SSX on Tour
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-11-15 Xbox Sports E10 (Everyone 10+) EA Sports Big / EA Sports Canada

In with the winter sports, out with the winter blues: the SSX saga is back with a brand new title and a brand new style.

What you will notice right away in SSX On Tour is its new look, featuring a sketchbook with some really crazy doodles. Wacky smiley faces blinking, a unicorn playing the guitar, a snowman on a snowboard, even flying eyeballs, these animated sketches show up everywhere in the game: from the cover to the in-game menus, and even during gameplay, on the mountain, in the form of power-ups and other bonuses.

This title offers two modes of gameplay, Tour and Quickplay. In Quickplay, you just pick a pre-made character and off you go to the slopes. In Tour Mode you customize your own athlete. Pick the sex, body shape, hair, facial hair and clothes; choose to be a snowboarder or a skier. What is interesting to note is that the skier option gives you access to a whole new set of tricks and moves, but it will use the same basic controls as if you were a snowboarder.

Once you have your avatar, you are ready to take on the challenges of the 13 tracks. There are lots of challenges ranging from grinding a pre-set distance, doing a certain number of tricks, beating a certain score or accumulating a certain amount of airtime.

Competing for the highest rank takes a little more than just going down the slopes as fast as you can. You need to build hype if you want to move up. You can gain hype by completing shred and medal challenges, scare the hell out of other skiers as you pass by them and dodge the ski patrol. Yes, for added difficulty, you're no longer competing in closed courses, but instead have to dodge the other skiers and snowboarders who populate the mountain.

Snowball cheat: In the Extras Menu, you will find the Cheat option. Enter "LETSPARTY" to enable the snowball cheat. Your character will be able to grab snowballs from the ground and throw them at opponents to knock them down. Use the right trigger to pick up a snowball.

Tricks are now known as monster tricks, and you perform them with the right thumbstick. As you do other moves, your monster trick meter will fill up, allowing you to use this move when the meter is full.

Scoring/combo hint: The key to any long combo is the ability to string ground and air tricks together using the nose and tail press for boarders and the pivot for skiers. Learn to master these.

Somehow, the characters seem to have lost some detail and a few customizing options compared to those in SSX 3, but the animations are still realistic and smooth. To contrast with the lack of it in character customization, a lot of detail has been put in the environments and the lighting effects, surprisingly not causing any slowdowns (at least not on the Xbox version). The game also places a lot of emphasis on speed in the same way Midnight Club 3 does, with speed-sensitive cameras and motion blur.

Two-player gameplay is also included, in a competitive split-screen mode, but the online feature (which was present in SSX 3 for the PS2) was skipped this time around. You'd figure this would be a major asset, especially for the Xbox.

Although the game's soundtrack offers a reasonable variety of styles, featuring both older and newer hits, it would have been nice to be able to play my own custom soundtrack on the Xbox. Manually skipping a song I dislike is a bit annoying.

These are just a couple of minor quirks. What I really didn't care for at all was the whole "I rule!" rockstar attitude when your character wins a race, but that's me and my animosity towards show-offs talking.

SSX On Tour is still SSX in its core, but I'd stick to SSX 3 just for the look and feel of it. Nothing tops off that radio announcer and the echoing voices from the power-ups and tricks. SSX 3 had a more modest but more enjoyable presence than SSX On Tour does. Innovation isn't always a good thing.

Special thanks to Helen Rhee and EA for providing a copy of this title.