Think wide open spaces, feel freshly laid snow and experience some dizzying heights in the brand spanking new instalment in the SSX series!

The Rockies… The extreme begins here with you and your board at the top of your first run. Right at the beginning of the game you’ll be thrown into a tutorial just so you can pick up the basics and then into a race. SSX won’t take up too much of your time this way, it is just the speed and velocity you need to get used to especially if you’re going hurtle down runs at silly speeds. You’ll start out with some basic equipment, SSX does allow for some interesting additions in equipment as you progress and it’s all unlocked at certain times keeping the game nicely balanced.

There’s three modes to explore all together but if you work on the World Tour mode to get warmed up then onto exploration and online world it sets you up much better for a freer experience of the game. It’s because it’s structured really well, more runs and equipment are unlocked as you progress and the online challenges become harder. This natural escalation in the difficulty will give you a clear indicator of where you need to be to keep beating the game, SSX has some neat balances if you simply enjoy what’s infront of you but it doesn’t pay off as much as you might initially have thought.

SSX also comes with a cool set of online functions to do with the RiderNet feature, these will keep you sharp if you have an Xbox Live connection. The feature will recommend challenges to you that your friends have set or completed so you can have a good crack at their times, there’s a varied amount of rewards to gain from completing them too. There’s a ton of ranges to unlock all over the globe when you play the single player mode and with these come the different missions you’ll get to compete in; Race It!, Trick It! And Survive It! All three are challenging and create different styles of play so you’ll just simply enjoy them for what they are.

The differences in strategy between the three helps create different tactics; like Race It! Gets you to find the fastest path through the course and you start cutting jumps or missing them all together. As the difficulty rises you will adapt to win more and also discover secret areas and extra Geotags along the way; or you’ll be looking for the best ramps and the best line connecting them for the Trick It! Stages. Completing some blazing combos and getting to the bottom of the run in one piece is basically your challenge.

Survive It! Is one of the trickiest love/hate stages I’ve played in a while, it will test you but not with your actual SSX skills but instead your hand eye co-ordination. Prepare to eat tree once, twice or even thrice before mastering this mode itself.

There’s a catalogue of moves to pull off while riding and then there’s the even more extensive pairing of moves you can do in mid-air to get a higher combo multiplier. If you get it high enough you can activate TRICKY mode. You’ll start glowing and the music will start picking up pace to urge you to use that unlimited boost to get some sick air. You can also pull off special combos and get bundles of points while you’re in TRICKY mode anyway, the trick is to keep it going through the whole level and score into the millions. You pull off tricks by holding the A button when approaching a slope then release to get some air, press X,Y or B to start making some shapes! Watch the points collect as you do, watch how they double or triple when you put other tricks alongside as this will get you to the top of the leaderboards (which are incredibly competitive).

There’s also new bits of equipment to gain when you complete ranges and unlock more, they come in the forms of pick axes, oxygen tanks and wingsuits amongst other things. You’re really going to need these and the best versions you can buy as the Survive It! Mode does demand skill but if you’re the daredevil type, then go right ahead and knock yourself out as the environment will probably do it to you anyway.

With the games new equipment editions comes the new SSX team, these special types of equipment are unlocked when team members become available. They also have different stat balances depending on which character you’re looking at, these help create a small amount of strategy but only small. SSX doesn’t really need a plot but the story revolves around Griff and his money-hogging ways. He basically runs off with the team’s cash and challenges team SSX to conquer the 9 most deadly descents. So it’s up to you to start gaining levels, earning credits and ultimately beating your rivals to all that glory, then you can shove right in Griff’s face!

There’s some new characters to enjoy like Tane Mumea and Ty Thorsen who hold their own against the old SSX crew but it is always good to see old faces make a return in a series as these little things have a tendency of making you smiling. The funky design of the players brings new vibes and a visually attractive edge to the group and it also works very well alongside the soundtrack to the game and the bonus equipment (some even glow!). So you’ll be starting right from the bottom of the run compared to the other riders and teams, it’s time to push back and climb… Just as much as you drop!

In game credits unlock most of the content you can equip to you character, you can earn them several ways too and some ways are even quite ingenious. Geotag’s which you place in Explore mode, can become good earners if they’re not picked up by another rider. This adds a 3D element to the game which keeps refreshing itself whenever you return to the online mode, you can also earn medals, beat times to earn those credits. There isn’t a particular reason or pull to earn credit really fast as the game revolves around the game play but it offers enough tit bits to keep you chomping away merrily.

The environment is something to behold once you first set your peepers onto it; when you start at the top of a run you can basically see into the course and plot the best line down through it. There are hardly any changes to the climate though I could see that becoming a nuisance anyway but some runs are very dark and laden with trees. This makes the speed of your rider seem so much faster than it actually is and these levels are normally the more dangerous Survive It! Stages. This takes the difficulty up a notch but when you’re familiar with SSX and in the zone you’ll put together some awesome moves and combos without even noticing the technical side of the game play, it is actually that fluid.

While your earning crazy leaderboard crushing scores you can slide off hidden slopes, drop from fallen trees, grind wires and poles while you break these records which is incredibly good fun. The developers have also taken care to place slopes and objects correctly around the runs to create multiple paths that don’t conflict with each other. Sometimes I wished I could have jumped off my board and had a good explore but Griff and his mates where to busy provoking me into another Survive It! for me to stay on that thought too long. SSX will leave a funky impression on you thanks to the way the game was generated and built, the maps are generated using NASA scans of these mountains, the developers then stepped in and created the playground of snow-like delights. The soundtrack to SSX will have you bouncing and you can create your own custom playlists and SSX also features a dynamic music remix tool that will automatically remix licensed tracks and custom music based on the player’s actions and performance in-game.

Compared to the past four SSX titles the fifth does follow the overall design of the series and desires of the gamer to a higher degree but seems to think that’s all it needs to do, open up a path and let you fly, roll or jump to create game play. It’s a good job, there’s a strong online support available as SSX could have sank like the stone it seems to be at a distance, however bring everything together and it plays, moves and entertains very well, just not well enough or long enough to be a massive hitter.