Malik (4/28/04)

SSX 3 (PS2)

EA Big

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 ever did. 

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 me. 

Game Play 

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 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 event. 

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 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 you bail. 

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 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 pros. 


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 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 inconsequential. 


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) I must give SSX3 a 7.5/10. It's fun, but the fun just doesn't last as long as it should have.