SSX 3 is the latest snowboarding title from EA Sports Big. Featuring a new open-ended gameplay mode, the game has all the tricks, stunts and excitement players have come to expect along with some cool new modes. SSX3's deeper tricks system is dampened by a somewhat more realistic approach, though the wild stunts return as well. Some shorter runs to increase the variety compliment the longer courses, which makes for a better balance. From a visual standpoint, SSX3 excels with realistic environments, weather effects creating an exciting experience. With all these impressive new features building on successful earlier installments, SSX3 marks a solid evolutionary step forward for the superlative snowboarding series that fans of this extreme sports series definitely shouldn't miss.
With it's intuitive play mechanics, long runs and wild stunts, EA's SSX series has set pretty high for standards other titles in the genre, and the third installment in the series continues the tradition. SSX3 should please fans of the series because it keeps the fantastic controls of the original while opening up the structure of the game with a new Conquer the Mountain Mode that allows gives you a lot more freedom. SSX3's gameplay feels much more open now and players can now move around the mountain freely, riding between events with no load times. In this mode, you can find numerous secret areas, hidden unlockable sections and many more surprises. This definitely opens up the game significantly, and opens up many new racing and challenge modes. It's a great idea that further immerses players into the SSX universe, and gives you many more options than before. Players will also find that the tricks system is even deeper and more elaborate than before, with dozens of new trick styles available. SSX3 includes three main peaks that players can ski down, and each has dozens of races, tricks and more. Instead of opening up menus, SSX 3 is much more open and players can ski into different races they find in the mountain. Players can select from standard races or freestyle modes, which reward players for pulling spectacular stunts. These different modes and the non-linear structure is quite impressive and adds to the game's replay value significantly.
All of the 6 original riders from the original game are included as well as 4 new riders, making a total of 10 playable characters. Each rider has their own personality and style in the game, complete with their own unique moves. The characters' unique abilities play a big role in how they ride the mountain, some are faster while others can perform wilder tricks. Players can also buy character upgrades and new gear after completing races. Controlling the characters is similar to the last game, and SSX vets will have little trouble getting back into the newest installment. You perform the same intuitive moves as before, but the changes should please those familiar with the series. However, the tricks system is much deeper this time around and allows you to perform limitless combos and a bevy of new tricks. Some of these include standard hand plants and board presses, in addition to the standard spinning and rotating moves. In addition, SSX3's special meter has been divided into three-tiers and allows you to perform rail tricks and signature moves for each character. Perfoming combos and chaining moves together makes for even more combinations available to the player. While all this is exciting, the basic intuitive control system keeps the game exciting and addictive. Performing the special moves can make you rack up some amazing scores. Overall, it feels like an SSX game should, but the larger moves list makes it even more intense than before, and should please fans of the first two games.
The long-runs of the previous SSX titles are back this time, but there are a few differences. The game's mountain environment offers a variety of challenges, with beginner to advanced courses. There are a variety of courses that range from straightforward racing areas with lots of ramps, huge drops and giant slalom courses. The game's sense of freedom is enhanced because players can also explore beyond the normal routes and find secrets and shortcuts. Other courses are more stunt-oriented and include trick areas filled with rail parks, half-pipes, and much more. Players face a mixture of short and long courses in the new game, and they're slightly more realistic. In addition to new course types, SSX3 also includes many cool weather effects and epic natural disasters such as lightning storms and avalanches that up the ante significantly and add a lot of tension to the races. The course layouts seem a lot more challenging and SSX3 throws a variety of obstacles at you, with tighter turns, massive gaps and incredibly long rails to master. The play-balance seems more evenly divided between stunts and racing. One of the biggest changes SSX3 veterans will immediately notice is the increase in the number of rails to grind. The jumps also seem trickier to land, and the jumps points on the courses seem much harder to reach. The layout of each level is also much more challenging this time around, with serpentine branching paths that add to the challenge. In addition to these standard runs, players will find more than 150 new challenge levels that will test their skills in a variety of ways, adding to SSX3's replay value significantly.
Another big change comes with the stunts. SSX3's takes the already elaborate trick system and upgrades it to the next level. As usual, you earn points when you successfully pull off tricks. With each landing, your trick meter increases. When the meter is full, special UberTricks can be performed by pressing a button combination onscreen. These enable you to perform spectacular tricks for equally spectacular money and points. Additionally, you can use your accumulated energy to give your rider a quick speed boost. Riders can also collect icons that will give you money, increase the bonus multiplier, or add time to the clock. Each course also features different paths that add to the challenge. The course difficulty, bonus icons, and length depend on which path you choose, and there are numerous short cuts and hidden areas to find. Exploring each course fully requires multiple runs, but there can be significant differences between paths, so it's not as repetitive as it sounds. You'll also face special challenges where you can increase your earnings performing in special races and completing tasks. These include cool mini-games where you have to escape from avalanches or beat a rival - adding variety and excitement to the gameplay.
From a visual standpoint, SSX3 remains unsurpassed and really pushes the PS2 to its limits. The realistic snow environments are incredible with cinematic courses offering incredible field of visions. While not as inventive as previous games, SSX3's realistic courses offer some amazing views from the top of the mountain. The attention to detail remains impressive, you can still find paths in the snow that other riders have left, and the character animations are effective, with each rider displaying plenty of personality and attitude. SSX3's cinematic camera angles give the stunts plenty of impact, but never become disorienting. The game's sense of speed is also impressive and provides the adrenaline rush players have come to expect. There are also some outstanding weather effects as well, with driving snowstorms, blizzards, and fog creating a realistic environment. The game also features dazzling light sourcing that created brilliant sunshine during the day and perfectly illuminated fields at night. This contrast between the natural mountain-based courses and urban city levels is excellent and gives the experience plenty of visual variety. SSX3's graphics are impressive and the soundtrack is also excellent, with a number of prominent artists such as Felix Da Housecat, Queens of the Stone Age, Fischerspooner and, N.E.R.D. providing excellent tunes (some exclusive) that add to the excitement. One area of significant improvement comes in the much more sedated announcing with is far less intrusive than the one used in previous games.
Between it's more open, non-linear structure and deeper tricks system, this is an incredibly challenging and fun title. There are many hidden secrets and unlockable areas to find, and the game's increased exploration definitely gives it seemingly endless replay value. From a technical standpoint, players will find numerous improvements in the course designs and structure that make for a more challenging game. It's a bit more realistic than the last two titles, but there's still plenty of excitement and loads of cool new moves in the game. The intuitive controls and additional moves make for a more challenging title, but the pick up and play controls means its just as addictive as previous games. Building on the solid foundation of the last two games, EA Sports has added an impressive array of new features that add to the experience without making things too complicated. SSX3 is by far EA's best snowboading title to date, and betters many of the pretenders and clones that have appeared by expanding and opening up the action-sports formula it pioneered. SSX 3 remains on top and is an addictive, viscerally exciting title that should ranks as one of the years best titles. It's a highly polished and intense experience that's an absolute must-have for any PS2 snowboarding fan.