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'SSX': Snowboarding perfection

(CNN) -- Every once in a while a game comes along that seems to get just about everything right. Lucky for PlayStation 2 fans, that game is "SSX" from Electronic Arts, one of the first titles to be available for the new console.

With a seemingly limitless number of options, playing this arcade-charged snowboarding title is more of an adventure than anything else. The formula is deceptively simple. Pick a boarder, a board, some clothes and a course, then get ready to ride. But wait. There are more decisions to be made before you actually hit the slopes. Do you want to freeride, show off, practice or jump right into a race?

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It doesn't really matter which play mode you choose because the end result is the same -- a really fun snowboarding experience. Visually, "SSX" ranks up there with the best of the best. Player models are clean and highly detailed with rounded edges that give them a cartoonish look that would make any Saturday morning character envious.

The courses in "SSX" are genuinely interesting -- if a little kooky -- and will provide even the most seasoned video gamer with a challenge. There is a main path to take if you want to play it safe but more adventurous souls will want to take it off the beaten path and look for a better route.

While the courses do have boundaries, they are not easily found. And you will have plenty of time to find them. Races generally last somewhere around seven minutes meaning that you will have ample time to enjoy what each course has to offer -- or catch up, as the case may be.

Taking control of the boarders couldn't be easier. "SSX"'s control scheme is a wonderful cross between the more forgiving arcade style and the less forgiving simulation. The analog stick controls direction and the X button will make the boarder jump.

Adding in tricks is fairly easy as well with the shoulder buttons handling most of those duties. Even so, the tricks aren't a gimme so a bit of practice is required before you can pull off that 'Switch 540 Stalefish' with a tweak.

The part of "SSX" that deserves the most applause has to be the sound. A techno-influenced hip-hop soundtrack really goes well with the futuristic look and feel of the game. The music starts out with a simple beat and maybe a sample or two and gets progressively more complex as you make your way down the course.

If you are lucky enough to snag the lead in a race, the music will get as frantic as the competition with a complex array of beats and voices. Conversely, if you end up in last place, the music will back off accordingly.

If anything bad could be said about "SSX," it would be that it has a tendency to slow down just a little during a race when there are more than few boarders on the screen at once. Thankfully, it really doesn't affect the way the game plays at all and most people won't even notice it.

With that small problem aside, it has to be said that Electronic Arts has done a stellar job with "SSX." It is really hard to believe this is a first-generation title and that only leaves us to wonder what incredible games the future holds for Sony's uber-console. The bottom line is if you plan to own a PlayStation 2 in the near future, then "SSX" is the game to have.



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RELATED SITES:
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