Big SSX Preview
There's no doubt that Snowboard Super X will be a game that will set some standards.
Electronic Arts used the PlayStation Festival 2000 as a vehicle to show off its snowboarding game for the PlayStation2, titled Snowboard SuperX (X, pronounced "cross"). One of the best-looking snowboarding title we've yet seen, SSX also appears like it'll have gameplay that is equally as impressive as its graphics.
We asked Steve G., the executive producer, to give us an overview of what the game is all about. He stated, "The basic idea behind this was how to take real routes and snowboarding physics, and make the experience bigger and wilder experience than you can have in real life. I've been snowboarding for about 15 years and I started a thing called boarder cross back in '91, and this is kind of an extrapolation of it. It's like one of those things where you go to bed and dream about how snowboarding could be."
He went on to say, "So what we did was build these huge surreal courses that have so much depth in them - there are tons and tons of shortcuts. Basically, anywhere there's snow you can go. And the game has an edge over those snowboarding titles of the past in that it's heavy on the tricks and keeps up the competitive edge."
SSX grabs different snowboarders from around the world and pits them against each other. Characters have their own unique personalities and will speak in their native tongues. So when you race against a Frenchman, don't be surprised when you hear him taunting in French. The game also features courses from around the world - some that we saw were in Germany, France, the US, and Japan. One course we've learned about is called the Tokyo Megaplex - it's an indoor course with a circular track.
There are plenty of different modes offered in the game, and they'll have a focus on different elements such as tricks or time. The basic trick is that you hold down the jump button and release the button as you hit a jump - and then from there mix and match different moves to go for points. Each time you do a trick, you'll add to your adrenaline bar, which can act as a turbo of sorts.
As stated earlier, the graphics in the game are quite good. However, currently the game does seem to suffer from some frame-rate problems, but we have it on good authority that these will be remedied shortly. "We'll have the game at a constant 60fps," said Steve. "That's no problem at all." As for the characters, currently all of them are being shown with 2,500 polygons, a figure that will soon be upped to 5,000. Another thing that is being worked on is the camera. In the current version you can manually adjust it, but in the final it will change dynamically on the fly. There are areas where you'll want a better perspective, and the computer will thankfully handle that for you.
One of the coolest aspects of SSX is the music. The game features tracks from Mix Master Mike of Beastie Boys fame, who worked with the team to create an on-the-fly DJ - depending on how well you're doing in the game, the music will change. And a majority of the tunes are original.
SSX is currently on track for a release this April in Japan. The game will then release in the US at the PS2 launch. According to EA, the game will see minor improvements for the US. One possibility is the inclusion of a four-player mode, if Sony opts to release the new PS2 four-player adapter in the States. Be assured that we'll have lots more on this game soon.Ryan Mac Donald's Hands-On Report
EA's Snowboard SuperX is the first game for the PS2 that truly looks as though it's running on a next-generation system. More impressive than that is the fact that the game also sounds and plays as though it's on a next-generation system. The music is interactive, and the gameplay feels literally boundless because SSX gives you the freedom to explore just about anywhere on the mountain; if there's snow covering it, you can ride it.
The control and feel of SSX is simply incredible. You actually use the D-pad and both analog sticks to play the game. The D-pad basically controls your spins and jumping rotations, X lets you jump, the left analog stick lets you steer your character, and the right analog stick lets you shove your competitors. In this game, turning and going across the snow are closer to the real experience than in any other game so far. This can mostly be accredited to SSX's super-responsive controls. The only thing about the controls that I think could have been managed better is the whole "jumping and using the D-pad for rotation" thing. I would get mixed up every once in a while and use the D-pad to turn and the analog stick to try to rotate while jumping. To be fair though, it may be one of those tricky setups that takes some time to learn, but once you do you're set.
Visually, SSX looks outstandingly sharp. The TV EA had set up for us to play was a wide-screen HDTV, which really showed off just how rich and detailed the game's textures and models actually were. Even more impressive was the animation of the boarders that never seemed to pop or look awkward in any way between moves. If you started to execute a front grab then changed your mind in mid-animation and went for a heal grab, the animation smoothly flowed from one into the other. Effects like the snow spray that comes off the board when you make a hard turn or the depression carved into the snow by you or the other racers helped make the game look real.
In the audio department, EA has broken new ground with the music in SSX by making the soundtrack a gameplay element that's affected by how well you do. When you're in first place, and you're pulling off great tricks and landing big jumps, you'll hear the full range of the particular track: vocals, bass line, guitar, scratching, whatever.... But when you crash or fall behind a couple of positions, the music mixes on the fly and discretely loses its intensity by dropping out elements of the song. The effect is amazing - you hardly ever hear any abrupt changes that disrupt the song, and even when you're in last place you still get to hear the bass line and a few other key elements, so you can still enjoy the music. The music itself is awesome - EA hooked up Mix Master Mike of Beastie Boys fame with fellow musician Rahzel. The two recorded a couple of exclusive tracks for the game that are fantastic. The game includes a number of other tracks from various artists that were all specially arranged for the game's interactive soundtrack.
So whether you're are a snowboarding fan or just interested in EA's first PS2 game, there's no doubt in my mind that Snowboard Super X will be a game that will set some standards when it's released this summer in Japan. The game is slated for released here in the States this October when the PlayStation2 is launched.
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