SSX On Tour - First Impressions

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Steve Y, Oct 13, 2005.

  1. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

    May 1, 2000
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    A friend of mine got this game today (came out this week), and I've had a chance to play the PS2 version for a little while. Keep in mind I haven't unlocked a lot yet -- I haven't really had a chance to explore the game completely.

    Compared to SSX 3 (my favorite entry in the series), SSX: On Tour definitely has gone in a different direction. Lots has been written about the game's "HS punk notebook" style, which favors rock and metal over the standard snot-punk stuff EA usually shovels on us (hey, snot-punk isn't always a bad thing). As usual, some of the music is great, other tracks "eh", others "blech". If you don't have a fondness for banshee hair metal, you might seriously consider removing some of the tracks from your playlist -- though I haven't checked to see if this is even possible.

    The DJ voice is gone. Some people miss him, others will rejoice. I liked him in SSX 3, but hated him in Burnout 3. Go figure.

    Oddly enough, the graphics in SSX:OT are not quite as nice as they were in SSX 3. They're just not as crisp or clean. This new game has lots of colorful fuschia "rock stage" lighting effects, not to mention speed-blurring effects, which probably account for any graphical sacrifices. The problem with these lighting and motion effects, even beyond the cheesy aesthetic, is that they make the framerate choppy, even on the Xbox version. And for me, framerate is an extremely underrated and important aspect to any game, one that even ambitious developes (Rare, for instance) ignore at their own peril.

    No reviews have yet fully explored the ramifications of the streamlined trick system in SSX:OT. Gone is the complicated (and fun) multi-tier trick system from SSX 3. Gone are uber and super-uber tricks. That only leaves regular tricks (your standard grabs, flips, etc.) and slow-motion "monster tricks". While there are two levels of trick meter (yellow and magenta), I still haven't figured out what the differences are, if any. The paper-thin instruction book and sparse in-game tips are not useful in explianing more complicated tricks, if they exist at all.

    Also gone is online play, although there is a split-screen multiplayer with graphical "de-hancements". I don't have online access, so this absence doesn't matter to me, but I'm sure some will be disappointed.

    Although I've heard you can buy new tricks as you progress, I haven't done this yet. That said, the initial monster tricks are quite boring. First of all, they're too easy to pull off -- you just hold the right analog stick in any of four directions when you're in the air, and the camera swivels around your character and time slows down. (Think "Prince of Persia") In this mode you can pivot your character, tweak his move, etc. It's a neat effect, and it gives you a closer look at your character, but sometimes I wish I could just pull off a big insane trick without all the camera fuss.

    You can stop monster tricks at any time, so there's no timing strategy. All you have to do is release the stick before hitting the ground, and you land perfectly & automatically.

    I do miss "working up" to some insane, inhuman "helicoper" or "hands-free" trick. I just hope there are tricks like that in this game and I just haven't come across them yet, but so far, no go. Maybe SSX has returned to its, ahem, "realistic" roots?

    So, the hardest part about pulling off a big trick becomes filling up your trick meter. It is far more difficult this time to fill your meter, and also much easier to crash. Crashes are a little more spectacular, too. These elements of the game I actually prefer over SSX 3, where I found it far too easy to build and retain ridiculous amounts of boost power, and far too easy to automatically reset after a spill.

    That said... I dislike the speed boost effect, which slows down the framerate and cuts off around 25% of the screen. It's sort of a rush, I'll admit, but it should be saved for special circumstances, not just every little blip of boost.

    The tracks, by the way, are nicely designed, and very dense with rails and jumps. A lot more vertical action, especially in the redwoods. There's also a lot less of "off-track reset glitch areas". In fact, I haven't found one!

    The whole game, like SSX 3, still seems to exist on one long track (or "mountain"), but unless you dig in the menus and try "free ride" early on, you'll have to wait to unlock more to see exactly how the tracks connect.

    The very real sense of geography from SSX 3 is missing. There's not the feeling that you're opening up new mountains, or exploring new paths. All the areas sort of look the same. It's scattered, episodic... there is a "map" but it's a vague illustration of a mountain with lots of dotted lines. A race icon here, a challenge icon there... you never do know exactly where they're going to set you down, or how long down the track the finish line will be set.

