EA SPORTS Game Changers: “Deadlier Descents”

EA SPORTS Game Changer Brian Parker rides on the Sony PlayStation 3 under the ID “Paakaa10”; friend him to compete on Ridernet and read on for his take on SSX’s “Deadly Descents” and confronting them without the aid of gear!

On May 29th, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay of Nepal became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

On February 28th, 2012, EA SPORTS released SSX and gave video gamers everywhere the opportunity to ride their way down that peak on a virtual snowboard.

When the concept of “Deadly Descents” was first announced as part of the re-boot for the SSX franchise, I was intrigued to see where the developers at EA Canada would take the idea.  As a fan of the SSX franchise since its debut on the Sony PlayStation 2, I knew that the team wouldn’t settle when it came to re-creating one of the world’s deadliest mountains.  Thankfully, each of the ten “Deadly Descents”—those of you who have cleared the game’s “World Tour” mode know why I didn’t stop counting at nine—in the game present their own unique experience and challenge for today’s SSX gamer.

Fans of SSX know, however, that it’s not enough to just stop there; the envelope must always be pushed for the chance to improve upon your best time or trick score.  This is why it came as no surprise to me to learn that members of the development team had begun to create a “game within the game” with respect to the “Survive” runs in the game: how far can you go using poor quality gear?  Even better, can you survive with no gear at all?

With gear as a new facet of the SSX gameplay experience, gamers have been getting used to Armor, Wingsuits, Ice Axes, Oxygen, Headlamps, Solar Gear, and Pulse Goggles.  For the trees of Mount Robson in the Rockies, the avalanches of Alaska’s Denali, and the rocks of Mount Blanc in the Alps, Armor is the best chance for snowboarders to survive the harsh impacts of the mountain.  In Siberia—particularly on Mount Belukha East, the Deadly Descent peak—Ice Axes help boarders weave around crevasses on icy surfaces which threaten to send them to their death.  Patagonia’s Fitz Roy forces players to confront Gravity and use Wingsuits to cross wide gaps and avoid incalculable falls from the greatest heights.  At the bottom of the Earth, Antarctica’s Mount Slaughter forces riders to rely upon Solar Gear to harness the power of the sun and avoid seeing their core body temperature fall to deadly levels.  In Africa—perhaps one of the more unlikely settings for a game like SSX in most people’s minds—Headlamps are essential to surviving the darkness of Kilimanjaro.  New Zealand’s Aoraki sits under near-constant whiteout conditions, forcing riders to rely upon the technology of Pulse Goggles to cut through the impenetrable whiteness of a mountain held siege by nature.  And—last but not least—visitors to the heights of Mount Everest must rely upon the use of supplemental oxygen in the “death zone” if they hope to overcome altitude sickness and make it back to base camp alive.

I can hear the question already; “Why would you leave all of that neat equipment on the helicopter?”  A series of Xbox 360 Achievements/PlayStation 3 Trophies give the answer there: surviving Mount Robson, Fitz Roy, Kilimanjaro, Mount Belukha East, Denali, Mount Slaughter, Mount Blanc, or Aoraki without equipping the suggested gear rewards you handsomely for your commitment to extreme boarding!

When it comes to surviving Mount Robson, Denali, or Mount Blanc without Armor, there are a few things to keep in mind:

-          Speed doesn’t matter; survival is the goal.  Since this is the case, you can feel free to take your time during the more dangerous sections of these runs to ensure that your health does not run out before you hit those end-of-run flares and the welcome sound of helicopter rotors.

-          Check out the “store” before hitting the slopes; sometimes you’ll find a “Mod” which will boost your protection or health regeneration, which might be the difference between life and death.

-          Tackle Mount Robson first; as the first “Deadly Descent” of the “World Tour” mode, this is the “training ground” for Armor-based runs.  Denali should be your next destination, with Mount Blanc being the toughest “Survive” run to complete without Armor thanks to its rocky sections.

