EA Sports BIG
1 - 2
Does the wildly successful PS2 launch title really
deserve a sequel, or is it folly to mess with a good thing?
SSX was one of the most successful games of the PS2 launch
a year ago. This was in large part not only due to the fact that it is
a great game, but also that is benefited from proper timing. The N64
was pretty much dead at the time, and the Dreamcast had failed to get
the marketshare it deserved, leaving the PS2 to coast into the top spot
of the sales charts. SSX was the debut title in the EA Sports Big lineup,
a brand that continues to provide some over the top gameplay.
Looking to capitalize on the success of the original, SSX Tricky is released,
but under much different circumstances. The PS2 isn't the only game in
town, and the game now shares a much more crowded shelf that strains under
the weight of other AAA titles. Nintendo's new GameCube and Microsoft's
Xbox also have their own stellar titles begging to be purchased. Rather
than standing far out from the crowd like its predecessor, SSX Tricky is
now just another eagerly anticipated title on a long list of games that
deserve attention. While this may sound like SSX Tricky is just another
game, things couldn't be further from the truth.
"Now, from the initial immersion, players know that they are in for anything
but a static gaming experience."
SSX Tricky takes what everybody loved
about the original, and as Emeril would say, kicks it up a notch. The
first thing that is noticeably different in this version is the interface.
Nearly everything is 3D, with the player selection being in an underground
cave on a "boarder rotisserie" if you will. Each player's personality
has been fleshed out, and you get a taste of that from the start. During
boarder selection, each person will say something to entice you to
pick him or her. After selecting your boarder, you are taken to the
course select area, again appearing to be in an underground cavern,
with a rather cool interface.
While this may not be a big deal, it
does let you know that things have changed. Sure, SSX was over the
top, but a lot of the game was fairly standard in terms of gameplay
and character interaction. Now, from the initial immersion, players
know that they are in for anything but a static gaming experience.
The major modes of play will be found
in the single player game. Sure there is a two player option, with
the Race, Showoff and a Time Challenge, but really, single player is
where this game is at. For those uninitiated into the SSX experience
(don't be ashamed, help is on the way) the Showoff mode is where you
get to shine like a star and get your "Evil Kenevil" on. The whole
idea of this mode is to get medals corresponding to certain point totals.
More tricks = more points. Race, well, if you don't understand that,
then go play Monopoly. Time Challenge is just that - get to the finish
line as quickly as possible.
"SSX Tricky sets a new standard in content, and hopefully, more games will be
presented like this in the future."
Only Race and Showoff are part of the
World Circuit, with Freeride being available in the practice session.
Overall, the game will be played in the single player mode attempting
to get medals in both race and showoff to bump up your characters standings
(starting at Newbie, rising up to Star, Veteran, and beyond) and stats.
Some may say that there aren't enough modes, but frankly, you'll be
so busy playing what there is, you won't notice anything missing.
There are so many changes and additions
made to SSX Tricky, that it's hard to single out what is the most important.
Perhaps the first thing people will notice is the new tracks at the
beginning and end of the World Circuit and the layout changes throughout
the rest of the courses. Girabaldi is the first track that players
get to ride, and it's rather easy to get through, allowing players
to get used to the new trick system. Playing through SSX Tricky's new
first course is really nothing more than a teaser for what is to follow.
Besides being optimized for the Xbox
controller layout, the whole trick system has been streamlined. There
are fewer tricks requiring multiple (and sometimes confusing) button
sequences. There is even a tutorial within the trick book to help you
learn how to execute the moves. The tutorial system works much better
in SSX Tricky than in the previous game, this helps get players acclimated
to the various tricks, when executed properly, help win races and rack
up point totals in the showoff events.
The trick system, besides being streamlined
has undergone another change in the addition of Uber Tricks. When the
adrenaline meter is full (either by performing enough stunts or knocking
somebody down), for approximately 20 seconds your character is "in
the zone" and can pull of some rather amazing stunts like jumping off
the board and having it spin and flip underneath you, or doing a handstand
on your board. After pulling off 6 of the Uber Tricks (one for each
letter in TRICKY) Your character's adrenaline meter is full, and you
can stay "in the zone" until you reach the finish line. There is no
time limit to pull of the outrageous stunts. This is going to help,
especially in the showoff events, where the Uber Tricks will net you
more points. Get enough big air, link a couple of Uber Tricks, and
the gold is yours. Sure, you can play with the normal selection of
basic tricks, but why?
One more aspect of the adrenaline meter
is its fluctuation. When landing a stunt, the meter goes up (naturally)
and the meter goes down every time you eat some snow. If you are "in
the zone" (but before you complete 6 Uber Tricks) you can get out of
the zone just as quickly by messing up your trick. The adrenaline meter
is much more volatile this time, some strategy may be in order.
