|SSX On Tour (2005)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP
It’s interesting how seemingly little press push this game received. It was released a few months back, but is easily the best entry into the “SSX” franchise, which is saying quite a lot, considering how exciting and enjoyable the previous three titles have been. However, “SSX On Tour” seems to be one of those sleepers that got in under the radar. Perhaps there were other games that overshadowed it at the time of its pre-Christmas release date, or maybe EA was just banking on the devoted to purchase the game on faith. Whatever the case, this is one hell of a ride and easily one of the best PS2 games ever to be released, period.
This time around, the SSX world has been restructured around competitors that the players themselves create, rather than following the careers of past characters such as Zoe, Psymon, Mac, and the like. This is a nice break from tradition, setting the game a step or two apart from its predecessors from the start. You can create your player from a varying array of heads, body types, clothes, etc. You can also choose whether you want to compete on a snowboard of yore, or on skis, making another new wrinkle that breaks with old ties.
Like “SSX 3,” “SSX On Tour” features one huge mountain comprised of 13 new tracks that players will get to know and eventually string all together for one gigantic, long ride. However, unlike “SSX 3” and the other games in this series, players aren’t awarded with skill points to increase their characters abilities. This time around, players must grab up cash icons that are scattered about the courses while competing to buy better boards, tricks, special power attributes, clothes, and hairstyles. Cash is also won in main races and trick competitions. After a while, players will also receive sponsorships who will also chuck in a bonus percentage of cash won in these main events.
Aside from those main events are smaller events that allow players to get to know the courses a little better. Some of these events include the amusing 'knock down x amount of little kids trying to ski' in a set time, escaping a ski patrol in a race to the finish line, staying off the snow and sticking to rails (which is rather difficult), trick-offs, races in which you have to beat your opponent by being ahead so many meters, and more. Suffice it to say that “SSX On Tour” is jam packed with lots to do that will keep you playing for longer than you think you will be in any one sitting.
Numerous modes are unlockable, as are the classic old characters who will challenge you to races and events of various sorts. Zoe doesn’t come off half as bad-ass as she was in the prior games, and Kaori is an absolute pain in the ass to try to beat. The classic characters are also playable after being unlocked in the “Quick Play” mode for those who still want to enjoy the feel of the older “SSX” games.
On top of that, the game sports one of the best rock and hip-hop soundtracks of any game ever. Fans of “Burnout Revenge” will recognize a couple of shared songs, but there’s nothing here that you won’t want to hear again and again while ripping up the snow. This is good, adrenaline-fueled music, and for once there are no DJs to get in the way of your listening enjoyment (much like “Burnout Revenge”). Add to that a super-cool menu interface that looks like some teenager’s wacky pencil drawings on notebook paper and you have a total package that is a winner in every possible way.
So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t tried “SSX On Tour,” then snap it up now. It’s easily the best over-the-top snowboarding game to ever be released, and the crown jewel of the entire “SSX” series. It’s easy for newcomers to pick up right out of the box and old fans will feel right at home with the intuitive yet smooth as silk controls. This is definitely one series that hasn’t gone stale, and if EA continues to tweak it in all the right ways as it has done here, it never will. A modern classic.