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Marcunio avatar 6:33 PM on 12.17.2012  (server time)
The Twelve Games of Christmas: Day Four

It's that time of year again, folks. The days are short and cold, the nights are long and even colder, and one of the best places to be is in your nice warm house. Since you're there, you may as well break out the good ol' videogames and make those chilly winter evenings go by a little faster.

In honour of this, I'm going to be posting about one game each day in the run-up to Christmas, finishing on the magical day itself. Keep in mind that these aren't necessarily going to be games that feature Christmas (although some do). Rather, they're going to be a mix of winter warmers, personal nostalgic favourites, and games that echo some traditional Christmas pastimes. I'm sure other people will have their own winter favourites, but this is my unique list and I'm going to do my best to give a little history on each game and explain why they're featured here.

So, without further ado, onwards with day four!


History: The SSX series got its start at the dawn of the PS2's lifecycle, with the original game launching alongside the console on its October 2000 release date. A successful sequel, SSX Tricky, followed in November 2001. Then, just under two years later came SSX 3. Critically acclaimed upon it's release, SSX 3 instantly went down in history as one of the best snowboarding games to grace a console. Even today it sits at a mighty 93 on Metacritic.

Unlike the previous two games, which featured individual events accessed through a level select screen, SSX 3 set players loose on Big Mountain. This large open world acted as both the stage for the games many challenges, and a giant playground laid bare for players to explore. You got your start on the lowly Peak 1, smallest of the games three peaks, and quickly worked your way up to the dizzying heights and treacherous ice of Peak 3. And when I say quickly, I mean quickly. It's clear that developers, EA Sports BIG, wanted players to see the whole of their creation.

That's not to say the game was easy, however. Acquiring gold medals in the majority of events, both races and trick/score attacks, could be accomplished through the upgrading of stats, perseverance and a good bit of skill. Filling your trophy cabinet with platinum medals, on the other hand, was a challenge worthy of the hardest of hardcore gamers. Frustration levels could quickly build after your tenth, fifteenth, or even twentieth attempt at 'platinuming' a tricky event (pun very much intended). Luckily you could always retreat to the freedom of the open mountain, kick back, and glide down gorgeously rendered soft powder. SSX 3 is one of those rare games that is both head-bangingly hard and mind-sothingly relaxing.

Why It's Here: Snow! Snow, snow, snow! Everyone's dreaming of a white Christmas, right? Unfortunately for me, being from the South West of England means that I've never actually seen one. Sure it's cold and miserable, grey, overcast and damp, but it never has the common decency to just bloody snow. Sometimes it'll do it the week before Christmas, sometimes the week after, but never, ever on Christmas day itself.

Luckily SSX 3 provides the best selection of virtual snow that has ever been available in videogame form. Let me expand on the open mountain concept I touched on above. If you're gunning it and get a near perfect run, the trip from the top of Peak 3 to the bottom of Peak 1 can be done in well under 20 minuets. But if you fancy a slightly more relaxing ride, carving down the mountain takes more like half an hour. That's a full 30 minuets of beautifully modelled mountain to slide down, never once interrupted by an obnoxious loading screen. And the whole time you can listen to the wonderfully inane jabber of in-game DJ, Atomika, and his marvellously eclectic soundtrack.

So the world and the soundtrack are great, but you're also provided with a fine selection of riders that are controlled using one of the best, most intuitive control schemes ever committed to a PS2 pad. Whipping your riders feet out of their bootstraps and spinning the board around their head while simultaneously doing six backflips never felt so natural. These ridiculous tricks escalate the fun factor of your trip down the mountain to incredible levels. It cannot be overstated how good it feels to just play this game for no reason other than pure, unadulterated fun. And that's really all we want at Christmas isn't it? Fun in the snow.

Anyone got some other snow based favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

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