    No more crazy characters, either. You create generic characters to play and give them crazy haircuts and outfits -- but so far, no playable weirdos from earlier SSX games, like Psymon, Kaori, Eddie, etc. I did see "Psymon's Restaurant" in the game somewhere so I know they must be around.

    I have heard this game is NOT progressive-scan compatible on the PS2. I don't have a compatible display so I can't verify this rumor, but if it's true, it's a truly baffling exclusion, because I think SSX 3 had 480p support.

    For me it doesn't top SSX 3. SO FAR. Like I said, it's still very early in the game. It IS a blast, don't get me wrong, and I like that it's oddly stylized (the presentation is off-beat, though definitely aimed at a younger audience), and the collection, air-time, and knock-down stages add great variety into the mix. But overall I miss the complicated trick system, incredibly crisp graphics, and overall "smoother" atmosphere of SSX 3.

    I can't help but feel SSX:OT is a creatively ambitious step back for the series. Or maybe just a half-step. I hope more time with the game proves me wrong.
  2. Fredster

    Fredster Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 13, 2002
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    This series lost me at SSX3 when it became mostly tricking and hardly any emphasis on racing (Tony Hawk Snowbound?).

    SSX and Tricky were about equal mix of racing and tricking and really great fun. Played them both through a couple of times. I was hoping they would get back to that with OT but it doesn't sound like it.
  3. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

    May 1, 2000
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    SSX:OT has nice speed and harder races, but the "attitude" might turn some people off. What made the first two games so great was the basic, silky-smooth iciness of the courses. Now there's just so much going on, and so much stuff littered over the track, that it just doesn't convey that anymore. Like my ad nauseum complaint in my first post, the 60fps solidity of the first two games seems gone forever (or at least until next-gen?).

    This game really leaves it up to the gamer to unlock and discover all the game modes. For instance, you can play as various characters from earlier SSX games, but they're already at high levels (it seems) and you have to enter "quick race" to do it. You can't just have them do "tour mode".

    I designed my own character, but his face is strangely distorted when you actually see him on the track. It's like some sort of bug.

    The "monster tweaks" (where you rotate the stick 180 degrees while doing a monster trick mode) are strangely not possible until you buy more tricks, I think, because I was able to do them easily with Kaori in quick-race mode (and they're pretty cool and acrobatic) but not with my own character in tour mode. Weird.

    It's fun knocking down bunny-slopers. Skiis are fun too, although the control dynamic is pretty much identical. As with the game itself, it's more a style choice than anything else.

    Update: this game seems to have more and more to offer the more you unlock. There is a certain whirring manic energy here that is definitely infectious - even the blurred sensation of speed has a pleasing, dreamlike quality to it. It's growing on me. The game just doesn't reveal its hand at first. It seems doggedly determined to hide the options and game modes until you unlock them yourself.
  4. Peter Rohlfs

    Peter Rohlfs Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 21, 1998
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    What I've noticed about SSX-OT is how the personality has been sucked out. The character you create has none, and even when the original characters do their cameos in tour mode they still don't have 1/w2 the personality the previous games had. Instead tracks full of mindless drones, many of whom aren't even competing in the current challenge.

    EA Games was building a franchise that had a cast to rival Street Fighter, Tekken, DOA, Soul Caliber, etc. It's sad to see them so abandoned.

    I also dislike how the game tries to force to participate in it's assorted mini-games. I always enjoyed SSX for the racing and you could focus on that in the other games. In this one your racing options disappear until you do the other mingames. Soon they are the only options in the events there.

    Also missing was the cool roleplaying character stat buying in SSX 3. You could slowly, progressively build them up as you go. IN OT you can only make giant leaps (New boards, special skills) rarely at high game money expenditures.

    SSX 3 was a step down in the cool track designs (Wild West, Pinball, etc.), but offered the linked tracks in return. In SSX:OT the tracks are poorly marked, confusing, and boring.

    Hopefully there will be an SSX 4 that takes the roleplaying in SSX 3 and the wild track ideas of Tricky, and ignore OT, especially the lame animation and menus.


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