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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution

Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: EA Canada
Genre: Extreme Sports
Players: 1-2
Release Date: November 2005
Written by: Matthew Prunty

Consoles: PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, and PSP

When the PS2 first launched in the United States back in 1999, there were a handful of titles that grabbed people’s attentions, but nothing in the way of SSX. At this time, extreme sports games were far and few, but this new series from EA Big (developed by EA Canada) gave a fresh breathe of air to the promising sport. With the combination of a innovative controls scheme, enticing snow effects, and insane tricks, SSX saw commercial success.

Keeping the series fresh in gamers minds, EA Big released SSX Tricky, the sequel to the acclaim SSX the bar was raised in every aspect of the first installment, which put gamers on a new high. But this type of success isn’t without its consequences. Gamers, and even developers are expecting more from the series, considering the first two entities were met with critical acclaim and commercial success.

Mad air...

The in 2003, EA Big took the series to all new heights, some thought to never be possible within the series, let alone a sports title. From open worlds, to huge mountains, to even a deeper gameplay that consisted of online gameplay, SSX3 was the ultimate snowboarding title around (even outdoing 1080: Avalanche, which was released for the Nintendo Gamecube).

For those who think SSX’s next title will only consist of snowboarding, you though wrong. Within SSX: On Tour, EA Big is talking things to the next level by incorporating skiing. To EA Big, this is the natural progression within the series considering the fact that by adding the skiing element, the trick roster has more than double, and it open the doors to unseen maneuvers and gameplay techniques.

Without loosing its presence within the world of extreme sports, On Tour will now have a grittier look, trying to give gamers a more realistic look and feel. One example of this is the ability to create your very own character. You will no longer be playing as fame characters: Mac, Psymon, or even Kaori. The depth EA has gone to incorporating this new feature is very immersive, but unfortunately for those gamers who thought EA would include the ability to map your own face to the character’s body, will be left wanting more.

All on one foot...

Once you finish creating your character, you are given the option of choosing to be a snowboarder or a skier. You are even given the option to switch back and forth between being a boarder or a skier. But all good things come with its consequences, whereas if you switch from a boarder to a skier, or vise versa, you will have to compete in all the tournaments and medal competitions one again. Once you have decided on your style of gameplay, it’s time to hit the slopes in Tour mode. Once you set foot into this mode, you start out as a no-name Joe who must prove his keep. With every race you win and medal that is earned, you move up in the ranks, thus becoming one step closer to being the next “king of the mountain”.

The Tour mode is comprised of two modes: Medal and Shred. Before you can even think about going after the gold, you have to prove yourself worthy of the honor by competing in the Shred events, thus building your “hype”. The Shred events consist of one-on-one battles and “world challenge” (environmental based objectives), which challenge your skills on the slopes and has the potential to start one of many rivalries with your competitors.

It’s clear that this time around, the focus has been put on “Player’s Choice”, as apposed to “Developer’s Choice”. Don’t think you won’t see any familiar faces in SSX On Tour, as EA will be incorporating 7 legendary snowboarders from previous titles, as well as three new characters. And to make them fit within the new direction of SSX, each character will be refitted and redesigned in the new gameplay and visual style.

Snowboarding is out, skiing is in...

Another aspect that EA has proven themselves in is providing a visual experience like no other. With every installment of SSX, the bar has been set and the surpassed. The animations within the character models are a step above that of SSX3, to the point where you can make out clothing brands that several of the boarders will be sporting. But if you had to choose the one thing that has the greatest appeal due to the graphics, it would have to be the mountain. The shear size of the mountain alone makes for some very interactive surroundings, including being able to break tree branches when you do flying jumps and it a tree. Another nifty element to the graphics is the sense of speed. A blur effect is used when skiing down the slopes at more than 80 mphs.

For those who thought EA would stick with the club-style soundtracks, would be happy to hear (some wont though) that SSX On Tour will be pumped full of Hip-Hop and Rock tracks that keep the blood flowing and the energy pumping. The voices and many sound effects will be on par with that of the previous SSX titles, but with more emphasis and depth. All in all, the new approach is coming with a successful total makeover to the series.

From what was shown at E3, and from the many screenshots and video feeds that have been provided, I have to admit, SSX On Tour is shaping up to be the next generation of extreme snowboarding games. EA started the craze with SSX, and they will continue to lead the way with innovation, creativity, and a in-depth gameplay core that keeps gamers on ends for hours with insane tricks that would please Tony Hawk. Very few problems were evident, so that bolds well for EA in the long run. Most likely there will be some more polishing here and there, and maybe even a few surprises, but all in all, we got our next great snowboarder/skier right here.

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