Written By Shaun McCracken

With winter about one month away, EA has set to launch it's third installment of the excellent SSX series with SSX 3. The timing couldn't be better, especially since it's starting to feel like the winter months where I live (after the nasty near 100 degree temperatures a week before November), plus it gets us in the winter mood, whatever that may be. If you already have your holiday list put together, make sure you have SSX 3 on your list, because it's probably one of the best and most addictive titles of the year. It improves on everything that has been done in Tricky, and totally re-designs the whole game play structure. Instead of hopping to 8 or 9 different mountains all over the world, you are now bound to one huge mountain with three peaks. And while this may seem limited, there's a whole lot to do and see in SSX 3.

The first thing you'll notice is that you never really need to go to a menu to start an event. You ride to the event, and this is done due to the fact that you can either go for a free-ride on the mountain in the back country or even through an event course. The ability to free-ride increases depth immensely. Here, you are not bound by a race or event, but you can choose to take on a "Big Challenge", which can range from slaloms to trick challenges. Complete a challenge and you can earn money. You can also earn money by placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in an event or collecting money crystals valued at $500, $1000 or $2000 (depending on which peak you're on). But back to free-riding. When you decide to go into the back country to ride, you can explore what the area has to offer and find the collectibles scattered throughout the area. Exploring the back country is also important because you will have to race through it later on in a peak-event. Finding an event is done pretty easy. You can either follow the signs posted, or use your M-Comm communicator to transport you to the event immediately. Events range from a standard race, to different trick events that range from Slopestyle, Big Air and Super Pipe events. Once you complete the main events, you will be challenged by an opponent to race or to go for the higher score on a peak event, which is pretty long. One of the cool things about this game is that you can actually race from the highest point of the mountain to the lowest point, which could take you nearly half an hour to do.

But more about the events. They are done differently than it was the last time around. In SSX Tricky, the race and freestyle events took place on the same course with almost the same layout (the freestyle events added more rails and ramps). Here, each event has it's own course. The race event does not share the course with the freestyle events, and the freestyle events have different course designs. The SlopeStyle event is pretty much close to a race course, except there are more ramps and rails to trick off of. The Big Air events are pretty short runs with ramps that give you but what else, big air. The Super Pipe events are half-pipe events that are done SSX-style. The later events may have multiple or even multi-tiered pipes. If you're wondering about the race events, they are just that, races.

The overall game play mechanics, that is the control design and trick design have barely changed. In fact, I was pretty much able to do the exact same things I did in Tricky here. There are a couple of new moves, though. One is the board presses. Using the C-Stick pressed up or down, you can now execute a move that is pretty much a manual you would see in Tony Hawk, and the use is to keep a combo going. That too is a new feature. You can now create large combos for extra points by doing tricks and manuals, as well as grinds. You have a limited amount of time to link your moves together to keep the combo going, but by doing so you can get big points that can really help boost your overall score. Just be sure to take the point bonus before you end up losing them on a bad jump, or a place you know you will crash. Another new move is the handplant, which is something I haven't used too often. You can use it to grab on to higher surfaces or to link your combo, and it's good to know that you do have another move there.

Aside from the whole new mountain design, there is also the ability to buy new customizations for your rider. These things can range from stat points to improve your performance, to new clothes, boards and accessories to even special unlockables similar to what was done with the krypt in MK Deadly Alliance. I think the cash system is a great addition to the game, where you can control how much your character can increase his/her attributes and decide if you want to unlock accessories or go straight for stat-points. This also makes it a lot easier to get new outfits and boards than it was in Tricky.

But, with everything good that has been put into SSX 3, they left something out that was really helpful in the last game: the trick book. In Tricky, you can look up how to do a specific move and even learn how to do it by tutorial. In SSX 3, they pretty much assume you know every trick and let you go. It's difficult in the Big Challenges where they ask you to do specific moves, and you pretty much have to figure them out by trial and error. There's not even a trick list in the manual. For the rest of the game, I usually just hold a set of buttons and don't care what move I do. But when I need to do something specific, I would like to know how it's done.

The graphics in SSX 3 are much more improved than SSX Tricky, especially when you're comparing the Gamecube versions. The frame rate in SSX 3 is more constant, the textures are not nearly as blurry, the sense of speed seems a little higher and the player models don't look like they are made out of plastic. That is one thing I noticed the most when I saw the Elise model for SSX Tricky and SSX 3, she looked a lot more human in SSX 3, here clothes never seem painted on, and she's not as shiny. The animations are also smoother as well. Then there are the special effects such as the glistening of the snow and ice, the weather effects and even some avalanches. Plus, it has some great lighting. But there are a couple of minor issues. One, the game still has the weird texture and polygon shifting issue I noticed in Tricky. I can understand that would need to be done to keep up with the size of the courses, but it reminds me of what the PS1 games used to do. Although it's not as extreme, you will see times where a surface may re-shape itself or texture shake a tad. The other thing is that the frame rate does slow a little in certain areas. Not as bad as Tricky, but if there are a lot of effects or events taking place, the frame rate will take a momentary hit. It doesn't hinder game play, but is noticeable.

The sound is excellent, and why should it not be, seeing how it's THX certified. I think the best way to describe this game is loud. There is a lot going on in the sound department, from character voices to the arcade sound effects and the music. The music in SSX 3 is perhaps one of the best soundtracks assembled in a long time. I found a lot of likable music that has a lot of range, from established artist such as Fatboy Slim and Chemical Brothers, to new acts such as Yellowcard. It's not like THPS 4 where I really couldn't find one real song I enjoyed or even heard of. Here, you may have not heard of some of the artists, but the music is pretty well known thanks you it's use in commercials or television shows. But it's also the range that is impressive. It's not just all rock, or half rock, half hip-hop. It's a mixture of alternative rock, techno, dance, hip-hop and R&B. Is it better than the SSX Tricky soundtrack? It just might be. Also, the game has adapted a radio system like MSR, except relevant to what is going on. The DJ that comes on is not that annoying, and actually does sound like a DJ. But aside from giving off banter about what is going on outside the game (such as talking about an "orange cat" or people who skateboard on ice), he does provide information on where your heading, who your rival may be and so forth. It can be useful, especially if you're not sure which event you're heading to.

SSX 3 does support GBA/GCN connectivity, but I'm not sure it's all that useful. From what the manual says, you can transfer money into the game, which could be useful in buying items, but it's not very integral to the game. It doesn't make up for the online mode the PS2 version has, but it IS something.

Final Thought

SSX 3 is an excellent snowboarding game, hands down. It's highly addictive, it has a great open design, and it's a very tight and polished game. After playing SSX 3, I'm wondering if Nintendo's own 1080 Avalanche has enough to go against EA's snowboarder. I heard that Nintendo's offering is more of a simulation than and arcade experience, but it all comes down to how much you want to play the game and for how long. I have a feeling many would go for the PS2 version just because of the online mode, which is unfortunate, because it's more of an extra than a core gameplay element. The GC version is just as competent as the other console versions, and just as fun. For GC owners, this is a must have for the system (or any system you have). I'm not going to say this is better than 1080 Avalanche just yet, but it sure does have the potential.





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SSX 3 is by far the best snowboarding game ever made, and it's one of the best extreme sports titles  to be released as well.

SSX Tricky

SSX On Tour


1080 Avalanche

Transworld Snowboarding

There's really no other snowboarder better than SSX 3

2003-2006 SPM

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