was just completely insane. A host of ridiculous characters from around the globe, who fiend extreme sports of any kind, have come together for some sort of high octane world tournament in extreme snowboarding; 1000ft drops, tricks that defy all human possibility and physics, loop the loops, mile long grind rails, the ability to punch and take down your opponents and of course, the smooth sounds of Rahzel (Yeah you remember… “If your mother only knew… ptchh bwaaamp!!”)… OH THE TASTE OF SNOW!!
Enter the first of the Dragons. The original SSX.
I know Max used to love the US skateboard affiliated, cool kid wonder, Mac Fraser, but as for myself, UK London boy Moby Jones (The guy in red and gold on the game front cover there.) was always my character of choice.
SSX never limited you to just plain white powder mountains and variated jump heights, it had snaking tracks that wound through outback mountain ranges, low level powder parks, steady dropping canyons, even a city… even, what appeared to be, an insane giant pin-ball-machine-inspired track called the Tokyo Megaplex. The cocky characters always had something funny to say, whether it was to themselves or to the other riders, you could go plug in another controller and race your mate to the bottom and hopefully leave them face down in some yellow snow and of course, all the while, listening to mad funky beats, courtesy of the Mix Master Mike & Rahzel.
But then, only one year later, it all got so much wilder…
It’s tricky to rock a rhyme…
SSX Tricky was possibly one of the first games I got given for the PS2, as I rightfully had one by the time of its release and it was possibly the best game… second best… on the PS2 that I ever had. Why? Because it was just like SSX, but with even more ‘awesome’ in it.
With the introduction of the Ginger Fro donning Eddie, Max had a new favorite player of choice, but I stuck to my routes with the return of Moby (And there lies one of the powerful running features of the series; all the best characters just kept coming back for more) but now we had even more scope to push our characters to the limit. I can’t really remember much about the first game but I’m sure the ability to change costume and boards existed and this still remained the same for Tricky, with the introduction of some sort of ultimate unlockable board and suit for each character, I believe there were slightly more characters in Tricky than there were in SSX which had just eight, though some were new and some of the old ones gone. But the most advanced move (Other than a whole new selection of tracks and updated oldies that were all, credibly, even more insane) was the addition of the “Tricky” at the top of the boost meter, now you didn’t just go up to full red powered boost, if you hit the Tricky stage of the bar, you were able to bust out the most incredible and illogical tricks on a snowboard ever known to gaming man, known as “Tricky” moves, I think and for each one you busted you’d earn a letter, once you hit the full Tricky you could whip out your characters unique move, which was always something ridiculous.
Oh and of course, Mix Master Mike and the Rahzel are back once again to lay down the beats. And the beats are another reason I’m posting about this game series, the tunes were always so powerful, to a degree that it would have been another first introduction of Drum & Bass to my young brain in the likes of Aphrodite. Oh and there was also a cheat where you could actually play as Mix Master Mike (The SSX series was like that… fucking awesome.).
Here’s the Mix Master himself cruising through the Mark 2. of Tokyo Megaplex, bossing the rail system (Fucking challenge by the way.) with what other but a deck attached to his back? Why not?
The BIG 3
They let the series set in for a few years before launching another, probably because if we had too much of this super-charged snowboarding madness in one dose we’d explode into a thousand tiny EXTREME pieces. But in 05, the BIG 3 came out and with it came a whole new pack of cards.
So many cards…
take note of the AMOUNT of times he drops the word insane there…
Rahzel & the Mix Master out of the game and introducing DJ Atomica who plays host to you as a live Radio DJ whilst you power your way down the mountains and keeps an up to date log of the ensuing campaign story for each individual racer and trust me, though it might be sad for me, in my later state, to see such musical legends as the historic DJ & Beatboxer leave the game… Atomica dropped bombs…
SSX 3 also brought the introduction of Outback racing, or, off piste races which were set at the peak of each… peak. See SSX 3, unlike the other two previous titles, was based on just ONE mountain, one BIG mountain with THREE BIG PEAKS. Now you weren’t just confined to pre-determined tracks, you were free to ride wild hazardous mountainside as you pleased and not only that, you could free-roam the entire mountain track to track. You could board over to a little cabin to buy gear, ride a big bubble car and all sorts. It was amazing!!
I just mentioned gear as well, SSX 3 gave you unreal character customization, not make your own, but just buy a mad amount of different clothes for each character (all of whom had a completely unique set of clothes specific to them.) that of course were never exactly practical, aside from big coats, boots and goggles you could don cowboy hats, bunny ears, boxing gloves, horns, wings, space helmets, board shorts, vests… pretty much anything, you could look cool or you could look ridiculous, though ridiculous was expensive. There was also a much broader array of boards to choose from (Again with eventual mad options including a dollar bill & a surfboard… oh you could also unlock a beaver, a bigfoot and something else to ride as… the beaver rode on a log and his special trick was gnawing it… lol). which ranged in size etc.
Ultimately, SSX 3 was the game I spent the most time on, I loved the character customization, the track variety, the event variety, the scale of it, the graphics, the tunes, the tricks, it was all just madness. Solo it was amazing, sitting with your mate it was amazing and it was chock full of incredible conceptual art (Which the best of will only be found on the game itself), easter eggs and pure mental fun. It was a game that played a vital role in and became the pinnacle of my gaming youth…
Unfortunately, SSX 3, for me, was the end of the great series and it all went pretty rapidly downhill from there, not surprising though really as EA have fast become one of the biggest douchebag companies in the world. Wankers.
