Given the ever increasing popularity of the sport, it seems a little strange that there aren't more snowboarding games on PS2. Then again, with competition as fierce as EA's mighty SSX series, you can't really blame other publishers for not wanting to try their hand at the sport. The original SSX was a runaway success, the sequel, SSX Tricky, added new characters, moves and courses to the mix, but SSX 3 takes the series to dizzying new heights. While Tricky was essentially a kind of 'remix' of the original game, EA has gone back to the drawing board for this third incaranation, introducing a whole new game structure, new trick types and new challenges. It might retain the series' colourful graphic style and inherent playability, but SSX 3 is a huge beast of a game compared to its predecessors.
The first thing you'll notice about SSX 3 is that it gives you a great deal more choice in what you want to do. In the previous two games, you had a good old fashioned front end menu. You selected a boarder and course, chose Race or Showoff and then hit the snow. In SSX 3, once you've selected a rider, you're dumped unceremoniously onto a huge mountain comprised of three massive peaks. From there, you can board around to find Races, Big Air events, Slope Style events, Super Pipe events, collectible items and the all new Big Challenges. Your boarder carries a personal digital assistant, which can be used to take ski lifts or quickly access specific events.
Once in a Race or Slope Style (formerly Showoff) events, it's pretty much business as usual, only you have a more formidable arsenal of tricks than ever. Most significantly, taking a leaf out of Tony Hawk's book, SSX 3 now features grind and flatland tricks, which manage to both look great and increase your high scoring combo opportunities. Meanwhile, the newly added event types add whole new dimensions to the tried and tested SSX formula. In particular, the Big Challenges (of which there are 100 on each mountain peak) add impressive variety to the game, testing just about every facet of your boarding ability to the max. Your progress is suitably rewarded with a range of trophies, medals and extra attribute points to boost your boarder's abilities.
Visually, the SSX series has come on in leaps and bounds too. Although it hasn't renounced the colourful environments and funky characters (six old favourites return, alongside four new hopefuls), SSX 3 is a far more polished affair than its predecessors. In particular, a lot of love has been lavished on those all-important special effects, and it's fair to say that SSX 3 features some of the prettiest snow and weather effects seen on PS2 to date. If you only buy one PS2 snowboarding game this year, it'll have to be SSX 3 (there aren't any others coming out, y'see), but it's a hugely important addition to the 'action sports' genre nonetheless and comes very highly recommended.
- New 'Open Mountain Environment' - do what you want, when you want
- All new events and trick types - Big Air, Slope Style, Super Pipe and Big Challenges
- Funky new characters: SSX veterans Mac, Elise, Zoe, Moby, Psymon, and Kaori plus Viggo, Nate, Griff and Allegra