While knocking people down will automatically
fill up your meter, it's not a good idea to go around willy nilly backhanding
each of the other riders. Certain riders are friendly towards you,
and other downright hostile. This will have to be monitored to see
who is likely to either attempt a knockdown on your ass, or watch your
back if somebody tries to ump you. Keep knocking everybody down, and
eventually everybody is going to hate you, and you don't be able to
get out of the starting gate without getting your head buried under
There are some very outrageous characters
in SSX Tricky. Besides amping up the tricks, the characters have been
fleshed out. By now, you will have heard about the "big Hollywood names" that
have lent their voices to the characters. The results are better than
expected. Some characters, such as Oliver Platt's Luther and David
Arquette's Eddie come off as so outrageous you swear that you knew
them in high school. Others, like Macy Gray's Seeiah and Billy Zane's
Brodi appear more "human". The voice acting is impeccable, with more
trash talk and side comments than before. Sometimes you want to get
some big air and perform an amazing stunt just to hear what somebody
After landing a gold medal in either
the race or showoff events, you are awarded points to bump up your
character's stats. Instead of some perfunctory increases. SSX Tricky
actually appears to use the stats. If a person doesn't have great speed
but can trick like a (deleted), then take that person to the showoff
world circuit and get some medals there. You can bump up that person's
speed stats, and then take on the rest of the riders in style. The
higher the medal, the more stat points you are awarded.
"Sure, you can play with the normal selection of basic tricks, but why?"
The usual unlocking is necessary in
SSX Tricky. Boards, outfits, characters and courses will all appear
to you for jumping through certain hoops (such as earning medals or
completing a set number of tricks).
One of the major selling points of
SSX Tricky, aside from the new trick system and characterization, is
the redesigned courses. The courses have been redesigned, some to a
greater extent than others. Pipedream, for example, is unrecognizable.
It's much shorter and more open than before. Tokyo Megaplex lost the "pinball" feel
of the original, but now appears to be the brainchild of Dali if he
had grown up watching Japanese anime (this is a good thing). Merqury
City is almost the same (almost - the beginning is rather changed)
and Elysian Alps is nearly identical to its predecessor.
Each of the courses has been changed
to a certain degree, and it is here is where we come across the only
downfall in SSX Tricky. It would appear that some of the changes were
made to make it easier to go through. The wooden bridge in Mesablanca
is much wider (nearly twice) than the original. The bumpers in Tokyo
Megaplex are almost always down, rather than being unpredictable in
their position. Sure the gameplay in the original was tough, but that
was part of the enjoyment, you really felt a sense of accomplishment
when you finally won the gold medal racing in Merqury City. Now, it
doesn't take as many attempts. This isn't to say that the game isn't
enjoyable, but for somebody that has played the original, it's a noticeable
change. It appears as if the developers were trying to make the game
more accessible to the "average" player.
Visually, the game is colorful, with
clothes being vibrant and the environments having some nice variations
to them. There is virtually no draw-in, the picture is sharp from horizon
to board. There is some minor clipping now and again, but overall,
this is is one nice looking game. Unfortunately, screens just won't
do the game justice. There are improvements that could have been made
(such as with the crowds) but these are really minor annoyances.
The audio in the game is stellar. While
the voice acting is top notch, other sound effects and music are equally
great. While you don't get to use your own songs from the Xbox's harddrive,
the tunes that are included in the game are appropriate. There are
plenty of options for you to choose from, song selection, volume, overall
sfx/song/vocal mix, controller configuration, and more. Controlling
the boarder my feel unwieldy at first, this has more to do with the
size of the Xbox controller rather than the button layout. Get a smaller
3rd party controller, and go to town.
There is more than just the game here
though. The startup screen allows you to either play the game, or check
out the DVD content. The medium allows for more than just the game,
and the developers have taken advantage of this. There is an extensive
list of extra features, which will take a long while to go through.
There is a feature on making the game, on the courses, on the Voice
talent, each voice actor gets their own in-depth look, and the list
goes on. SSX Tricky sets a new standard in content, and hopefully,
more games will be presented like this in the future.
With the fleshed out characters, there
is more incentive to play through everybody. With the additional gameplay
tweaks to the trick system as well as the courses, this will be a game
played long after you "complete" it. SSX Tricky is indeed one of the
rare games where the sequel more than matches the fun and depth of
the original. Understandably, the development team is taking some time
off from the next installment, but when the series returns, it's going
to be hard to top this.
Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
"French toast and syruuuuuup!!"
SSX Tricky is almost a completely new game. The new emphasis
on tricks this go 'round changes the game dramatically,
creating something that will be played for a long time
to come. It lacks the initial "grab" that the original
had, but after a couple of courses, you're hooked on
this new drug, and you won't want to stop.