SSX Blur Review

With SSX Blur, EA takes its first stab at re-envisioning a marquee franchise for the Nintendo Wii. Using most of SSX 3 alongside portions of On Tour and a couple new tracks, the content on offer is no slouch. The idea is simple: an entire mountain is ready for some crazy, acrobatic snowboarding, with hundreds of ramps for big air opportunities and tons of rails to grind out to infinity. In re-imagining the long untouched control scheme, EA Montreal — new to the series, taking the reigns from EA Canada — has provided a new way to play SSX. Unfortunately, "new way to play" doesn’t mean better. On PlayStation 2, every entry provided a small step towards making the series the perfect machine it has become today, and all of its content, all of its charm, all of its balance, and all of its greatness has been built on the foundation of its perfect controls. Throughout the years, SSX has become a delicate balance encouraging expert play and improvisational feats. But by dramatically changing the controls, all of the fun that is lured by a property such as SSX collapses like a deck of cards.

Immediately, the controls feel off. The default method has you swaying the nunchuk attachment left and right to guide your rider down the steep slopes — a method that is mercifully adjustable to allow full analog control. In an example of using the Wii’s controllers to pat-your-head-and-rub-your-tummy, the Wiimote guides your rider once you take flight, and big problems emerge once you lift off. SSX has always been about controlling the uncontrollable, but in Blur the characters really are damn near uncontrollable. The biggest problem is that the nonexistent learning curve never lets you truly get your wings here… even after exploring all that the game has to offer, I never felt like I was in complete control of my snowboarder. At best, I felt like I was merely suggesting where they go and what they do, suggestions they were keen to take for the most part, yet totally ignored when I needed their attention the most. The problems start with the game’s super-deluxe "Uber" tricks.

After filling a meter by successfully performing tricks and grinds, the player is given the opportunity to pull off super tricks for super points. In the past, the button commands for these awesome moves were similar to what you were expected to push for any regular move, but EA Montreal has changed that for the worse here. In a system that may seem intuitive but really is anything but, Ubers are activated by drawing a shape with the Wiimote. Since the game never teaches you how to perform these moves the right way, a great deal of luck is required to pull them off. Nothing is more frustrating than guiding your rider through the perfect line, catching the maximum amount of air…and watching them float idly by because you didn’t draw a shape exactly the way the game wanted you to. For any seasoned player, it’s absolutely unforgivable.

Another sin is the gimping of the game’s manual maneuvers. Rendered completely useless now that the game doesn’t include a combo system(!), there isn’t any reason to execute them. Expert play in previous entries entailed linking an entire run through any course, resulting in an extremely difficult, extremely addictive display leading to massive points. That kind of approach is completely impossible here. For any huge fan of the series, it’s a total shame to have to unlearn and rethink your runs to be less intense and more relaxed fare. Speaking of omissions, I hope you didn’t care for adorning your character with neat decorations because character customization is completely gone. So is most of your trick arsenal; airborne board grabs have been reduced from umpteen to four, and Uber-grinds are nowhere to be found.

Somewhere between the way the Wii registers motion and the game’s ability to receive it, the fine tuned controls the series is known for are hopelessly lost in translation. It’s hard to determine what’s exactly to blame for this blunder, because the game is most certainly a polished and finished effort on all other fronts.

Visually, the game is a stunner on the Wii. Being the first third party game to really take advantage of the system — as opposed to being a rushed port — the graphics convey an awesome sense of speed and style. Sticking very close to what we’ve seen from the last two SSX games, the game flows between lightning fast rocket slides down steep slopes at 150 miles per hour to slick, jaw-dropping displays of airborne finesse. It all looks very stunning, and the art design is impeccable. Bringing back all of the characters and comic book style that went missing with On Tour’s release was a great decision for this entry; everything about the visual design sparkles. Also worth mentioning is the game’s audio. The entire soundtrack was composed by Junkie XL, as opposed to having a segmented, licensed collection. SSX has always been known to have good playlists, but opting to go this route makes the game feel more coherent as a result. In general, the production values on this title are remarkable.

The multiplayer on offer here is limited to two player split-screen. It’s fun, but only if you can manage to face off against a player as tuned to the weaknesses of this game’s controls as you are. I’d actually recommend simply switching turns in the Career mode to satisfy any multiplayer itch; really, competitive play isn’t anything that special.

If you’ve been playing SSX from the beginning, you are most certainly going to be disappointed with Blur. The controls are confusing, unintuitive, and only manage to detract from the stellar gameplay that lies dormant within this release. Masochists (or game reviewers) will push as hard as they can to find that creamy center, but any series diehard will know to avoid this one as soon as possible. It does bear mentioning, however, that if you’ve never played SSX before, then you might find this game more appealing than I did. If you’re a newcomer, feel free to add one or two points to my score as it will more accurately reflect the games quality to you. But for those of us who know what we’re missing, Blur falls well short of expectations.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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