Immersion is a key part of every video game. Sometimes you’re drawn in by the environment and its characters. Other times it’s the gameplay itself that keeps you hooked. With SSX on Tour, it was something completely different: the music.
It’s not exactly a far stretch to say that the SSX franchise is known for being over the top. Case in point, look at SSX Tricky. You had to wonder how EA Canada would manage to top themselves; opening the game with Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” is a great way to start. The message was set from the get-go: On Tour was going to be a marriage of gameplay we’ve come to know and love combined with music and personality that can last for days.
The entire soundtrack packed a serious punch. Def Leppard, Motorhead, Queens of the Stone age, LCD Soundsystem, The Hives, Dio, and many others blasted through your speakers, inviting you to explore the mountain come day or night. It was all about one thing and one thing only: going big or going home.
As expected, the gameplay of SSX on Tour was solid. Skiing was a new addition for the franchise, offering the chance for players to mix things up should they get tired of shredding on a snowboard. Yet it was the music, the impact of its brashness, the bold feeling it brought, that tipped things over the edge. It’s one thing to get in the zone as you reach for maximum air in the half-pipe. I’ve been there before (on skis, let’s not talk about my experience running jumps and tricks on snowboards); the higher you fly into the sky, the stronger the otherworldly body experience.
SSX on Tour embraces this feeling, not exactly content to let the player experience it for themselves. As the player character towers towards the heavens, the music softens, the focus sharpens, and it’s not about the game’s personality anymore. It’s about you, the player, rising above it. It’s not every day that people get the chance to rise above those bands I’ve mentioned before. I mean let’s face it, Ronnie James Dio is a rock legend and any experience that lets you stand up and shout above him is an experience that deserves your time.
That was now ten years ago. We’ve started to see the Forza franchise embrace this philosophy with the Horizon releases, combining reliable gameplay with a musical experience to give the game more personality. Yet SSX on Tour felt like more, undoubtedly due to the nature of the franchise.
Or maybe because one game featured metal icons and the other didn’t.