Despite the darker new angle of SSX's Deadly Descents, you'll be pleased to hear that the series hasn't really changed too much for its reboot.
The danger of death may be more realistic, but don't expect that to make anything more sensible: SSX is still fuelled by ludicrous tricks. There are nine mountains for you to hurtle down, each of which feels surprisingly different - from the treacherous jagged rocks of the Alps to the volcanic tunnels of Kilimanjaro. Each location's subtle gimmick is taken to its extreme conclusion in the final event of each career area - the SSX equivalent of an end-of-level boss.
Regardless of the mode you're playing in, everything you do in SSX earns you XP and points. Level up your character and you can buy yourself some new gear at the nifty Borderlands-style randomized shop, and you can then use what you've got in any game mode. There are occasional restrictions in place to keep things fair, but largely you're free to just do as you please. If you hit a brick wall in the punishing solo campaign, simply go off and level up elsewhere for a bit and buy yourself a better board.
The game's online aspects are what make it great, but they might not be what you're expecting. Rather than offering head-to-head, SSX's multiplayer is entirely asynchronous, using jazzed-up leaderboard systems to drive a sense of constant competition. Every time you mess up in SSX, you'll want to restart immediately anyway, so this idea makes plenty of sense. Letting you jump straight into any of the game's events as soon as the disc pops into the tray, Explore mode's medal-collecting can all be played offline but doesn't spring to life until you get some friends involved.
The Ridernet system in SSX constantly tracks the progress of your rivals, giving Explore mode a great sense of purpose. It learns the kind of events you enjoy, and pokes you whenever your records get beaten - giving you a constant flow of things to do without ever having to go back to the menu. One of the coolest ideas is Geotags, items you can drop in hard-to-reach areas that other players can then attempt to grab in their game. The longer your Geotag goes unclaimed, the more bonus points you'll get.
If you're in the mood for a personal vendetta, it's easy to bring up just one friend's scores so you can systematically wipe them off the top of the leaderboards. Beating your mates' records won't only earn bragging rights: each top score has a bounty of bonus XP and points to win for anyone who has the skills to beat it. Log into SSX after a few days off, and you'll even be rewarded with 'ghost win' points for every time someone's failed to beat your record - giving you a wonderful idea of how long they must have spent trying to beat you. If you're competing on a track at the same time as a friend, you'll also be able to see their ghost in real-time. Another cool touch is leaderboard filters, which let you quietly ignore the scores of that mate who's depressingly good at almost everything.
In addition to Explore, you've also got Global Events - a mode that feels a bit like Black Ops' Wager Mode. Buy into an event with your in-game credits, then get into the best score bracket you can before the end of the event to go home with a bigger chunk of the earnings. If you've got the points to risk, Global Events can quickly go crazy, with some of the higher buy-ins costing you millions.
As a series reboot this is perfectly acceptable, but it's the new and innovative online aspects that make SSX feel absolutely superb. Packed to the brim with clever ideas, SSX is a truly unmissable surprise. While most other online modes feel like painting-by-numbers, SSX shrugs and tries something refreshingly different. This isn't just brave - it's brilliant.
Will steal your heart and destroy your thumbs
- Frighteningly addictive
- Online stuff is amazing
- Still has stupid stunts
- Filled with clever ideas
- No split-screen