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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Canada

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

October 11, 2005

 

 

- Extremely fun trick-based gameplay
- Smooth controls
- Huge courses with tons to see and do
- Interesting interface

 

 

- Framerate is lower than previous games
- New event structure more annoying than fun
- Online has been ditched
- Feels like an overall step backwards from previous
games

 

 

Review: SSX (PS2)

Review: SSX Tricky (PS2)

Review: Transworld Surf (PS2)

Review: Amped 2 (XB)

 

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SSX On Tour

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

SSX3 was, in most ways, the best snowboarding game ever made. Unlike most Electronic Arts games recently, SSX ditched the yearly release schedule in favor of using extra development time to really improve upon their successful formula. Unfortunately, this resulted in trying to fix stuff that wasn't really broken.

 

ssx on tour review          ssx on tour review


Thankfully, the simple mechanics that make SSX so appealing haven't changed much -- most of the time, your goal is just to make to the bottom of the mountain. By doing tricks (spinning in the air, grinding on rails, anything that would be considered "xtreme"), you gain boost, which in turn aids your descent towards the finish line. Executing tricks is as graceful as ever -- just hit a jump, hold down the d-pad in conjunction with various trigger buttons, and you'll pull of a daring array of completely impossible maneuvers. Additionally, you can now perform "Monster" tricks by moving the second analog stick, all of which slow down time and change the camera angle for a Matrix-like effect. They're a little easier to pull off than the Uber tricks of the previous games, mostly because you don't need to memorize any button combinations. The spot-on controls are still the best part of SSX, and it's easy to jump in and watch your character do awesome stuff without having to spend a lot of time learning the mechanics. 

Once again, all of the tracks are huge, each one offering tons of different paths and shortcuts to discover. The graphics have been given a huge makeover from SSX3, with gorgeous lighting that reflects off the snow and motion blur effects during speed boosts. The tracks themselves feel fuller, with thicker forests and more detailed landscapes. Unfortunately, all of this extra gloss comes at a price. Unlike SSX3, which ran out a speedy 60 frames per second, SSX On Tour is locked at 30. Without the ultra smoothness of the previous games, the action just ends up feeling a bit sluggish.

 

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There are a handful of minor tweaks to the gameplay - - you no longer improve separate attributes of your characters, but rather speed and power are determined by your board. You can also choose to use skis as opposed to snowboards, but this doesn't really change much, other than adding new trick animations. Taking a hint from Burnout, there are "camera" icons which take a snapshot of whatever crazy maneuvers you pull off. Many of these are sponsored by companies 

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like Toyota and Red Spice, so in the end, it just feels like cheap advertising. The online mode has been ditched entirely, so those that enjoyed it in SSX3 will probably be annoyed.

Events are also handled a bit differently. In addition to the usual "race" or "trick" competitions, there are several challenges that can be selected from the map. Some stages dare you to grind on rails for a certain distance; others require that you stay airborne for a certain amount of time; and yet another event takes a cue from Need from Speed and has you dodging the Ski Patrol, who are all gunning to take you down. While it's a fresh approach, it's almost contrary to the "do anything" nature of the series. As a result, the challenges are a bit confining, and grow frustrating as you restart them over and over just to meet whatever goals the game sets down. Thankfully, there are still the usual races and trick competitions, which are much less restrictive. You can compete in both kinds of events to earn both money and "hype" points, which determines your rank amongst other competitors. By progressing through the ranks, you unlock new events and eventually open new tracks.

The open mountain from SSX3 has been canned, replaced by an entirely menu driven interface. While that's a little bit disappointing considering how innovative it was, the overhauled presentation plays a big part in SSX On Tour. Through bizarre pen-on-paper doodlings, SSX On Tour aims to make you more than just a snowboarder -- it wants you to be a rock star. All of the menus feature these fully animated drawings peering out of every corner of the screen, and while it all looks a bit juvenile, you have to give it points for originality. (I am rather a fan of the zebra with that double-guitar thing.) The other big focus is the "create your player" mode, where you have near complete control of your character's physical features, as well as their fashion sense. There's a whole lot of customization, but in the end, it won't really matter too much -- you never really see the front of your character outside of cinema scenes, and the character models are all pretty ugly anyway. Unfortunately, since the designers want the player to have complete controls over their persona, that means that the familiar characters from the previous games have been left by the wayside. They still exist, and can be unlocked for the free play, but they aren't as fleshed out as before - it doesn't really feel like Kaori without her yammering random Japanese as she flies down the slope.

 

ssx on tour review          ssx on tour review


The rock imagery plays a bit part in the game's personality, but you'd think they would've put more work in the audio aspect. The lame DJ has thankfully been ditched, and the soundtrack selection is just fine. There's plenty of variety, so it's unlikely that anyone's tastes will have been skipped over completely. But rather, SSX3 had music specifically tailored for the action - lyric or instrument tracks would drop in and out, depending on your performance, and the sound would always loop, so the music never ended until you crossed the finish line. In SSX On Tour, the music simply plays straight, and the volume occasionally raises or lowers depending on the action. If this were any other game, there wouldn't be a problem, but considering how interactive its predecessor was, this all comes off as a little disappointing.

In truth, it's the same with the rest of the game. SSX On Tour is just dandy -- the core mechanics of what made SSX so great are still there - but almost everything else seems like a step backward, no matter how well-intentioned the changes were. The only thing that SSX On Tour really FIXES is that you no longer fly out of bounds as often. As long as fans can forgive the step backwards - - and deal with the lowered framerate -- On Tour is still a great game. It just doesn't live up to its pedigree which, given the cheaper prices of the older games, are by far better values for those unacquainted with the series.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(November 11, 2005)

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