In the 2000s, extreme sports games were at their peak. “Tony Hawk‘s Pro Skater,” “Dave Mira BMX Skate” and “Jet Set Radio” were extreme sports franchises that were all released during this decade. The reason there were so many of these games is that companies were trying to cash in on the extreme sports craze at the time. One of the most successful extreme sports games to be released is EA Sport’s Big’s “SSX 3.” It managed to not only be the best game in the “SSX” series, but it also ended up being the best snowboarding game of all time.
The first “SSX” game was released in 2000, as a launch title for the PS2. Its sequel, “SSX Tricky,” came out the following year in North America and improved upon its predecessor by introducing Uber tricks. Uber tricks are a defining characteristic of the series. They allow players to pull off over-the-top snowboarding tricks mid-air. Once a player fills their boost meter, an Uber trick can be activated. This was such a popular gaming mechanism that it was put in “SSX 3” when it was released in 2002.
“SSX 3” does many things differently than its predecessors. For starters, the game transitioned to an open-world structure. There are now three different mountain peaks on just one mountain with each one getting harder as you progress. Players can also ride from the top of the mountain to the bottom in one run with no loading screens. Each peak has its own peak goals, which must be completed before the next one can be unlocked.
These goals usually include winning races, trick challenges, and time trials. What makes the peaks unique are their designs and aesthetics. Events on peak one take place in a futuristic city that has been designed to accommodate snowboards instead of cars. Peak two features an Asian-inspired area filled with pagodas and temples. Peak three looks how you would expect a mountain in a snowboarding game to look, but it is the most difficult of the peaks. These environments look even better when you try to race down the entire mountain through each location.
In “SSX 3,” you’ll be racing down each peak as one of 10 characters. Six are returning from the previous games, while four are brand new. Each has their own default stats, but after enough time playing, these stats can be maxed out. Just like the locations, the characters in the game have their own unique personality.
Psymon is a psychotic, mentally unstable snowboarder. Elise is a Canadian snowboarder, who emphasizes her beauty and looks. Allegra, who graces the cover of the game, is a young, rebellious snowboarder. Every character’s personality is shown in subtle ways. When being transported to an event from the pause menu, a short scene plays where the player is transported via ski lift. The scene will differ depending on who you’re playing as. For example, since Psymon is meant to be psychotic, he’s the only character that rides on the outside of the ski lift instead of inside.
While playing the game, your ears will be blessed by its amazing soundtrack, which is a mix of electronica, rock and rap. Some of the artists include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chemical Brothers, Finger Eleven and N.E.R.D. In-between songs, players will hear from the charismatic DJ Atomika. He chimes in every once in a while to update players about weather conditions and upcoming songs. Every song in the game has multiple versions. This is because of the way the game handles music during gameplay.
Every time you fall off your board, the music abruptly stops and begins to play an instrumental version of whatever song was playing at a lower volume. To bring the lyrics back, you’ll have to land a few tricks and fill your momentum meter. Once this happens, the music returns with lyrics at a high volume. The game’s soundtrack is so good that it won the Interactive Achievement Award for Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack. It was even nominated for Best Video Game soundtrack at the 2004 VMAs.
“SSX 3” went on to sell 1 million copies making it the first “SSX” game to do so. Unfortunately, the series never lived up to this as every follow-up was lackluster. Things only got worse for the series when EA decided to shut down EA Sports Big, the label used to publish EA’s arcade sports games. Eventually, a dark and gritty series reboot titled “SSX: Deadly Descents” was announced in 2010 before that too was rebooted into “SSX” (2012). Despite it being a reboot of a reboot, it failed to set the world on fire and, since then, the series has been dormant.
The closest we’ve come to any kind of “SSX” release since 2012 came in 2018 when “SSX 3” was released on Xbox One. This version of the game came with upgraded visuals and is also playable on the Xbox Series X. EA is probably hesitant to bring the series back, but if they can bring back Skate, they can bring back “SSX,” too. If a new “SSX” game ever comes out, fans would hope that EA learns from their past mistakes and puts out a great game.
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