Manufacturer:Mark McMorris Infinite Air
Genre:3rd Person action/sport
Release Date: December 2016
Game Supplied by: Publisher
Just like a London bus, you wait for one and then 3 turn up at the same time. It’s the same with snow based games. Mark McMorris Infinite Air arrives at roughly the same time as SNOW and Steep. As a skiing/snow enthusiast I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at this overload of games in the same specific genre all at the same time, but the first of these off the chair lift at the top of the slope ready throw itself down the side of a mountain is the snowboarding specific title from Mark McMorris.
Presentation wise this game is at best average. Mark talks players through the first set of tutorials before any other options have been made available and I would like to say things kick off from there, but they don’t. Infact I spent an hour stuck on the last 3 tutorials, which means I have to start by talking about the controls.
Things start off easy enough and the basics of carving, and performing Ollies and Nollies are easy as pie. To be fair every skiing game i’ve ever played from AMPED, and Stoked to Alpine Skiing 2007 Miller V the Herminator, have always had less than intuitive controls. Here in Infinite Air the same thing applies; R2 controls your right hand for grabs, L2 your left, and the right stick controls where your hand goes on the board.
However that’s not the tricky part. The tricky part and the key to successful big trick like flips and barrel rolls is to pre load your jump one second from take off, then release everything to then press buttons again to perform tricks. No matter how i tried, this removing fingers from buttons whilst in air, seems wrong to me, and i struggled with it for a long time. Sometimes my pre loads would work well and other times not yet the game didn’t explain why or what i was doing wrong and the tutorials wouldn’t let me pass until i did!
To add to my pre load jumps issues, depending on how successful you were getting the pre load timing correct affected the speed of the rotation of your spin whilst in the air. You could then speed up or slow down your spin whilst in the air, and ever so slowly change direction in flight to land upright with a lot of difficulty, but then this flowed into issue number 3, landing.
There is no two ways about it the graphics are poor. Even more unforgivable is that a lot of the surface is flat white. Because of which, and with no shadow on your character to tell, and no surface detail of the snow, you have to guess where the landing spot will be and therefore your rotation. SO many times i thought i was about to land and got the rotation of my flip right only to realize i still had much more height than i thought and therefore then over rotated too far and crashed which then brought me on to issue number 4.
The game is unforgiving and harsh when it comes to landings. A slight over rotation sent you crashing and destroys the flow of the run. A tiny rock you didn’t see sends you crashing and destroys the flow of your run. The board physics when landing sometimes threw the player off in an unexpected direction to crash, which again destroyed the flow of the run.
This then brought me on to issue number 5. If you decide to re set your rider where you crashed, many many times i found myself on a flat part of the snow with no ability to “shuffle” forwards to the next downhill and therefore had to abandon my run.
All in all the game literally has a “steep” learning curve in it’s control system that is pretty unforgiving, and does a lot to stop the flow and therefore part of the joy of boarding downhill. If you think you’ll be flying around like a kangaroo from the get go, and can get away with it think again. You certainly need to craft and learn the basic tricks first.
So I re-approached the game, this time much more gently, and when boarding just concerned myself with simple tricks to simply survive getting to the bottoms of slopes in one run. From there I built my repertoire up, but still far too far away to nail flips and rolls consistently due to the poor game mechanics and poor slope graphics. You see the joy of skiing/boarding for real is to just lose yourself in the mountain and just relax and enjoy the thrill of snow either by going fast or doing tricks and being stylish whilst getting down. I got fed up with resetting my rider and constantly losing my rhythm due to the fact the graphics were fighting against me by not giving me a visual clue as to my landing ETA and the phinicity control system whilst getting airborne and in the air.
However, all is not lost, far from it. Despite the game’s ability to make things hard for the player, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the game once you spend time trying to master it.
There is a basic single player aspect to the game to compete in a set of runs/jumps in increasing difficulty and higher scores to then unlock new gear for your rider. To be honest I don’t feel this is the main aspect of the game and is just a tool to try and learn tricks.
The MAIN aspect I feel is the user controlled editing for the game called “World editor” and it’s multiplayer aspect. Players have a huge mountain range to explore via a controllable helicopter cursor, and can be dropped off at any point in this range. These runs can then be marked and posted up on the multiplayer aspect of the game for other players to use too. On top of that the game has an editing tool to create your own mountain, with it’s own dips, jumps, trees, in fact anything you want and again post this online for other players to enjoy or be challenged at.
Some of the player controlled runs/hills were utter garbage, however some are gems! Search hard enough and you can find snowboarding heaven. One run that a player found over the huge range was a solid 6 minute downhill non stop thrill ride of bumps, jumps and grinds that was as difficult or as easy as I felt like riding it. Another run I found has been set as a timed race to the bottom of around 7k course that still took nearly four minutes to complete.
Once a run has been made/found/created it can then be part of the Browse Runs/Multiplayer aspect where targets are set for competition or simply for players to enjoy. In these sections are Daily challenges, Hot run’s, or the option to go choose a run for, Big Jumps, Races, Half Pipes only, Mountains, or Trick Parks.
Apart from the poor graphics on the actual slope, the rest of the graphics are again very poor too. There is hardly any real detail, and poor over bright lighting, few shadows, and horrid, even ugly trees and rocks to try and avoid. It’s safe to say this game won’t be winning any graphical awards.
Also the music, a big part of boarding culture was pretty tame, but the sound effects were decent at least. Finally, playing the game unlocks new equipment for your rider with boards and gear and the further you play the more items get unlocked.
The actual player movement is very good, it’s just with 12 pages of tricks and their names to remember with over 8 tricks per page, it may take some time to be able to fully express yourself with the tricks you want or are asked to do. Add to this the very tricky in flight rotation problems and poor graphics doing their best to fool you as to your height, landings are also a bit of guesswork.
However, despite these drawbacks, and approaching the game in a less aggressive way, by not trying to do massive flips at every jump, and finding the right runs, I honestly got goose bumps, and thrills, by nailing a long run with no crashed and expressing myself as I wanted to whilst enjoying a totally unique experience on my own little bit of mountain. It felt to me at least, like a thing of beauty despite the game being utterly ugly in so many places. Real Snowboarders and Skiers alike just want their own little piece of escapism on the mountains and I managed to find my slice of it, eventually, after some effort, in Mark McMorris Infinite Air.