Overall (not an average):
Developer: EA Sports BIG
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Playstation 2, XBox*, Gamecube* (Reviewed on PS2)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
*XBox and Gamecube versions not yet released at time of review.
When the Playstation 2 launched, there was a great deal of grumbling in the gaming community about a lack of good titles available for the system in those early days. Those who were lucky (or paid enough attention to the web hype-sites for such things) discovered one true gem among those release-day titles, and picked up a copy of the original SSX. With outrageous graphics and addictive gameplay, the title made instant fans out of most anybody that took a spin down the powdery slopes, despite their previous like or dislike of snowboarding in particular or such extreme sports games in general.
A year later, EA Sports' BIG imprint has done it again. Taking all the best elements from the original, they deliver a sequel so packed with new twists and turns that it doesn't disappoint. Two new snowboarding tracks are available, one easy and one extreme, to bracket the return offerings. However, the old tracks are just shy of completely different, with new shortcuts, hidden paths, and crazier jumps and rails to grind. Those that count on their old familiarty with these tracks are in for some serious (and perhaps painfully unpleasant) surprises. The characters are for the most part familiar, though gone are the two least used characters from the first game, replaced with six new ones, to bring the total number of riders to a dirty dozen.
EA BIG also upped the ante (and the development budget) to allow for some real entertainment industry voice talent for the various characters. Actors Lucy Liu, Billy Zane, David Arquette, Patricia Velasquez, and Oliver Platt, recording artists Bif Naked and Macy Gray, and travelling sideshow ringleader Jim Rose join the voice cast with some returning talents to make for an entertaining (and often hilarious) voice cast. Pre-race barbs and mid-track exclamations keep the game as interesting to listen to as to look at. Speaking of speech (and sound in general), the soundtrack for this game is a wicked mix of techno remixing, original tracks, and sampled favorites (including the eponymous cut, Run DMC's classic "It's Tricky" from their Tougher Than Leather days).
Graphics for this one are comparable for the first title, which is a bit disappointing, but given the rest of the game, and the quality of the graphics for the first one, I'm willing to let that go. Gameplay is simple, once you get used to the control scheme that employs pretty much every button available, but deceptively deep. With practice and familiarty, I was still seeing new tricks after nearly two weeks of regular play. And with the ability to improve the various riders' statistics through completing competition events in the World Circuit, the tricks get more and more outrageous as you go.
If you liked the first one, or were unfortunate enough to miss out, grab this one ASAP. It's a blast to play, as addictive as crack cocaine, and a great party diversion in 2-player mode. And with a dozen riders, it'll take you a long while to exhaust the advancement possibilities (and even once you do, it's a blast to go back to early tracks with super-skilled riders and perform outrageous physics-defying stunts).
As an added bonus, EA BIG finally exploits the DVD format of the PS2 to present a whole slew of DVD extras along with the game, including interviews with the voice cast and making-of featurettes. It'd be great to see more of this kind of thing in future releases.
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