Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why SSX is the only game with an online pass that I'm ok with.

Since the inception of console-based online gaming there have been many follies, foul-ups, and some would even say schemes. None however, have enraged me more than the trend of publishers requiring an online pass for a game. Being an Xbox 360 owner I already pay $50 yearly for my  Xbox Live gold membership. There is no reason I should have to pay for an online pass to specifically play a game if I haven't bought it brand new. This becomes even more of a problem for me if you're not offering me something outside of what a normal multiplayer component in a game should offer out of the box. It's a growing trend that, until now, I hadn't seen any good in. Though I still disagree with this practice EA's reboot of SSX is the first time I've been okay with a publisher requiring an online pass. SSX's offerings go slightly above the norm in an, albeit, nontraditional way.

Most games with online play have you competing live with other players. You know how it goes, you enter a lobby, some twelve year old starts swearing at his mom, some guy with a huge ego starts talking trash to the rest of the lobby, and you end up either shutting them both up or getting spanked and raging out. SSX negates  these things that are seemingly necessary features for an online title and instead makes the world your persistent lobby. While I'm sure people are talking trash, the lack of an actual lobby system makes sure you never have to hear it. That guy's score you just demolished doesn't get to rag on you at all. All he gets to do is stare at his now 2nd place score.

The whole "the world is the lobby" philosophy that the new SSX takes gives us a not often seen style of multiplayer. Instead of live matches you have, what SSX calls, Global Events. These events have a set time limit that I've seen vary from an hour to a whole week and everywhere in between. The events utilize all the tracks and event styles you see in the game's World Tour mode and Explore mode but add additional parameters to a given track. On top of all of that, you'll be competing for the fastest time or the highest score  against everyone else that owns the game and tries the event for a prize pool of in-game money. Most times you'll see ghosts of other players who are also trying to covet a top spot. A few games have tried this idea before but I can't remember any that have executed it so well. I found myself playing and replaying events to see if I could squeeze out a few more points or shave off a few seconds to gain a spot in the top two brackets and net myself a good sum of money.

This type of multiplayer in someways is a call back to old arcade cabinets on a much larger scale and at a much faster rate. With thousands of people playing a given event the score or time for the top bracket can jump drastically in just one run down the mountain. I feel like this brings the community closer together in a different way with people trading tips and tricks instead of belittling each other. I've added and been added by more people because of SSX than any other game I've ever played. The message boards I've visited have been tight nit instead of being splintered into groups. SSX's community so far is an interesting phenomenon that I've found to stand out in the crowd.

EA really hit it out of the park with this reboot and it's almost solely because of the multiplayer. Here scores say more than your ego and talent says more than your trash talk. I do still disagree with the idea of the online pass at this point. But, if more games started giving more than the standard online offerings, like SSX does, then I'd much more okay with the idea. If you're looking for a unique twist on multiplayer I'd highly suggest you pick this up and shred with the world.


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