The king of all that is snowboarding has returned, and it’s looking better than ever! However, this time it is not about pristine parks, slopes, and half pipes – it is just you versus nature on 9 of the world’s deadliest mountains.

In EA Sports’ newest installment of the popular snowboarding franchise, there are three main areas to attack from the main menu: World Tour, Explore, and Global Events.

Let’s begin with the World Tour, undoubtedly the first place you will want to tackle first.  This area is where you will master (well, survive) the 9 descents, compete against other SSX team members in race or trick, and unlock additional characters (you begin the game with Zoe as the only playable character).  Each new area has a new rider in which to unlock and as you go through the World Tour, once that character is unlocked, you maintain control of them throughout the remainder of that particular mountain.  It gives you a chance to see what the character is like, get some experience and levels, and see how they ride. Additionally each deadly descent is made up of 4 or so different events including a one-on-one race/trick match against the rider you will unlock, a race against 3 other riders to the bottom, a race/trick match against 3 riders with the addition of a unique gear choice necessary to make it down the peak, and finally a survival match of the descent itself.

What makes each peak unique is that there is one particular aspect that stands out from the rest making the descent uniquely dangerous from the rest.  This aspect will require your rider to equip specific gear in order to make it to the bottom alive.  The only objective to the descent is survival, but it swiftly becomes so much more than simply dodging trees and jumping bottomless crevices as avalanches, cold, oxygen, total darkness, and other dangers ominously attribute themselves to certain peaks. Take for example the deadly descent of the Rockies. Zoe must wear a specific armor suit which will increase her survivability (a percentage given to you before you begin each descent) and protect her from rocks, trees, and debris – trees being your main deadly obstacle of this mountain. The more the armor is used, the weaker it becomes until it finally breaks.  The breaking of armor not only damages Zoe but from then on her health will drastically fall with each hit she takes. For another example let’s look at Kaori in the Himilayas. Mt. Everest is the descent to master; but as many know, a lack of oxygen at such high altitudes can spell certain death if not properly prepared.   As your vision swiftly blacks out, your oxygen tank is the only thing keeping you going…while it lasts.  This is a challenge where speed and cutting corners can mean the difference between survival and defeat.

The Explore feature is a full world access free for all.  This is where you can earn experience, levels, gear, points, and medals on all the different descents, peaks and uncharted trick parks.  This is where you will want to really flaunt what you’ve got as players from around the world will be waiting for you to challenge their best scores…or perhaps challenge yours! As you race or trick down the mountain you’ll be up against three other players viciously fighting for that gold medal place.  Competition is tough but even coming in as silver or bronze will earn you experience, credits and medals.  Upon finish, if your score is good enough, it will be saved for challenging via a ghost of your character.  A cool feature here is that you don’t even need to be on game to challenge people and whenever you next play it will inform you of any winnings your ghost may have earned you while you were away. The competition ranges from minor threat to how-the-hell-did-he-do-that ~ so think you can hold the top placement for long? Only time will tell 🙂

Global Events is exactly what it sounds like, but instead of simply competing to put the best score down on the books, this time you’re playing for credits and fame.  The events can last hours to weeks and throughout that time frame riders from all over will compete against each other for a share in the spoils.  Each event has a certain amount of credits to pay in which then goes into a large pool.  As you compete in the event, be it race or trick, you get a placement of diamond through bronze (five in total) and it gives you an estimated share of the winnings…that is unless someone beats your score within the allotted time. It is a great way to make friends, meet rivals, compete, and earn some extra credits!

Finally there is a feature called Ridernet which is your online social connection to the rest of the SSX world. It’ll show you where the best competitions are, where friends are competing, as well as which descents you like or have mastered, gear choices, and other stats.

SSX incorporates many of the beloved features from the previous games while still introducing new twists, ideas, and aspects.  One thing veterans of the series will note is a change in controls. They may be different, but give them a try – the new configuration isn’t too hard to master and love.  However, if you simply cannot part with your old habits there is a manual option to go back to the standard control settings – a feature I particularly thought was a nice touch to include.  The characters and environments look great and the various natural terrain dangers are an excellent addition.  You can just about feel the adrenaline rush as you careen down the mountain in the dead heat of a trick competition whilst trying keep up the extra effort of staying alive against Mother Nature. It’s enough to make me wish it wasn’t so freakishly warm out for February/March, but I suppose I am simply left to stare longingly at my snowboarding gear and amuse myself amidst the world of SSX! Now back to the descents!

[note: SSX is currently available for the PS3 and XBox 360 gaming systems. For those on PS3, if you want to challenge or try to beat my scores feel free to add/rival me: Primula2525] ^^