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SSX On Tour’ provides rocking experience

Josh Talley | Tuesday, November 22, 2005

As winter rolls around, people find themselves spending less and less time outside and more inside getting cabin fever. But this year, to help get into that winter spirit without actually having go outside (and to keep us from losing out minds), EA Sports BIG has released another in its line of successful SSX games. But this year’s is even slicker, tighter and more aesthetically pleasing.

SSX: On Tour is the fourth game in the highly-acclaimed winter extreme sports series. In the past, gamers have been content with snowboarding to their hearts’ contents, but not this year. The addition of skis to the mix creates a new visual spectrum, as the game play is nearly the same but has new animations for tricks. Even though they are similar, there are slight differences in the way you can control the character. Skiing in the game is slightly more complicated and takes a tiny bit more skill to pull off. It adds a fair amount of replay and the desire to want to create more custom characters.

But, even before the player gets to choose between skis or boards, he is bombarded with a completely revamped visual style.

While past games in the series have gone for comical or icy, this time around tosses you straight into the doodle-covered notebook of a heavy-metal-loving high schooler. This can be seen everywhere in the game from loading screens featuring a unicorn playing a double-guitar to dancing donkeys to U.F.O.’s in the background. If nothing else, the game should be praised for its incredible use of style.

The rock ‘n roll theme doesn’t stop there though. It is infused even into the game’s soundtrack. This time around, the game has a licensed soundtrack full of great new artists. The only problem with this is that they severely underused their soundtrack by constantly playing the same songs over and over – instead of all the songs – and also by having only a few that are capable of being played during the menus.

Also new to the series is the creation of customizable characters in order to put a little of your personality into the game. While there are not too many options when it comes to what the characters look like, with a little imagination and the help of the humongous wardrobe/accessories menus in the game, the gamer can create a unique look to rock ‘n roll down the mountain. Also, the craziness of some of the outfits makes the game fun. Forget buying new boards or skis, buy the panda costume instead. And the player can unlock all the racers (and some secret ones) by completing single player and finishing missions.

Unlike SSX 3, the open mountain has been removed and replaced with The Tour. This single-player experience takes place entirely on one giant mountain featuring 13 new runs, 135 challenges to be accomplished and 49 medals to be earned. With every challenge you accomplish more open up. The differences in the missions themselves are also a lot of fun. While there is still the basic race to the finish, trick-offs and collection missions, there are also new ones such as grind for specific distances, stay off the snow for a certain amount of time, gather a specified amount of air time and escape from the ski-patrol.

The controls of the game are simple enough. Most of the buttons contain pre-loaded grabs, tricks or tweaks. There is also a boost button, which takes away from the boost meter, and a jump button to help get that little bit of extra height of the jumps.

One can also link together tricks in combos to increase your boost meter faster. When the boost is filled all the way, the gamer can pull off a Monster trick with a flick of the right thumbstick while doing any other trick. Not only can you do them while in the air, you can do Monster grinds off of rails, logs or anything else you think you can grind off of (try grinding the helicopter).

This game adds some great stylized elements to the series, and the introduction of skis is also a great. It has great game play length, upwards of 30 hours. While the game play and graphics are both aging nicely, it does feel a little old. This is a game worth your time.