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SSX 3 PlayStation 2

Published by EA Sports
Developed by EA Sports BIG
Released: Out Now
Price: £39.99

The extreme sports genre has constantly increased in popularity over the last few years. Whilst virtually all of the games in the genre are to some degree enjoyable not all have mass appeal. Perhaps the most inviting series has been the snowboarding sensation SSX. The SSX series has always done things slightly different and aimed to be more accessible than any other series in the genre. Whilst tricks are still a core element of the gameplay, the SSX series goes for an unrealistic, exaggerated feel that doesn't punish or deter the novice player. There's still rewards for skilful play mind you but the gameplay has always had an emphasis on being fun.

SSX 3 is here at last and it's got a lot to live up to with both SSX and SSX Tricky being wonderful titles. Thankfully though the developers have outdone themselves with SSX 3; it definitely outclasses the previous titles in the series. This time around the gameplay is set on one mountain. You can either opt to play Single Event, Conquer the Mountain or Multi Play. The heart of SSX 3 is the Conquer the Mountain mode. The mountain has 3 peaks and initially only the first peak is unlocked. Each of these peaks has a mass of objectives that need to be completed and items that need to be collected.

You don't have to return to the main menu to transfer from peak to peak or from location to location as you have a handheld device that allows you to change location. Events include Freeride which allows you to bypass the start gate and look for the various challenges that are scattered around. Race is self explanatory really and you'll go up against 5 other opponents. If you do well you'll progress through to the later rounds and make your way to the final. There are various freestyle events such as Slopestyle and Big Air, where the quality of your tricks is of the utmost importance. You'll also have rival challenges and the chance to beat them in a backcountry race and jam events as well as peak events which can last up to a whopping half hour.

Of course before you do anything else you've got to pick your character. SSX 3 offers a choice of 10 characters to choose from including Elise, Nate, Griff, Viggo and Kaori. No matter which you choose they will all begin with rock bottom attributes. To upgrade your characters' abilities you're going to need plenty of cash. Winning competitions and collecting items such as the snowflake icons (there are also score multiplying and speed increasing icons to collect too) will help to bring in the cash. To purchase improved abilities you'll have to enter a lodge. Here you can buy new abilities, new clothes, new tricks and new boards. There is such a wealth of items in the lodge that you could easily spend an hour just choosing what gear you want.

This year EA Sports have impressively made all of their games fully utilize the controller and have embraced the much neglected right analogue stick with affection. SSX 3 is no exception and rather pleasingly you can now use the right analogue stick to perform a board press which is equivalent to a manual move and helps you link tricks together for even greater combo scores. You don't get a gauge for you to work out if you're balancing OK during a board press but in all honesty you don't need one because it's obvious by looking at your character.

SSX was full of tricks but SSX 3 takes it even further and now you can perform Über and Super Über tricks as well as the usual rail slides, grabs, handplants etc. On the right side of the screen you have an adrenaline meter and once this is filled, by performing tricks, you'll be able to spell out the words Über by performing Über tricks and then you can spell Super Über with Super Über tricks and this allows your meter to stay full for a short period of time to allow you to grab as many points as possible. You can purchase Über tricks from the lodge but you do begin with a few basic ones.

Whilst the other versions of SSX 3 don't have an online mode the PlayStation 2 version does and it makes it the best version to buy. Surprisingly the framerate doesn't drop in the slightest when in split screen mode, which is excellent. It's recommended that you have a decent size TV for split screen mode though as on the 21" that we played our games on, it did seem a little squashed. The multiplayer component is basically a 2-player Single Event mode. Whatever events you've unlocked in Conquer the Mountain mode will appear here too. Split screen gaming is fun but it's not as good as the online mode. Once you're connected you're able to choose the character that you've been developing in Conquer the Mountain mode and use him or her to challenge an opponent by either opting for a Quick Match up or you can enter the lobby and directly challenge an opponent.

Visually SSX 3 look very good. The PlayStation 2 version is practically identical to the Xbox version, it might be slightly poorer but only just. One of the disappointments with SSX Tricky was that it suffered from slowdown in certain places. SSX 3 has no such problems however and the framerate constantly remains smooth and zippy which is how it should be with a game of this nature. SSX 3 has some of the best snow effects to date and the snow spray that is given off from your board or indeed the avalanches that you will encounter later on in the game all look fantastic. The character animations are wonderfully smooth and as good as in any game that I've ever seen. The track/slope designs are also superb and always keep you on your toes. They are so full of twists and shortcuts that you could play for months without feeling that you've mastered them.

As you would expect with a game of SSX 3's nature it's absolutely fine for deaf gamers. Deaf gamers do miss out on the comments from the event announcers, characters and the banter that they exchange during events but this doesn't dilute the enjoyment of the game one iota. All information and instructions are delivered exclusively in text. All dialogue boxes require you to close them with a button press so you can spend as long as you like reading the text onscreen. In online mode you can use a virtual keyboard to type in your chat messages to your opponents. The game does support headsets but if you want to play only deaf opponents, you can either add them to your buddy list or create a room for yourself and friends. In either case there is no disadvantage for deaf gamers with the online mode.

SSX 3 surpasses the previous games in the series in every department. It's graphically beautiful, handles very nicely indeed and the gameplay is going to last you months. If I'm being honest here I would have to say the control scheme feels more comfortable on the PlayStation 2, this is the platform for which the series was originally built after all. The online mode makes it better than the other versions too and further increases the longevity of the game. This game should be on top of your Christmas wish list if you are at all interested in snowboarding games, as it's one of the best titles the extreme sports genre has ever seen.

Overall Game Rating: 9.3/10
Sporting an online mode the PlayStation 2 version of SSX 3 is the one to choose if possible. The control system also feels more natural on the PS2.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The character comments are not subtitled but otherwise it's fine for deaf gamers. You can chat using a virtual keyboard in online mode and create your own room too.