SSX On Tour PS2 Review

SSX saved the Playstation 2 at launch. Littered with forgettable software, the first EA Big title made the console worth owning, and later, so did SSX Tricky/SSX 3. With SSX On Tour, the series has become lost. It's a mixture of various concepts stolen from other EA games. Its still plays fine, but it's lost what made SSX "SSX" in the first place.

The obvious loss is the character. All the expensive celebrity voice-overs, including David Arquette amongst others, are gone. Players now control a created character, done so via a limited custom system. The characters that the series has been built upon now play supporting roles during the career mode.

The same goes for the lifeless courses. Somewhat mimicking SSX 3, these are combined into various different experiences. Certain sections are passed off for new levels and there's little distinction between them. As time goes by, the entire roster of ramps, jumps, and shortcuts takes on a familiar feel. Challenges tend to run long, well into the 15-minute range, and if failed, you'll need to do it all over again. It's aggravating and repetitive even though there's more available than the series highlight in Tricky. It's a cheap way to extend the game's lifespan, and this is apparently supposed to make up for the deletion of online play.

Collision is also a problem. Trees litter the course, picking off even the slightest errant jump. It's far less forgiving than it has been. It doesn't do much for a game based quite a bit on taking chances to find the shortcuts necessary to defeat the ridiculous AI. It always has the advantage, and the aggressive nature of the opponents means a cheap knockdown at the finish line is ridiculously common.

A mission structure now makes up the bulk of the gameplay, requiring stupid objectives, some of which are obviously "inspired" by other titles in EA's line-up. There's the Burnout-like challenge where you'll need to either perform narrow escapes or knock the NPCs that are also using the courses back where they came from. It also uses screen blur to enhance the sense of speed which is, again, like Burnout. Make sure to play the game in letterbox/widescreen too. Otherwise, the blur takes up too much screen space to see oncoming hazards.

The character creation system and earned money is too close to Tiger Woods, though nowhere near as in-depth. Need for Speed fans will recognize the "escape the ski patrol" challenges. Xbox Amped players will find the world ranking feature oddly familiar. Other missions are just flat out terrible, including a "collect-the-items" one that doesn't work because of the touchy controls.

Of course, those same controls do a fine job when actually snowboarding, or if you prefer, skiing. The latter adds nothing to the game other than a new trick set, performed the same way as the ones on boards. The trick system is still the best on the market, and satisfaction of ramping up a massive score on just a few meager tricks is wonderful. This is definitely designed for the PS2, using the four shoulder buttons completely. Turning and taking a tight corner is also preserved, adding to the sense of speed.

New additions include monster tricks, pointlessly assigned to the right analog stick. It's continually aggravating to see companies force players to take their thumbs off the buttons they need for some cheap, sloppily implemented use of the analog stick when one of the excess buttons would have done the same thing. You can also link air moves with ground tricks, and since it's assigned to the analog stick, you can't boost to gain major air. There's no reason for it, and in On Tour, it's just another in a long line of new concepts that fails miserably.

It's easy to say this is the worst of the four home console versions of the game. The changes to the formula are desperate, and it feels that way as you dive deeper into it. On Tour's attempts at freshness have changed the core of what made the series so appealing in the first place. Even though the basic gameplay remains some of the best on the market, everything that surrounds it is disappointing.

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