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SSX Blur: Extended Playtest
Written by James Hobbs

SSX Blur is easily one of the best looking games I've seen on the Wii so far, and it gives you more of an idea of what the system is actually capable of. Everything is rendered with great clarity, and the characters seem to have some kind of pseudo-anti-aliasing effect that makes them look immensely detailed and layered. It's really good to see a developer actually bothering to go some way towards pushing the hardware, and it's to EA's credit that they've managed to make the whole lot chug along at a consistent, playable frame rate, even in this early build of the game that we got our hands on.

SSX Blur Screenshot
It's pretty. Very pretty.
Initially, the control system is somewhat difficult to get to grips with - particularly, in our case, without any form of instructions. The nunchuck is used to carve your snowboard left and right, with the control stick augmenting your turns. The Z button on the nunchuck is used to boost. Once again, the motion sensor in the nunchuck proves to be perfectly sensitive, as illustrated in EA's Need for Speed: Carbon, and it provides a surprisingly 'realistic' method of control.

It is the trick system, however, that proves to be perhaps the most innovative feature of the control system. Instead of pressing buttons to execute grabs and spins, SSX Blur employs a gesture-based system for performing moves. For example, after leaving the ground, a vertical flick of the Wii remote allows you to spin vertically - backflips or front flips. A horizontal swipe allows you to spin laterally left and right, and the Nunchuck buttons are used to perform different grabs as you spin. It's slightly strange to start off with, but after a bit of a practice it's a surprisingly nice system to use. Special moves, however, is where the game really comes into it's own - instead of merely pressing buttons, the game requires you to swipe a shape or gesture in order to execute the move. It's at first impossibly difficult to pull off, with the game requiring you to make complex shapes in the air as you jump, but it does prove to be possible, and it's good to see the developers really making use of the remote. If you've played Darwinia, a PC game with gesture-based controls, you'll have an idea.

The levels that we've seen so far in this version of the game are fairly expansive, and there's multiple routes to be taken. In the main career mode, you start off on a 'hub mountain' - on the way down this central slope, you can stop off to attempt challenges and races, and eventually move on to another mountainside to continue. Along the way the background details are fairly impressive, with lens flares and nice snow effects adding to the visual appeal. The music dynamically changes as you move along, slowing down as you slow down, and getting more intense as you start to speed up and perform tricks. It's essentially a very cohesive package, so far, and it bodes well for the final release of the game.

SSX Blur is shaping up very nicely indeed - at this stage it's reminiscent of a better thought-out, more finely-executed version of SSX Tricky. The controls could do with some tweaking in order to make it a bit easier to pick up and play, but the rest of the game is looking very good indeed. This is definitely one to watch out for, and it's released at the end of March. We'll be bringing you a full review when we've got our copy.

Stay tuned for more on this game.

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