Richard Sawyer

SSX Tricky

18th May 2005
SSX Tricky
reviewer: Richard Sawyer
rating: 5 out of 5
developed by: EA Sports BIG
published by: EA
rrp: £9.99
formats: PS2, Xbox, GC, GBA

SSX was in many people’s eyes the highlight of the PS2’s lacklustre launch. Surprisingly it was a new game from EA, and developed by a new team; EA Sports BIG. A year on from that and SSX was still one of the PS2’s better games. The original played a lot like a racing game, whilst still maintaining the feel and adrenaline of the sport.

SSX Tricky
SSX Tricky

Like a developing musical artist’s second album, EA Sports BIG are really trying to take the essence of the first game and simply make it bigger, brasher and more enjoyable. The first of the major changes lies in the trick system; as stated earlier the original game’s primary focus was racing. The tricks were used to gain adrenaline to “boost” down the mountain. As you’d expect from a game with the word “Tricky” in the title, pulling tricks has been given a whole new impetus. To aid this revision the developers have added an extra 2 new tracks and completely redesigned the ones from the original. A couple of the characters have been cut from the roster and several added. This changes however major will not alter the gameplay anywhere near as much as the all-new uber tricks. After all of these changes; how does in compare to its predecessor?

SSX Tricky
SSX Tricky

Graphically, SSX: Tricky stands up well. Initially you will find it hard to see where it has changed, but the more and more you play, the more you will notice and the more you will doubt that you ever thought SSX looked good. Each character model is well designed, detailed and animated. The most impressive thing however, is the tracks, but I will cover this in more detail later.

The music in Tricky is superb. As with SSX, the music changes dynamically as you play. For example lets say you are getting very pumped up and pulling lots of tricks, the music will become more intense and pumped up with you. While jumping you will find that the music dies down so you can hear the wind rushing past you, then on a perfect landing the music will kick back in. It’s the small details, which are so often overlooked that really make this game. Mix Master Mike (of Beastie Boys fame) contributed heavily to the musical arrangement and it shows. The soundtrack is spot on for this game. Rapper Razzel accompanies you during ever event, like a commentator and an MC, strange as it sounds; it really works.

Where voice acting is concerned, it plays a far bigger role than it ever did in the prequel, or any game for that matter. Never has a game been able to boast such a roster of stars. One wonders how they managed to bad such highbrow celebrities. They include: David Arquette, Lucy Liu, Oliver Platt, Macy Gray, Billy Zane and Bif Naked. The quality of the voice acting, whether from celebrities, voice talent or EA staff is superb. Again another little touch is that they actually did the voice acting first, then did the lip-syncing; giving a very god overall effect. It transpires that some of the actors “made the characters their own” to such a degree that EA decided to redesign the characters around them.

Although all of the tracks from the original have returned, you’d know it only from name. They have now been redesigned to encompass the new tricky gameplay. Veterans of the original will initially be thrown off balance by the course changes; you will soon realise though, that this actually adds life to the game, as you will really enjoy rediscovering them. The new tracks (Alaska and Garibaldi) fit right in. The thing that grabbed me about the tracks was the sheer scale. Never have I so regularly gazed at a television screen in such wonderment.

There are a few new characters in Tricky, and the others have been given some loving makeovers. It is obvious that EA Sports BIG have worked hard to really build up the characters in the game. From the voice acting, the personalised tricks (see later) and stat building to the character rivalries. Unfortunately in my opinion the rivalries have been underplayed and the system fails to work as it should; which is a shame as it is a nice idea.

The stat building that I mentioned above helps to guide you more and give you something to aim for. It also limits you from trying too much early on, which helps the learning curve nicely.

The main game modes are a one or two player single event, world tour or practice. Competing in the world tour allows you to build up your stats, and open new boards; whilst completing specific tricks from your “trick book” opens up new outfits; again playing on the character side of things. Each of these modes can be split into either race or show off. Show off basically being a trick attack and constituting the core of the game as you become more advanced.

If you were to pick up the game and speed through a few of the race sections you would probably think that it played pretty much like the original, and you’d be right. The handling and physics of the riders early on is very similar. However, build up your favourite character’s stats a little, and take a trip down Garibaldi in show off mode to see the guts of this game. The tricks!

Pull off “vanilla” tricks to build up your boast bar, when its full you can pull an uber trick! Be warned, they would be horrendously impossibly to do in real life, break dancing on a snowboard anyone?! Within the over the top realm of Tricky though, they feel right at home. Every time you manage to land an uber, you light up one letter of the word “TRICKY”, light up all six and you have now have perpetual boosting pleasures, and are free to pull as many uber’s as you like, and rack up some huge scores in the process. Like I said before, this really is where it’s at for this game. It is very similar to Tony Hawk’s in its addictiveness and infinite replayability, especially in the superb two player mode.

It is probably obvious to you already that you need to own this game, but which version is right for you?!

PlayStation, this was the base platform for the developers. The graphics run at a good (not great) frame-rate most of the time. The tricks are mapped well to the shoulder buttons and it supports real-time 5.1 DTS surround.

Xbox, the frame-rate is generally a lot smoother, it supports 5.1 Dolby Digital surround (again real-time) and also have some added shadows. However sometimes these shadows can feel out of place. The biggest problem is the fact that the pad only has two shoulder buttons, thus meaning you must use a face button in conjunction with these in order to pull off some of the tricks, this isn’t too bad, accept when you also need to press another face button for uber tricks. Be warned it can get a little tricky (no pun intended).

Gamecube, the frame-rate is actually the lowest of them all, and the disc capacity means that you only get a “making of” rather than full DVD extras like the other versions. It does however support real-time Dolby Pro Logic II surround. The image is also a bit clearer than the other versions, and the z-button remove the need to use a face button like on the Xbox version.

Overall though every version is worth owning, it really just depends on which console’s you have and which version you can pick up cheapest. Without a doubt one of the best EA games in years, roll on SSX 3.

More Info