The final thing I did before the Los Angeles Convention Center closed its doors and the ESA bid us adieu (until next year) was see EA’s latest installment in its extreme snowboarding franchise. Gamer Limit was whisked into a small dark room with a small group, sat down on a benches (made of snowboards!) for a look at the newest Snowboard Super Cross title.
Little did I know it at the time, but SSX was about to become my most anticipated title of 2012. Hit the jump to find out why.
I’ve been a casual fan of the series since the outset. While I’ve only played a couple of the games, I can’t even begin to fathom how many hours my buddies and I sank into SSX Tricky in the college dorms. Unfortunately, the series has slumped off a bit since those golden years and the developers will be the first ones to admit it. Luckily, EA is back and ready to reboot the series. So get ready, grab some Mountain Dew and prepare for some extreme snowboarding!
EA’s presentation started off with some of the title’s more technical aspects. For SSX, EA reached out to NASA to obtain 98% of the earth’s topographical data. Using this information, EA has created a menu system, inspired by Google Earth, that lets you go to every mountain range on the planet, zoom in on the most iconic peaks in that range, and give you multiple drop points to traverse on your board. It sounds impressive and looks equally impressive in practice, I’m just hoping the actual game can live up to the wonderful presentation the boys at EA Canada delivered.
While EA is going in a slightly more believable direction with this one, fans of the series can rest assured that it will be as extreme as ever. The SSX series has never been about simulation and it isn’t about to start down that path now. EA Canada wants to “make awesome feel easy”. While they’ve analyzed the entire planet’s topography, they’ve been going in and taking some liberties to exaggerate the terrain and provide as entertaining of an experience as possible.
The new SSX‘s three pillars are “Race it, Trick it, and Survive it.” The demonstration’s first pillar involved dropping into Mount Kilimanjaro’s frozen volcanic crater for an extreme race to the bottom. The EA representative said they were going for a “Burnout on snow” vibe with racing. They want you to feel dangerous, over-the-top speeds where you feel as though you are on the brink of losing control.
Next, it was off to the Himalayas and Makalu, the fifth largest mountain in the world, to see how tricks work. EA is very proud of SSX‘s new physics engine and wants players to be able to grind anything. So if you see an edge that looks sharp enough, chances are you can grind on it. Makalu borders the Great Wall of China, and EA took some liberties to make sure players could have some fun tricking off of one of the most iconic set pieces on the planet.
Finally, EA is introducing a new feature called “Deadly Descents”. Essentially, these descents come down to nine different “boss battles”. Players will brave the elements to take on some of the most deadly mountains on the planet. Each of the nine boss battles will feature a different peak with a different aspect that makes the hill so incredibly deadly. By the end of the game players will battle rock, snow, ice, wind, thin air, cold, gravity and more. The E3 demo featured Denali (Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America, for the snow challenge.
In the Denali stage, players must create an avalanche and make it to the bottom of the mountain before the tidal wave of snow drowns your on-screen counterpart. It sounds easy enough, but the representative in control of the demo only managed to make it halfway down the mountain after having played the demo all week.
What made the avalanche so impressive is that it was entirely dependent on the player. Between the data received from NASA and the physics engine, EA has created some truly impressive dynamic terrain. The angle and speed at which a player hits the slope will affect the snow accordingly. Hitting a slope that is at or near the angle of repose will start an avalanche. This means that rather than being scripted events, avalanches will be different every time you play depending on your actions.
While I had some hands-on time with the game it wasn’t anything near as extensive as they showed off in the hands-off demonstration, but what little I played felt good. I hung around afterwards to speak with one of the developers, and wound up helping with a little debugging. Apparently, the NASA data is so accurate that they’re constantly having to tweak the courses and work out the “toilet bowls”. They have a little more than six months before the title’s January release date, and I’m sure they’ll work out the bugs. SSX is looking great so far, I’m stoked.