SSX Travis Rice 2 © EA Sports

In this week’s Red Bull Gaming Blog, Glen Ferris steps into Travis Rice’s snowshoes in SSX, looks forward to visiting Angry Birds Land and unearths some information about Assassin’s Creed III.

SSX Review

It’s been five long years since the last SSX game, the Wii-based SSX Blur. For non-Nintendo owners, it’s been seven years since SSX On Tour and a terrifying 12 years since the original and its swift follow-up, SSX Tricky, hit our consoles.

So it’s not without some trepidation that we approach the newly revamped, next-gen SSX in 2012. We say trepidation because, quite frankly, we’ve had our patience rewarded with sadness once too often recently (yes, we’re talking about you Duke Nukem Forever). Fortunately, it turns out that EA Sports has been spending its time wisely having taught the snowboarding franchise some very clever new tricks during its extended hiatus.

SSX (an acronym for Snowboard Super Cross, fact fans!) is a brilliantly assured update of a hugely influential title. The elements that made the original such a hit – namely the ability to pull off death-defying stunts at breakneck speed in an insane convergence of real-world physics and cartoonish contortions – is still present and correct, but it’s the new additions that really amp up the awesomeness.

With nine mountain ranges to chuck yourself down and a host of original and new characters to choose from (chief among the noobs is Red Bull’s very own Travis Rice – a neat tweak that makes SSX just that little bit cooler), the aim of the game is to tale on the most dangerous peaks in the world (brilliantly rendered from geographically correct NASA topographical maps – more on that here) while pulling off a host of point-accruing and ideally impossible tricks.

From the labyrinthine runs of Africa to the vertiginous cliffs of Patagonia – all of which have been augmented to provide the sickest rides possible – this gorgeous looking game’s legend, namely that you should defy reality and own the planet, lays down the challenge for you to hurtle through the impressively open-world playground. All super-fast slopes and inventive obstacles from which to launch yourself, you’ll find yourself boarding on ice, in total darkness and, in the odd case where a gap is just too big, with the aid of a wingsuit.

Each course can be attacked in Race It, Trick It or Explore modes depending on how much you want to discover on any given track. Or you can go for broke with the brand-new Survive It mode, in which specialist equipment and nerves of steel are required to outrun avalanches or survive a lack of oxygen and life-threateningly low temperatures.

It’s all quite brilliantly done and, apart from the misstep that is the lack of multiplayer action both online and off, it’s one of the best franchise reboots we’ve ever seen. Fun, breathlessly exciting and at times a very real challenge, this deserves to be ranked among the best of its kind.

Byte-Sized Bits

• Turns out those phenomenally successful Angry Birds are set to join the likes of Dollywood, Diggerland and Dickens World in the pantheon of brilliantly odd theme parks.

Rovio are planning to set up Angry Birds Land in their home country of Finland and we’re assured that 'many different elements, such as rides and amusement park games’ and 'Magic Places, where outdoor activities and the gaming world meet' will be on the agenda. As long as we get to launch ourselves at porcine villains using giant catapults, we’re in.

The next game in the series, Angry Birds Space, is being launched at the end of March.

• Now that the Renaissance-era shenanigans of Ezio Auditore Da Firenze have come to an end with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the upcoming AC III will see a shift of focus, character and, yes, time. But where and when has been kept top secret – until now.

Ubisoft have confirmed that the latest episode in the stabby saga will take place during the American Revolution. Details are still very thin on the ground but we do know that the new protagonist will wield a pistol, a bow and arrow and a tomahawk.

Even with such sparse intel, we’re excited about the 18th-Century North American setting - rife as the time was with danger, intrigue and evil Brits - and going by Ubisoft’s previous sterling work on the series, we can safely expect great things.

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