The End of an EA-RA
I know there was an SSX Blur for the Wii which was a much more cartoony spin-off that looked as terrible as I’d heard it was and then of course, only a few months down the line from 3, SSX on Tour hit the streets and I excitedly bought it on hearing that Skiing had been introduced to the game…
But for some reason or another, it had all just lost a lot of that glossy Retro-Funk essence that was SSX… it had all gone a bit, indie pop-rock and for no real reason either (I think they just figured that’s the sort of soundtrack an extreme sports game should have, like Motocross games and stuff… fuck knows.)…
I mean don’t get me wrong, I like rock and stuff and the game still had loads of hip-hop but primarily the whole feel of it had become obscure “Emo” kid scribblings of electronic guitar wielding creatures, the Über Tricks were now called Monster Tricks and all of the race track snow-printed arrows had been replaced with awesome dude rock finger sign of the devil hands. It all just seemed really out of place, not to mention that the whole rock-festival re-work had been slapped all over the classic beloved characters as well, who all had the wrong voices and the wrong clothes on and just looked ridiculous.
Now you could make your own character which was kind of cool and you could Ski which was awesome but the whole feel of the game had changed, the whole style of the game had changde, even the graphics felt somehow shittier, it felt like a cheap sell-out spin on the original and despite probably playing the game for a few weeks and not considering it awful, it was definitely disappointing.
A Hopeful Hopeless Revival
2012 saw the return of the series I had loved so much, seven years in the waiting, DJ Atomica from SSX 3, having moved on to voice over one of the Burnout games, had even mentioned (In the Burnout game) that SSX riders had taken time out of riding the slopes to come down and watch the races, implying that they would one day return. And come 2012 that day had finally come…
The trailer, people said, looked more like an ad for a new Call Of Duty release, I had to gritt my teeth and agree when I saw the previews appear but I was hopeful, that the 360 release of a game I’d last seen on the old Sony console would have had the love put into it, seven years of love…
The game was SSX – Deadly Descents and I did of course buy it in the hopes that my dreams would be revisioned but slowly as the trailers came out and game info leaked, my hopes became heartier doubts and worries as the whole game seemed to be taking a huge spin on the idea of Danger.
The previous games had the possibility of “Death” where you could fall into the occasional cervase or board off the edge of a mountain but the new game… the new game’s main focus was just that. The franchise had come back with the old SSX feel, a variety of EA approved “Tunes” (Though as a more matured electronic listener the likes of Skrillex & DJ Fresh weren’t welcomed with open arms) with the additional feature of being able to upload your own music (Which I took full advantage of to amazing effect as the game still applied it’s timeless but definitive filtering effects when in the air etc. warping the music as you ride.) and they’d even brought back the Run-D.M.C “Trickaaay!!” sampling for when you hit that Tricky status, the graphics were greatly improved and the tracks were just as awesome….
But there were so many things missing.
So many things…
Okay great, awesome in fact, you can grab a helicopter and bust a move off it, I love the new wingsuits and various other tools that you’re required to master the peak of each individual mountain range you face in game (Each requiring different tools, Oxygen Tank, Wingsuit, Ice Picks etc. because of wild weather/terrain etc.) but what happened to all the straight up tracks? All of these are like the off piste tracks on SSX 3, there’s no City track, no crazy loop the loops, none of that. And okay the tunes are alright but what about a host? What about the Rahzel or DJ Atomica talking you through how awesome you are, balls to the guy in the helicopter giving you a distorted applause over the sound of everything else in the game. What about the crowd stands? The finishing stand? The podiums? What about the Big Air events and Half-Pipe events and stuff? What about being able to punch each other and have rivals? What about the character customization? Sure you brought back the legends of the game but all I can do is change the colour of the outfits? What about the boards? You’ve given me an infinity reel of boards that randomize design and stats… what the fuck.
And the grind rails… SSX one to three, you had to be a boss to master a long rail section, SSX 2012, you just glue to them until you decide to jump off, cool in that you can bust out some wild tricks but just far too easy. Getting Uber and boosts… far too easy. Combos… far too easy, what’s hard about the game is this danger element (Because some tracks were hard man, real hard.) but the actual fun side of the game aside from mad tracks and tricks… gone, all gone, the campaign story sucked balls and the worst fucking part?
WHAT THE FUCK YOU EA CUNTS!!!!
I can’t have my friend round and race him? WHY! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!?!?! “Oh but you can go online, that’s the amazing thing about the new and improved SSX” say the sell-out manipulative money hungry internet obsessed corporate wankers of EA, “You can go online and experience a whole new side of online gaming with SSX and play against your online friends.” OK mate, let me say this, I’m the only one of my friends who will get this game, everyone else I know won’t and I’ve played your online, when you say I race online people, it’s not a live race, oh no, I’m not joining a game of shouting Xbox players all rared up to race, I have to add other SSX players and race their Ghosts and beat their best scores…
FUCK YOU YOU PIECES OF SHIT. YOU TOOK AN AMAZING FRANCHISE AND GAMING CONCEPT AND TURNED IT INTO AN OKAY GAME THAT COULD BE A LOT BETTER!!!
In short ladies and gentlemen, the SSX games stopped coming out after 3 and they were the three greatest snowboarding games ever made.
I’ll leave this post on a much higher note, a tune from SSX 3 that I used to love and really is an absolute banger of a tune.
Overseer – Screw Up