In the real world, with its boring-old Newtonian physics and respect for gravity, I can get a pathetic three-foot of air off the most pitiful looking kicker you've ever seen. In SSX, however, I can launch myself off monstrous ramps, spend a good seven or eight seconds in the air and then pirouette towards the white powder below before falling into a perfect landing. For my money, the SSX series has always struck the perfect balance between realism and ridiculousness, and that trend isn't going to be bucked here.
The realism side of the game is mostly derived from the mountain itself, the weather effects and the way the snow reacts to your board. This is in no way a sim, I hasten to add. If you've yet to read my SSX preview from E3, where I explain how EA Canada is using NASA satellite data to create levels from any mountain range in the world, be sure to give that a gander before reading on.
What's new since then, then? At EA's conference at gamescom, the social features encasing the game were announced. RiderNet is the snowboarders' equivalent of Autolog, which tracks your scores and times and compares them with friends. It's a recommendation platform, essentially, letting you know when your scores have been beaten (and by whom) and giving you the required kick up the backside to go and do one better. EA Canada has worked with Criterion to ensure this side of the game has made the jump from cars and racing to boards and scores without any hiccups.
Also falling under the umbrella of RiderNet are ghosts, which - while not a new mechanic in the grand scheme of things - offer a lot to the snowboarding experience. You can upload ghosts of your best runs, which friends can then download and compete against. When big scores are involved, this will be vital in adapting your route down the mountain to accommodate for higher scores.
Given that the game is still very much in the pre-alpha stages, I wasn't able to experience the social side of things. Still, I was able to get my hands on the game for a second time, and things have progressed considerably since I played at E3. Crucially, Mac has been added to the character roster since then (as well as Psymon, Moby and Eddie - the latter of which will be available exclusively through a pre-order scheme at GAME), and as he's clearly the best character in the game, I made sure to give him an appropriate test drive. He didn't disappoint.
Boarders handle much like they did in previous games, except there's now a stick alternative to buttons. Pulling back on the right analogue stick, you can pre-wind a jump before pushing it forward to pop your rider into the air. Once there, you can flick in any direction to bust out a trick. As an old-school Tricky addict, I ignored this in favour of buttons, but many people will prefer the more organic nature of sticks. After nailing a few tricks, your tricky meter will fill, and you'll be able to unleash your character's signature Uber moves.