I'm a long-time SSX fan going back to the original release on PlayStation 2, so I was psyched to get my hands on EA's series revival at Gamescom. As it turns out, the publisher isn't just rehashing the awesome tricks and tracks of past games, though; SSX will also feature a completely revamped and awesome suite of multiplayer options.
SSX's online implements a feature called RiderNet that is heavily inspired by Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit's much-loved Autolog. Essentially, even when you play solo, you'll be connected to EA's servers so they can upload your score and time data and challenge your friends to beat it. When you replay a track, you'll be able to play against a ghost of your best run as well as a ghost of a friend who has challenged you through RiderNet.
This asynchronous multiplayer seems like a great solution to constantly pushing a sense of community and competition even when you're playing by yourself. When you turn on SSX, the game will automatically point you toward friends who are dominating you on specific tracks, allowing you to immediately jump in. The game will also offer bonus rewards for taking on and conquering these challenges.
Even sweeter? If you're currently ahead of your friends on a course, you'll win money for every time they challenge your lead and lose, even when you're offline. The EA representative said it's totally possible for you to log on one day and discover you've earned tons of in-game currency because your friend tried to take on your time or score over and over again without success. The in-game currency can then be used to purchase thousands of snowboards, outfits, and other items in the in-game store that will in turn improve your chances are setting even higher scores.
Beyond the asynchronous multiplayer, SSX also has a slightly more traditional Global Events mode, but the team wanted to get rid of the need for lobbies and waiting around. To accomplish this, they essentially created a persistent, constantly active tournament that players can drop into at any time. All 150 to 180 drops in the game will have events associated with them that you can drop into at any time.
The game's servers can support an unlimited number of players on any track in Global Events mode, although it will limit the number that you see to something manageable. SSX will smartly choose to populate tracks with your friends first and then with strangers who are in the area.
Finally, if you'd rather play online with friends alone, you have the option to create custom online events at any time. You can set these events to completely open, friends-only, or visible to friends-of-friends as well.
RiderNet will also be fully active via the SSX website as well as iPhone apps, Twitter, and Facebook. While away from your console, you'll be able to log in, see what your friends have been up to, and queue up tracks and challenges to take on as soon as you get home.
EA seems to be going all out in creating the most robust and interesting online experience possible around SSX. I've always loved the over-the-top tricks of the series, but I never thought I'd view online as an essential element of the series. RiderNet has convinced me, and I can't wait to take on my friends when SSX launches in January.
If you'd like to see more of SSX, check out the screens and trailer that were released for Gamescom.