For lack of a better term, extreme sports games have had a strange history in video games. Obviously, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater set the standard for many years, but it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s when EA’s Skate series filled the gap THPS never fit into. Sure, calling Skate realistic isn’t quite accurate, but the attempt to simulate realistic physics and incorporate a challenging control scheme made Skate an entirely new type of game. Snowboarding games never quite saw the same advent that skateboarding did. There was 1080 and Snowboard Kids for N64, Cool Boarders for PlayStation, and of course, SSX for various later consoles. Still, snowboard games were attached to the fantasy and arcade style. Mark McMorris Infinite Air, or just Infinite Air, is looking to set a new precedent for snowboarding games, and it has some big ambitions.
The first thing about Infinite Air to note is the controls. Rather than the typical hold A to ollie press Y to grind, the game relies on timing. If you want to spin, hold the button to wind up and release to spin. If you hold it too long, you’ll lose, so you’ll need to find the sweet spot and every trick in this game will take a lot more skill than button-mashing. It takes a lot of practice and is still capable of giving players ridiculous amounts of spins and flips at the risk of wiping out and falling down an entire mountain. It has the risk-reward of challenging controls and makes every success feel that much better.
The most ambitious part of Infinite Air stems from its reliance on community. Rather than have predetermined spots and locations, the game sets up markers from user-created lines and spots. There aren’t any set goals to complete or contests to enter unless you choose to participate. It may be jarring to have such little structure, but shouldn’t a snowboarding game be about snowboarding? It’s the same reason free skate was such a valuable part of the THPS series as well as the free roaming in Skate.
There are a lot of professional snowboarders signing up as playable characters as well as a custom character option. Much of the tricks and movements have been motion captured, making the snowboarding look and feel more natural than many previous snowboarding titles.
The mountain is huge, promising 100 square miles. Getting around is as simple as pushing a button and selecting a spot. You flying a chopper to whatever side of the mountain looks good and can drop in anywhere possible. A map of this scale has plenty to offer, and once it gets a small population of players there will be tons of suggestions for places to start. You’ll run into every kind of feature a mountain can offer from rocks, trees, drifts, and huge cliffs to jump off. On top of it all, there’s an editor on hand to keep the world interesting when you think you’ve seen it all. Don’t know where a snowboard park is? Set one up yourself.
Infinite Air is taking a lot of risky steps, but innovation is certainly something this style of game could use. The game doesn’t feel like it’s pandering to an audience it doesn’t understand, but embracing the missteps or ignorance of the past. Mark McMorris Infinite Air has just that, infinite potential. The game is set to release October 25, 2016 on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. For more info and ordering options you can check out Maximum Game’s official site here.