Mark McMorris Infinite Air Review - Sharp Learning Curve Yields Satisfaction
Mark McMorris Infinite Air
• Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
• Players: 1-2 (online multiplayer)
• Achievements: Yes
• Steam Trading Cards: No
• Controller Support: Yes, Full
• Retail Price: $29.99
High Level Premise: Remember that last generation game Skate that was exceptionally good, but had a sharp learning curve? This is in the same vain, but snowboarding.
Graphics/Style: Excellent, realistic graphics make you feel like you are really speeding down the slopes.
Music/Soundtrack: The soundtrack is a mix of excellent artists including Future Islands and the Teddybears with a mix of upbeat generic tunes. The sound effects are very effective, especially when you are flying through the air and the wind is whistling. Or when you then hit a rock or a tree on the way down, the "crunch" is extremely satisfying.
Story: You are Mark McMorris and you like to snowboard.
Replay-ability: Very High, this game has mountains that are procedurally generated and plenty of different mountain types to explore. You can also create your own mountain and put all kinds of jumps, rails, and other obstacles. Publish to the Infinite Air community or try some custom made courses that other players have designed.
Time Commitment: This is a tricky one. A typical run down the mountain takes no time at all. However, grasping the controls of this game will take several hours before you are ready to start nailing tricks.
Value: $29.99 is current the retail price, half of a typical launch price of $60. The value is solid because of the track builder and ability to design and play custom runs that people have imagined. It's a sharp learning curve, but the value is there if you are willing to put the time and effort in learning the control system.
I've played a lot of extreme sports video games in my time, and that's mainly because I am so uncoordinated in real life. I get a kick out of performing tricks that I could only dream of attempting, or risking many broken bones (or worse). Obviously some of the big names out there are Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, SSX Snowboarding, and Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX which allowed users to dole out extreme combinations of tricks that could be strung together for high scores. In real life, even by the professionals a lot of these combinations are near impossible to accomplish due to stamina, physics, etc. A game called Skate made waves last console generation, becoming the anti-thesis to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater featuring a more realistic approach. Players were unable to string together multiple tricks and insane flips, and were presented with a more complex control scheme. However, when a player did land a cool trick in Skate, it felt satisfying and were rewarded with a sense of accomplishment.
Mark McMorris Infinite Air has the same approach with Skate but for Snowboarding. This isn't like other snowboarding games where your character is able to do insane tricks right out of the gate, slow down time, start to glow, etc. Infinite Air takes a lot of practice and skill to learn, the way a video game should be made. This results in providing a more simulation-like experience, instead of a crazy trippy snowboarding party like say SSX Snowboarding. That's not to say that both should not coexist, I feel like there is a distinct market for both genre types with their own audience.
The control scheme is very precise and has a very sharp learning curve. This may deter players from the get go, where they could spend over an hour at the tutorial and still not land every trick perfectly. I have played several hours and many courses of Infinite Air, and I am no way an expert player... yet. The thing is about Infinite Air is the same feeling I had with Skate. Initially it's quite natural to be frustrated with a control system that requires such quick precision, but once you get the hang of it, you are able to start landing tricks and feel quite proud of your advancement in skill. The game puts a lot of weight on accuracy, doing a super cool multiple flip trick is cool, but if you land it in a sloppy fashion, your score will be severely deducted.
The game looks beautiful, and there is a real difference in terrain between things like packed snow and fresh powder. These small attentions to detail is what separates Infinite Air from other arcade snowboarding games. There are a few instances of screen tearing that I witnessed, but nothing that drastically detracts from the gameplay. The soundtrack features a handful of tracks that vary from indie rock to punk, with a mixture of generic music thrown in-between. Although I am sure this was a budget consideration, I would have like to have seen a complete soundtrack while carving the slopes. The sound effects are great, especially when you hit that big jump and the wind is blowing in your face or when you face plant into a rock and hear a few bones get crunched.
There are two areas where this title really stands out from the rest of the competition. The first is the procedurally generated runs that occur within the Infinite Mountain mode. By flying a helicopter over a mountain range, a randomly generated seed is loaded with a track that you most likely have never seen before. This increases the replay value immensely, because anyone can memorize where jumps are located and the track layout, but this really puts your skills to the test by sticking you in an environment that you have not experienced yet. The second feature of Infinite Air that really stands out is the customized track builder. Players can choose from over 100 different elements to customize their own slopes and publish them to the Infinite Air community. Again, this is huge for replay as even more courses are available for play, and adds a simulation piece that has previously been ignored by other popular snowboarding franchises.
I want a sequel. And if you are listening Infinite Air devs, here is what I want to see:
- A full soundtrack of 20+ songs. There are tons of indie bands out there that would love to be in your game for little to no cost at all.
- More character customization options. I want to be able to wear a clown nose, a pink tutu, and a shirt with a skull on it. Make it happen.
- A more expanded tutorial. Sure there are several sections in the current tutorial, but give me more. How can I land a super neat trick? How can I score the big points?
- Remapping of buttons on console. I can't stand it when I do an awesome trick, only for me to hit the square button by accident and make me restart the course.
Mark McMorris Infinite Air is not a perfect game, and it isn't for everybody. However, if you are looking for a realistic snowboarding simulation that focuses on authenticity and accuracy this is the game for you. You are going to crash often, and expect several hours fine tuning your brain to become one with the controls. But once you get it right, there is nothing more satisfying than hitting that big jump, doing a few flips in the air, grabbing your board and going into a grind on a rail. It's crazy, but the satisfaction received for all of the practice is worth the time spent. I feel like I will be playing this one for awhile, building courses and playing other users creations similar to how I was addicted to playing Super Mario Maker courses made by others months ago. If you are looking for a challenge, make sure you grab this game but make sure you give it enough time to grow on you. You might just find that the simulation features of this snowboarding game are something that you never knew that you can no longer live without.