SSX 3 (PS2)
Well, I was a little slow on
picking up this title. My main reason was, to put it simply, in my
opinion Tricky sucked. I was always a huge fan of the first game in
the series, but Tricky ruined that experience by making the tracks a
little too...ummmm...for lack of a better word, unnatural. That is,
while certain tracks in SSX were obviously unnatural in feel (like
the pipe dream track and that Tokyo Megaplex dealio), they were
still quite maneuverable while racing or just perusing, while most
of the tracks in Tricky had too sharp of turns, too many narrow
valleys, and just not enough open areas.
So, I eventually decided, after
watching enough video of SSX3, that I should give it a shot. Plus,
the recent price drop doesn't hurt.
Not really the type of subject
to include in an extreme sports title, but there is a small
semblance of story. Also, this is a better place to discuss the
setting than in any other topic.
So, as far as the setting is
concerned; you're on one big mountain this time that consists of 3
peaks. Each peak has several varying paths that lead to different
race/showoff runs. On top of that, while free riding, there are
several challenges you can go through (more on that in the game play
section). So, in contrast to the very manicured tracks of Tricky,
the majority of areas in SSX3 are very natural and open in feel.
Unfortunately, it might be a little too natural for it's own good,
since this setting makes going for tricks a little less fun than SSX
As for story; you are one of a
dozen (more can be acquired through unlockables) snowboarders who
are competing for fame, glory, money, etc, blah, blah...we've seen
this before. However, it's not like you play a sports title for the
plot, so it doesn't matter. In fact, sports games are best when they
are kept to the proper formula.
However, as you race, you'll
occasionally make a rival who will challenge you to special one on
one events. I don't think the rival is actually determined by
anything you do in the game since I kept bitching Kaori but always
had Mac (who I never touched, and we were never similar in ranking)
as a rival. That's about it for a story...but that's fine with
The game play is not all that
different from SSX. So, for those of you who haven't played SSX or
Tricky, I must apologize since this will be fairly brief. Anyways,
the gist of it is that you play a snowboarder and you have a mix of
events ranging from racing to freestyle trick showoff events. As you
race or showoff, you have to beat the scores of your competition to
get a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Also, in SSX3, since much of
the game is now based on free riding to get to events and to explore
(there are various "money" icons to pick up, etc), there
are some randomly scattered challenges.
The challenges are pretty lame
and usually will only serve to do the same job as trying to get a
high level license in Gran Tourismo...they will piss you off and
make you wonder why you'd ever need any of these skills in the
actual races (and showoff events)...of course, these skills won't
help you in the real events, but you need to do them in order to
unlock some nifty secrets and to earn some money.
The races are pretty much to
the point, as are the showoff events. You just have to be faster or
look cooler than the competition. In races you are racing against
people directly, so you can try to mess with the competition with a
well placed punch. However, showoff runs are done solo, so you're
pretty much competing against a set score.
Then there's the new feature of
money. In the game, you use money at lodges (which are scattered
around the peaks) to buy equipment (does nothing to the game play,
but changes your look), buy collectibles (get all of one type of
collectable and you unlock a secret character), buy new boards (no
differences in performance...just a look thing), and buy stats (self
explanatory...buy speed, you go quicker...etc...). Then as you gain
enough money, you will unlock a pass to the next peak. Luckily, for
those who hate the challenges (like I do) and have done all the
other events, you can still get more money from redoing a completed
The controls for the PS2 are
well matched to SSX3 (and SSX, and Tricky for that matter). You have
four possible primary grabs in the game (for grabbing your board to
do stunts) that man be mixed and combined for extra tricks. This is
great since the PS2 has four shoulder buttons that are mapped to do
grabs. Then there's the standard Tony Hawk style of holding down the
jump/olly button until you're ready to fly (except once you start
holding the jump button, you can't turn your boarder, but if you
don't hold it long enough, you're jump will be small and pathetic).
Also, in the air, you can combine your grabs with an style of spin
or flip...just like in the previous 2 games.
The game comes with two control
configurations. There standard, which allows you to turn with the
analogue while preparing to jump, but then you have to pre-wind your
spins/flips with the d-pad...which means you need about one extra
thumb on your left hand). The other mode is pro, which allows you to
only turn when not preparing a jump, no matter the control device
you use. This is the only real way to play and actually land tricks.
