With SSX, developer EA Canada is looking to create a "Burnout on the snow." All the tracks in the game are modeled using topography data compiled by NASA and processed by the developer's own Mountain Man tool. The resulting tracks are near-perfect re-creations of their real-life counterparts. And they're realistic, but oftentimes they're not that much fun to race on their own. Luckily, EA Canada isn't afraid to go in and touch up some of these locations by adding in a few ramps and other elements for players to enjoy.
To demonstrate, the developers loaded up a track on Mt. Kilimanjaro that started each racer out in a different spot surrounding a large crater. Once the race started, all the racers were funneled into the icy mountain where they jostled for position in a narrow passageway. Moments later, they spilled out onto the course proper and split off in all directions. Instead of a mostly linear track from A to B, with a few alternate routes scattered throughout, the tracks in SSX are massive areas with wildly divergent routes that feed into various choke points.
In addition to the normal tracks, SSX will have survival stages that pit racers against nature. Rocks, snow, ice, thin air, and even gravity were all cited as possible threats in these stages. The stages are built with a stability map. In less-stable areas, the player is more likely to trigger or add to a natural disaster, whereas in more-stable areas, the disaster will dissipate some. These maps are also procedurally generated, so you won't be facing the same disaster twice. The stage we saw had SSX veteran Elise attempting to outrun an avalanche. To help add a little dramatic flair, the camera was positioned head-on and pulled way back from the action so that we could take in the full scope of the rushing snow.
After this, we got to try out the game for ourselves. The control scheme had two options for us to chose from for performing tricks. One used the face buttons, while the other combined them all into the right analog stick. At first, we thought the buttons would be the superior choice for providing more control over our stunts, but we quickly grew to love the analog option more. Executing complex strings of tricks was a breeze with the stick, though the developers were quick to assure us that sensitivity was offered by the digital alternative.
Items will also play a large role in SSX, though the developers weren't ready to talk specifics just yet. On the character select screen, we could see sections for different boards, kits, accessories, and boosts. Based on what we played, the game felt very reminiscent of the much-beloved SSX: Tricky with accessible controls and a flair for the extreme. SSX will be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in January.