SSX. If you squint, those three little letters look rude. If you don't, they conjure up phrases like 'big air', or 'how fast?' With On Tour there's a new one: 'believe the hype'. By that we don't mean taking EA's advertising as gospel. Rather, it's an integral part of the new gameplay.
Fourth time around for EA's classic snowboarding series and the aim of the game is blowing your own trumpet. Or rather letting your well-honed 'boarding skills do all the blowing for you. The key gameplay amendment here is the titular Tour mode, your participation in which depends on your ability to generate selfhype through jaw-dropping performances in the snow. The more Shreds (events) you complete, the more word-of-mouth you'll generate, resulting in invites to ever-higher echelons of the tour, where even greater rewards await you.
Shreds provide the perfect bite-sized opportunities to lark about with On Tour's
seamless new trick system. Forget the new game structure - this is where the real kicks are had. Donkey-sized kicks, no less. With barely minutes of practice, a whole slope can be one long chain of acrobatic insanity, as you grind along chair-lift cables and railings and tear over snowploughs. Once your boost bar is full (generously placed pick-ups do the job) wiggle your right thumbstick like it's never been wiggled before to pull off Monster Tricks and edge ever closer to becoming the Black Diamond Rockstar, or 'overall winner' in proper-speak. It's brilliant, intuitive fun: huge combos can be achieved within hours of firing the game up.
For the first time there's also the opportunity to use skis to mix things up a little. While they provide more agility - sharper turning circles and the ability to jump higher and so on - there's a noticeable reduction in the number of tricks you can perform. So for events where you have to build a lead over an opponent or simply beat the clock, skis will need to adorn your great plastic clodhoppers. While these new touches enhance an already fantastic game, the most obvious shift occurs in its style. Out goes the slightly cartoonish, primarycoloured presentation of old; in comes black snow, board-mounted cannons and swearing. Just kidding. However, EA has seen fit to tilt the aim towards a slightly more 'alternative' market. On Tour therefore comes resplendent with scratchy, dynamic artwork throughout, and there's a complete lack of comedy afros in the new selection of boarders. Don't worry though - SSX On Tour certainly hasn't gone all grown up and moody on us. The newfound edginess just reinforces the fact that you're playing a digital version of one of the coolest sports in the world.
Bringing SSX On Tour in line with some of EA's other sports titles, you can now practically put yourself into the game. Unfortunately, we don't mean that EyeToy compatibility has been added, just that you can spend hours in front of the mirror trying to get every last gory detail of your mug recreated for the peaks with the richly detailed create-a-boarder facility. It's all completely superficial and doesn't in the least bit affect how your rider performs, but it's another neat attention to detail.
PLAY TO WIN
As you fill your pockets with winnings, the local snowboarding gear emporium fills up
with, well, snowboarding gear. All manner of goggles, hats and boots can be snapped up,
along with a full range of snowboards offering added speed or greater aerial prowess. Strangely enough, new tricks can also be purchased in the shop. Does this mean your character is sent on a little training course after you hand over your cash? Who knows, but we shudder to think where the Donkey Mick was learned. And Chocolate Thunder is a lot less messy than its name suggests.