I guess standard might work good for races, but only if you don't
want to pull any tricks off while racing.
On the note of controls...there
is one substantial change in the controls. You now have the ability
to perform handstands on various rails, trees, etc. These handstands
are pretty straight forward and easy to accomplish, but they also reflect
this ease in the score you get for one (next to nothing).
Considering you can easily get more points in the same amount of
time from getting some big air, it's almost pointless to do a
handstand unless you want to combo.
Combo? After you do a trick,
you will then be given about 1 second (there's a timer of sorts that
appears when it's combo time) to do another trick. These can be
stringed together to form massive combos. You'll get the score for
doing a trick after landing it, but you'll get the total combo bonus
(which is a multiplier of how many tricks in the combo times about
1/10 the value of each stunt...it varies per stunt...I honestly
think there's no reason to the actual combo bonus per stunt) as long
as the combo timer (which resets after each trick) runs out before
To help you combo, you can now
do the equivalent of snowboard manuals (balancing on the front or
rear of your board in between stunts). This gives almost no points
on it's own, but will extend combos, like how manuals extend combos
in the later Tony Hawk games.
My only major disappointment in
the game play is...since you're on a mountain (as opposed to a
variety of snowboarding tracks from around the world), the variety
of scenery and feel of the tracks is really quite limited. I got
tired of the feel of the mountain after I had barely passed the
first peak. It was actually a chore to keep myself entertained
enough to play through the remaining peaks...sigh...I miss the fun
of Mercury City Meltdown, Pipe Dream, Elysian Alps...so much
variety...but no more...sigh...
Just like SSX and Tricky, but a
little smoother and more evolved. There is really nothing new when
you factor in the old graphics with the average rate of graphical
improvements since Tricky came out.
However, the visuals have led
to a major complaint; The graphics are not really much better, but
with the vast number of equipable items, boards, hair styles, face
changes, and the (slightly) more refined textures, the PS2 moves at
a crawl...not in the game, but rather in the initial loading. If you
want to buy some new gear for your rider, then you will have to sit
about 15-30 seconds for the rider and the gear graphics to load
(unless you want to blindly buy stuff without seeing what it looks
like beforehand...the game's not frozen at this time...just the
visuals...). So, long story short...nice graphics; nothing new;
slows the loading to a crawl...overall, the cons far outweigh the
We are free of David Arquette!
The voices are now pretty standard issue voice acting, but that far
outweighs the lame acting seen in Tricky by a bunch of
"celebrities". Besides that, the voices are not
important...if you're like me, you just turn down the voices
anyways, and turn up the music...
The music is a standard issue
mix of techno and punk that's required of all extreme sports titles
(the only thing missing is the rap that usually accompanies these
games). The songs themselves range from descent to
ignorable...nothing really bad, but nothing really good. You're
given, at a certain point, a chance to make your own custom
soundtrack of 6 of the available songs...well, it took me a long
time to pick 6...how do you pick your 6 favorite things when you
just don't give a crap about any of them.
The sound effects are also
pretty much standard issue. You hear the sound of snow meeting board
pretty well. Collisions sound average. What other sounds do you
expect from a snowboarding game? That's it.
On the plus side...and this is
hella cool (for me, at least). If your sound system handles DTS, so
does SSX3. All these non-descript sounds are hella sweet (yet
unimportant) when cranked out in DTS sound. Anyways, it's cool to
have DTS, but it's pretty pointless when the voice acting is about
average, the sound effects are few and far between (due to the
nature of the game), and the music selection is
Well, I was a hardcore SSX fan.
I got the game with my PS2 on the launch day, so it was all I really
had (remember, not many good games came out with the PS2 and none
showed up for a half year), and thus I really got into it. Even
after the good games strated to pour into the market, SSX was still
my game of choice.
When it comes down to the
overall enjoyment of play the SSX games, the first is still my
favorite, with SSX3 coming in second, and Tricky failing miserably
(except in the music department...gotta love the Run DMC). If it
weren't for the great start the series got with SSX (#1), and the
horribly long loading times in the equipment/character
selection/purchasing screens, I'd have given SSX3 a higher
score...but not too high considering the lack of uniqueness to each
track (it's all the same track over and over with slightly different
bends and twists and hills)...so
I must give SSX3 a 7.5/10.
It's fun, but the fun just doesn't last as long as it should