Saturday, September 13, 2014

Soundtrack September: SSX

Game: SSX (2012)
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Composers: Various

Although I've singled out EA for having some of the worst licensed soundtracks around, the SSX series (which began with a PS2 launch title in 2000) has made good use of pop and electronic tunes as the rhythmic underpinning of the so-called "Snowboard Supercross."

Musically, the series had some ups and downs after its inception. As much as I liked the music of the original, 2003's SSX 3 would feature the questionable inclusion of N.E.R.D.'s "Rock Star" and the already dated "Emerge" by Fischerspooner, two songs I had absolutely no interest in listening to while pulling off 720 backflip nosegrabs. In 2007, SSX Blur came out with its soundtrack composed entirely by Junkie XL. It wasn't a bad soundtrack, but when I tried to purchase a download of it directly from Nettwerk, they took my money and sent me nothing, refusing to follow up when I complained.

Yeah. Nettwerk Music Group still owes me $10.

In 2012 the series made like Mortal Kombat and called itself SSX again (just to confuse everybody). All of a sudden, the music selection was on point. Electronic giants like Amon Tobin, Nero, The Herbaliser and Noisia appeared, making me wonder if EA was spying on my iPod. Even Skrillex, the polarizing baby brother of electronica, reared his goofy haircut and "please don't give me a swirly" spectacles on this soundtrack.

In addition to a shrewdly selected song list, SSX tweaks the soundtrack with real-time dynamic filtering, looping and other effects in accordance with the player's performance. For example, launching your snowboarder high into the air might trigger a band filter on the music until hitting the ground again. When a sequence of high-scoring tricks enables Tricky Mode, we get to hear Pretty Lights's powerful electro remix of Run-D.M.C.'s "It's Tricky." (See the second video below for an example of the dynamic music system in action.)

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