THE NEW snowboarding game SSX has a lot to live up to. I spent easily 150 hours in 2003's SSX 3, and 2001's SSX Tricky taught me the words to my first non-Aerosmith Run-DMC song. Despite the pressure, I'm giddy to say that EA has knocked it out of the park.
The gameplay in SSX has been left largely intact, with massive air and physics-defying tricks being the order of the day. Everything moves faster than in the earlier games, but once your brain catches up, longtime fans will feel right at home. The biggest difference this game brings to the table though, is in its scope: Instead of a handful of courses, EA has stuffed SSX with nine real-world mountain ranges, reconstructed through the use of massively detailed NASA satellite imagery. Thus, instead of "courses" you have real-world locations, filled with over 150 different routes. The old games offered multiple paths through stages, but the new SSX essentially gives you a swath of dangerously detailed mountain, points you downhill, and lets gravity take its course.
Likewise impressive is the series' newly expanded online options. Central to this offering is the game's "Global Events" mode, where you're able to browse your friends' best times, challenge them to beat your scores, and join massive worldwide events that task you with placing as high as possible to earn a piece of the one-million-plus credit pot. The game also includes all the standard head-to-head multiplayer race options, but the more passive "compete when you have the time" Global Events mode is a novel take on the genre that genuinely feels like you're battling against the entire world.
Top it off with hundreds of customizable gear options—and a soundtrack that somehow manages to make dubstep palatable to even my elitist Portlander ears—and you have a game that isn't just good, it's the best title of 2012 to date.