The giant SSX mountain has always been a playground for snowboarders eager to show off their skills. It was never any place for the humble skier. Until that is, EA decided to give skiers just as much 'tude' as their boarding brothers.
We've played SSX On Tour, and besides from the incredible new front end (hand-drawn visuals, MTV-style menu systems and so on), we were surprised at just how versatile adding skiing into the mix makes this new SSX. We were expecting the skiing sections to feature sun-blasted OAPs trundling down the slopes. Thankfully, it's anything but. Because the skis are round-tipped at both ends, you're able to do anything a snowboarder can do, often skiing backwards and hitting ramps and rails at whatever angle you like.
The new ski element makes SSX On Tour a game of two very different halves. You can attack a course one way with the board, and another using the skis. There are certain areas and slides only boards can use properly, and vice versa. Most slopes also have dozens of different ways of descending, more so than any SSX game we've seen before, and there are new incentives for trying each slope time and again.
The EA Big team has included a number of markers and tokens throughout each level that must be collected to unlock extra goodies, such as new clothes and boards, but more importantly, to add to the Style meter. You gradually increase this bar by collecting these tokens, and once it's fully powered up, you can then perform Monster Moves, a series of slo-mo trick combos that can be strung together to blast your rivals off the mountain. Showers of sparks and light fall away from you when you perform these, the screen taking on a strange, ethereal glow as the points ratchet up. It makes collecting the tokens well worth your while.
Another first is the opportunity to create your own boarder, equipping them with hundreds of items of licensed clothes and adjusting aspects such as facial features and build. But it's the size of the mountain and the way you ride it that really counts.
Well, we rode it, and it's fantastic. The mountain streamed seamlessly in front of us, and the subtle variations between using both analogue sticks as a skier and a single stick as a boarder really had us experiencing two very different games. Thankfully though, skiing doesn't detract from the core of what SSX is, it's just adds another way of tackling the game. And with a mountain twice the size as in previous SSX games, you can imagine this adds up to a huge amount of gameplay.