One of the most impressive ways to “Defy Reality” in SSX has to be deploying a Wingsuit and flying through the air, cutting out whole sections of drops in the pursuit of the best time.  As you tackle Fitz Roy in Patagonia without this cool new piece of technology, consider the following tips:

-          Getting into “TRICKY” is your goal; being in “TRICKY” provides you with infinite boost, and infinite boost will be your best friend when you approach those “kickers” emblazoned with the “Wingsuit logo.”  Boost hard going into these jumps and don’t short the landing as you try to clear the wide expanses.

-          Check the “store” before your run to outfit yourself with the best Boards and “Mods” to help with your speed and boosting.  You don’t get any bonuses for holding onto all of your SSX credits, so you might as well spend big!

Mount Belukha East and its icy slopes can pose quite the challenge in Siberia to those riders who aren’t prepared; getting ready to try the run without the aid of Ice Axes can be a daunting task.  Here are a few hints:

-          Take a few practice runs to familiarize yourself with how your rider handles when they aren’t using the gear to ensure better handling on the ice.  Even though the ice can be deadly, getting used to how it affects your control might show you that there are some benefits to riding more freely on the frozen surface.

-          Consider using a slower board to give you more control and prevent you from going faster than you can handle on the slick surface; again, it’s not the time that counts, survival which is your goal.

In the sub-zero temperatures of Mount Slaughter in Antarctica, sun-soaked snow is your best friend as you try to keep your body temperature up; when you’re not using Solar Gear to keep warm and harness the sunlight, you’ll need to think of other ways to survive:

-          As with surviving Fitz Roy without a Wingsuit, enhancing your ability to boost is key to surviving without any Thermal Protection.  You’ll want to have your finger ready to hit the boost any time you find yourself forced into the shade if you hope to survive!

-          Familiarize yourself with the run and create a route which keeps you in the sunlight as much as possible.  There’s no way to completely avoid the freezing temperatures of the shade, but minimizing your time in those areas will help you stay just warm enough.

The volcanic Kilimajaro in Africa stands in stark contrast to Mount Slaughter; instead of savoring the sunlight to survive, the drop forces riders into pitch black sections where bottomless pits and crevasses lie in wait for careless boarders.  Most would use the Headlamp; if you choose to go without, you’ll want to consider these tips:

-          Make use of “TRICKY”; when you get into “TRICKY” status, your rider will begin to emanate a glow from their hands, and this glow can be used to light your immediate surroundings as you ride through the darkness.

-          Make use of the rails and natural “grind-able” features of the run to keep yourself stable and away from the dangerous crevasses; holding the Left Trigger on Xbox 360 or L2 on PlayStation 3 will key your rider towards these grinds and away from Rewinds!

Finally, New Zealand’s Aoraki presents a similar challenge; with white-out conditions battering the mountain, riders rely upon Pulse Goggles to see through the wind-blown snow and try to avoid deep crevasses which stand in the way of a successful ride.  Forgoing this technology requires certain considerations to be made:

-          Learn your surroundings; taking some practice runs down Aoraki with the aid of Pulse Goggles will help alert you to where the most dangerous sections of the run are.  Knowing where you need to be to avoid falling into a crevasse will help, even if you aren’t able to see exactly where you’re going.

-          As with so many other “Deadly Descents” without gear, take your time; there’s no special reward for setting a blazing time if you’re trying to survive without Pulse Goggles, so the focus has to be on reaching the bottom alive.

Do note that the Himalayas and runs which require the use of Oxygen hold no reward for riders who attempt to ride without the appropriate gear; tackling Mount Everest unprepared will teach you a quick—and deadly—lesson about what it means to attempt survival in the “death zone”!

For as many things which have changed since SSX first hit the gaming scene back in 2000, one thing remains the same; the people who play this series will do anything they can to explore the world under their boards in their own way.  Tackling the “Deadly Descents” of the virtual planet Earth as a man (or woman)-versus-nature showdown is just another way that this game honors the tradition of this series!