Originally created 01/09/01

PlayStation 2 game is a shred above the rest

One of the great things about a video game is that it gives you an opportunity to do things you would never do in a million years in real life.

Aerial dogfights. Driving 200-mph race cars. Fighting to the death with slavering space aliens.

Or snowboarding.

You may find snowboarding the best thing around. The combination of being wet, cold and facing a six-hour crawl home in foot-deep snow with a broken ankle means you'll catch me snowboarding ... well, you won't catch me snowboarding.

But if I ever did, it would be because a videogame made it so attractive I just couldn't resist.

That game would be SSX, now available for PlayStation 2 from Electronic Arts Canada for EA Sports.

SSX is one of the few games spawned for PS2 that actually takes advantage of the new machine's extra power and abilities. That muscle gives the game a spectacular look and feel as it plunges you into a series of stomach-churning tracks with brilliant graphics and solid control.

A snowboard game is only as good as its tricks, and SSX has a monster selection. Switches, lates and fakies (leading with your off-foot) are as easy as pushing the right buttons. You can ride the rails (slide along a rail, log or other obstacle), spin or flip in midair - and earn points in the process.

The game also gives you a number of modes in which to perform. Warmup teaches you how to pull off those spectacular tricks, and Freeride lets you run one of two courses or get in additional practice without any pressure.

Eventually, you'll have to put your talent on the line in one of the competition modes, such as World Circuit, a full season of racing against the best on the planet, or Single Event, which includes race and showoff selections. Also offered are the obstacle-loaded Adventure mode and the Knockdown mode, in which you win if you flatten the most opponents.

There are seven venues to compete on, including a Hawaiian glacier and a snowbound city, with one bonus track available. And a head-to-head mode lets you compete against a friend.

If you have no friends, the game provides competition for you. Not only are the game's cyber-boarders really good, but they cheat, kicking and pushing you out of the way as they zip past. You have to catch a lot of air and keep away from the wipeouts to have any hope of victory.

Graphics get an A. They are beautiful, almost movielike in their realism, with such wonderful touches as haloes around lights and deliciously detailed and animated characters.

Control gets another A. You can jump right in and shred almost from the moment the power goes on, and you can perfectly place your boarder almost every time. Tricks are easy to pick up after a bit of practice.

Sound is a B+; I didn't fall in love with the techie music, but the voices and commentary are excellent and not as repetitive as other sports games on the market.

Give SSX an A. Even if your idea of exercise is running to the refrigerator during commercials, you are going to really like SSX. It's lovely to look at and delightful to play, one of the few must-haves so far for PS2.

SSX is rated E, for all ages.

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